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My whole life I have been horse crazy so when I got my Wii and joined a game rental scheme, one of the first things on my list was Pippa Funnell's Ranch Rescue. I know it's probably for kids but the Wii is supposed to be FUN and having played a couple of her other games on the PC, I had found them to be a little more complex than the usual horsey games out there - which mostly consist of competing and endless irritating cleaning of stalls. This was no different and actually a lot of fun.
Pippa Funnell, in case you are wondering, is one of Britain's leading three day event riders. She currently holds two Olympic silvers and a bronze, has won Badminton Horse Trials three times, and has a number of other successful games to her name for various platforms.
Your character is a young girl, Lily, who lives on a ranch with her Uncle Dylan. Uncle Dylan is surprisingly young and dishy in a cartoon type of way. At the start of the game you own one horse, who you name, but pretty soon you are given a foal to take on.
There is a great deal of action plot-wise at the beginning of the game, so I won't explain play-by-play what goes on, but long story short you have to ride your foal in competitions to earn money to save the ranch from the clutches of some mafia-type people you managed to piss off in the forest. This really confused me - he's a FOAL - how is the game going to make about six years pass until he is anywhere near ready to start competing? Well, it doesn't. You go into the barn, come out to answer the phone and years have passed, without you or Uncle Dylan looking any older, or even changing your clothes! I know the loading screens are long but that's ridiculous!
And so you go on competing (in showjumping, cross country and steeplechase) to earn money and progress to the next level. There are some fun side-plots and extras, such as the option to breed new horses to compete.
UTILISING THE WII CONTROLS
This game uses the Wiimote and nunchuk. As with most games utilising this control arrangement, you use the joystick of the nunchuk to run around while you are in "person mode". Whilst on horseback you use a combination of the two. It's easy to get going at first, shake the Wiimote and nunchuk up and down as if you were "geeing up" your horse with your reins to go forward. Pull back as if you were pulling on the reins to slow down, and press B for an immediate, pretty impressive sliding stop. Pressing A will make your horse jump an obstacle.
Once you need to get a bit more accurate to complete tasks however it does take a bit of getting used to the controls. The in-game help isn't too fussy about your training and sends you off on the trails providing you can start, stop and muddle your way back to the gate. Because of the lack of instructions in-game (and the fact that I didn't actually have an instruction booklet on hand to read), I was really good at turning left, and couldn't turn right. Not so bad if I just needed to get in a general direction, but once I hit the first steeplechase competition I failed a fair few times before I realised you have to twist the remote in order to turn. Doh! After that it was MUCH easier.
Although at times I found the controls frustrating, I do think they made the game a lot more fun than it would have been using a normal controller pad, and if time was running out in a steeplechase I did find myself getting quite little into it flapping my "reins" around!
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
So far I have found the graphics in Wii games slightly limited compared to other consoles, but this was surprisingly good. The characters are more realistic than cartoon, which I find Wii has often resorted to in an attempt to cover up for their lack of stylish graphics. The scenery on the ranches you visit and out in the forest is detailed.
Although you are able to skip through dialogues which are written out on screen, at various stages in the game there are short animations which take place that you have to sit through. Normally I don't like this kind of thing in games, preferring to just get on with it, but they are actually pretty funny and entertaining, sort of like short TV clips as they have full sound.
The sound throughout the game is average, there are the usual expected horsey sounds and hoof beats, voices throughout certain dialogues, and,somewhat annoying, a really irritating bird sound whenever you go into the prairie (which unfortunately leads to everywhere else). It sounds like an owl to me although is constantly twit twooing away in broad daylight, and gets a little irritating.
I find this to be more fun than other horse games I've played. It is easy enough not to get frustrated with, but there is plenty to keep you going. I did get annoyed by some of the missions which seemed slightly pointless. For instance, you answer the phone and it's your friend Edie, who wants you to go over immediately. Off you go into the barn, get your horse and head over to her house. When you get there, she inevitably just says something pointless like "oh, there's a competition soon, I'll let you know" which she surely could have just said over the phone!
This wouldn't be too bad, but the loading screens are painfully slow, and you have to sit through quite a lot just to get your horse off the ranch. Each screen I'd say lasts between 5-10 seconds. Say you want to ride over to Edie's. You enter the barn, LOADING SCREEN, you walk over the blackboard, select your horse and the option to exit the ranch, LOADING SCREEN, enter Edie's ranch, LOADING SCREEN, have her tell you that your journey over there was for some stupid reason, leave, LOADING SCREEN...you get the idea. It's particularly frustrating when you leave the barn, go talk to Uncle Dylan or on the phone and get told you have to go visit someone else, and have to go immediately back into the barn, pausing for, oh, a LOADING SCREEN, on the way. I know they are inevitable, but as you can walk around the rest of the ranch without these screens, perhaps walking into the barn could be no different as you go there so often.
There are also obviously other flaws which the horse nerd in me would love to pick apart, but hey, it's just a game for fun. If they want to be optimistic enough to think touching a few sensitive spots on a young horse for a couple of minutes will break it in, they can, and I will be sure to invite them over to work with any young stock I may get in the future!
I'm not sure how much those who aren't horse fans would enjoy it, because basically all of it involves riding around and competing on horseback. One of the things it does have in its favour, though, is that unlike other similar games, you don't really have to be brushing your horse every two minutes or else he gets ill. While you CAN do it, I got lazy about it (because of the loading screens it involves!) and he didn't die!
Unfortunately there are also no multi player options, although if you are looking for a party game this probably isn't it.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
This game is also sold under the name Horsez: Ranch Rescue, presumably for a global audience who may not have heard of Pippa, and is available at Amazon.co.uk for £10.88 at present. I'm not sure it's the kind of game I would want to complete twice, but I still feel this is a great price for a Wii game that should give quite some hours of fun to finish.
I love Playing on Pippa Funnell Games. So I was delighted when I saw the Rescue Ranch for the Nintendo Wii. (Purchased from Ebay £13.99)
Basically here's the StoryLine: Lily never thought this day would change her life. The rich and treacherous banker Rud Van Guiness was going to seize her family ranch! She was also far from imagining that she would meet Grant, the famous horse whisperer, that she would save the ranch from bankruptcy by winning several riding competitions and that she would meet Liam to fight against the violent methods used by the Van Guiness clan.
You play as Lily and develop an amazing relationship with your horses in order to overthrow the Guiness' plans and save your ranch.
I am halfway through the game and is very exciting. The game is aimed at players between 7 and older. More for young kids, but I am 22 and love playing it haha :)
The handling is really easy to pick up and is more like actual horse riding . I love just riding around the ranch and jumping all the jumps but the story line is quite good and keeps you training. I like the introduction of the different breeds as the game progresses.
The graphics qaulity are a let down on this game. Other PC pippa funnel games are alot better. But on the Wii its not great.
Other than that - No faults!