Horse games that really jump out at you!
Ride is one of those titles that right off the shelf, looks like it needs some major polishing. The graphics feel bland, the colors belong to a very dull palette and the overall feel of the user interface is that it really needs more work. Of course, this is considering that the fact that Ride is a video game and not some stoic and cold business newspaper. Taking a quick look at a riding magazine and a couple of videos of pro-level dressage and show jumping events however, changes our initial perceptions of the game.
Culture is a big factor here, with much of the game's roots based on a series of horseback riding sporting events that have been polished and refined by high society for many years. As such, there is a level of decorum and a certain aesthetic feel that is expected of the sport and its competitors that is pretty much complemented by this showing jumping game. So how does a game that is specifically made for the horseback riding audience turn out?
In Depth Controls and Gameplay
Okay, we are certainly miffing the term "in depth" with "extensively complicated". Since we have little experience being on horseback -let alone making a horse jump over obstacles (and even less can be said for many players out there), there really is no way to converge the complexity of handling reins with keyboard controls. Sure, all the elements are present, lining up the jump, setting the proper speed and of course, making sure you will not fall off. The three are important during the race and show jump events and if the balancing portion is not done right -you get disqualified.
While we appreciate the realism of this show jumping game, the difficulty does not translate well. Most of the early jumps are easy, but as the game progresses, keeping the balance bar well centered is a complex matter of how you tap the keys, what your keyboard response rating is and how the game is able to detect the input. Sloppy and sometimes frustrating, the controls will certainly take players a while to master. Fortunately, steering your horse, managing stamina and controlling speed is a lot easier than the jumps.
As for the button tapping patters for the dressage events, we are impressed. There are a wide range of possible control schemes for this portion of the game, and oddly enough, the Dance Revolution style controls seem oddly fitting.
As you may have surmised, the game revolved around three events: show jumping, racing and dressage -not quite common flair for the general market whose idea of horse racing are the derbies where competitors race side by side. All three events shine in their own respective courses and gameplay features (though racing and show jumping have the same controls).
Visuals do not speak for a great game, but it certainly helps. With Ride! the graphical value of the game takes its own set of highs and lows and comes out hitting just below the minimum. While the horses are nicely detailed and the coat patterns look pretty close to the real thing, everything else in the game suffers from a lack of polish that would have been expected of the sport and its riders. The user interface feels bland and the positioning of controls is not intuitive; the backgrounds are static and the additional course elements such as the crowds feel like cardboard cutouts.
The music does not fare any better either, there are only a couple or so tracks in the game and none will inspire you to enjoy riding the horse. The voice over also lacks sense of human warmth either - in fact, your trainer certainly provides a whole new definition to the word pompous.
Fortunately, when you are approaching the last few jumps of the course, sights focused on the track and the rhythmic pounding of hooves is all you hear, these elements all fade into the distant background - which makes playing the game a whole lot more enjoyable.
There is a certainly degree of difficulty to be found in being able to enjoy showing jumping games like Ride. It has a pretty steep learning curve for controls, requires plenty of patience to master (the training sessions for the raising the stats are bound to eat up precious time), and the delivery leaves plenty to be desired. Still, this game is as close as it gets to the real thing -that tag line of "equestrian simulation" is no joke, players get the full competitive experience of the real thing. Dancing dots never promised a high-spec with breathtaking graphics, they promised a great riding simulation title, and Ride! Equestrian Simulation is exactly that. We give this game a virtual rider's 82/100.
Once you have downloaded the game why not check out our full guide on playing Ride.
We also recommended trying out Planet Horse which offers a different equestrian experience for those wanting to ride more freely in countryside and through many different lands.