Who are the Whitakers? Why do they have horses? And why am I being introduced to one called Milton? It is all very mysterious…
The Whitakers Presents Milton & Friends 3D on Nintendo 3DS is a virtual pet game which allows players to have some fun and interact with a virtual horse. Players are first welcomed to the stables by Ellen Whitaker, who hopes you’re not too tired to do some work on the stables. Many people come and see the various horses at the stables and she’s hoping you can provide some help and explains that the horses have different personalities. Once you’ve become acquainted with Ellen, the local vet explains he may need some assistance with one of the foals, which has been training very hard and needs a much deserved break. Helping people with their foals will gain you Prestige Points.
Your first foal is Stewball, a rather scrawny looking horse who meets you at the stable. As with any pet in new surroundings, Stewball is feeling a little bit nervous and players are encouraged to cheer the horse up. They need lots of care and attention and it’s up to you to make that happen.
The health, care and maintenance of the horses is split into functions; overall general health, appetite, thirst, moods and cleanliness. You’re encouraged to either tap the touch screen to call your horsey over, or make some sounds in the microphone. So now you find yourself standing in the stable, looking at Stewball who is quite happily swinging his tail back and forth with his tongue hanging out.
Stewball needs lots of cuddles and treats, and this is done by simply tapping the foal’s shadow on the bottom screen of the Nintendo 3DS. Treats are available, but you are encouraged not to over feed the foal due to possible side effects. Food icons appear for you to tap to feed your foal and the food ranges from your ordinary carrot to various fruits. Once you’ve selected the fruit, an on screen hand gesture appears and you must guide the hand holding the carrot to the horse’s mouth in an attempt to feed it. Keeping your horse’s coat nice and clean is achieved using the various types of brushes and washing your horse will involve various sponges and a hose. The cleaning actions will see the player stroking the screen to produce a bubbly lather, or getting the hose out to sprinkle water onto your horse.
A journal diary keeps you up to date with the type of breed the horse is, when it was born and whether it’s a big eater or not. After your foal has been fed, it may be time for a cuddle, where the player has to stroke the foal’s shadow with the stylus. Once the foal is content for a little while, he may decide he wants something to drink. Drinking for the foal means tipping up a bottle filled with milk with a teat on the end. It’s at this point I found myself frustrated as I guided the bottle to the foal’s mouth, occasionally lifting it for the flow of milk to carefully drizzle into its mouth. The angle of the bottle has to be so precise, otherwise it ends up with milk going everywhere or the poor foal choking. I tried so many times to perform this action, which has to be done in 40 seconds, and I was constantly not amused with how ineffective it was. Once it’s been given a drink, you’re graded and given horse points, which go towards the well-being of your horse.
As you progress through the game, your horse will develop and will require different foods and liquids. This is where you must fill up a trough by moving the 3DS back and forth, which will either fill the trough or completely throw it all over the stable floor. To be honest, at this point, if the feeding bottle is anything to go by, I’ll stick with filling the trough with water. The control mechanics of the 3DS didn’t seem as responsive as I had hoped and I struggled to find any easy going mode in this game.
Throughout the game, as the stable boy/girl, you’ll be faced with the task of helping the local folk with their foals, with such tasks as playing with the horses on an open field. You’ll be rewarded for certain tasks and activities with a selection of trophies, but these seemed to be few and far between. In between feeding and taking care of your horse, you can try your hand at jumping your horse over hurdles, or simply guiding your horse around the field with the help of the gyro sensor. Teaching your horse tricks involved tapping the bottom of the 3DS screen and tapping circles that appeared.
Trophies are awarded for such accomplishments as washing a foal five times, or getting one hundred percent on one of the mini game challenges. The game has a Play Coin feature, which allows you to spend coins on anything from your basic water hose, costing you five Play coins, to more luxury items such as premium milk setting you back twenty Play Coins. The game has plenty of unlockable items to collect. There is even an AR feature which, using the AR cards that came with your 3DS, allows you to see your foal in the palm of your hand.
Even though the game is being retailed at a bargain basement price, the overall quality was not very impressive and it didn’t have as many activities as I would have liked. It may appeal to the younger generation of gamers, especially those who enjoy Nintendogs and the like, but the game was very slow paced and the rewards were little and few. Although the game is in 3D, I really couldn’t see any significant differences from 2D to 3D.
Little horse lovers may like this game, with it’s twee music and plenty of horse-related stuff, but I felt the gameplay was uninspiring with no element of surprise for the player. Sadly, this title may be a little disappointing for most gamers, leaving not only the horse with the long face.