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Pippa Funnell Take the Reins is the second in a series of four horse themed PC games endorsed by Pippa Funnell.
In this game you play as a teenage girl called Jade who has just been accepted into the prestigious Sycamores Equestrian Academy. The adventure begins soon after arriving with one of the stables catching fire due to being struck by lightning, since no one else appears to be around it's your job to go in there and rescue the trapped horse! It is this horse that becomes yours to care for, train and compete on (at the beginning of the game you pick the colour and name for your horse before you start playing).
Obviously it's not just you at the academy, as well as the instructors you are joined by four other classmates, each as passionate about horses as you are and each with their own story to tell. There's Ginger, a pretty American girl with a past. Then there's Spike, he comes across as being cold and uncaring towards his fellow pupils, it's only later that we learn he is only attending the academy at his parents request. Que is another girl who adores horses, yet she is often strict with herself and rarely talks to her classmates, she is very competitive and doesn't like losing. Last there is Esteban, a young attractive Spaniard with a gentle personality, only he's not quite what he seems...
In this game you can organise your activities how ever you wish, each day you have a timetable to fill in. You can care for your horse, train him in either Cross Country, Dressage or Show Jumping. There's also the option to go out and explore on your horse or chat to the other students. Every week there is a competition but to take part you must have certain levels of training and horse morale, the competition is like that of a three day event as it includes Show Jumping, Dressage and Cross Country.
Although the academy is situated in the Scottish highlands you get to travel to other places such as America and Morocco, in total there are 6 full championships to compete in and 18 different courses. But it's not just constant training, intertwined in this game is adventure and mystery. Finding out things about your fellow students that you wouldn't of thought of and then completing tasks and riddles to get to the next stage in the game!
The graphics in this game are really good but it is the storyline that makes things exciting. This game features lots of different Dressage movements to master, such as flying changes and Piaffes - very realistic and also stops the game from being too easy! The Cross Country takes place in many varied locations with different scenery and many different styles of jumps, the only thing that annoys me in the slightest about this game is that your horse very quickly gets tired - I seem to spend the whole Cross Country course at a trot! The Show Jumping too is detailed with a range of jumps from uprights to spreads.
I love how intricate the caring for your horse is, as well as the usual grooming and mucking out you get the chance to interact with your horse and give him different things depending on how he's feeling. If he's sad you'll have to do a certain thing to make him happy again, succeed and you get credits to buy items with!
I think this game is a great sequel to Pippa Funnell Stud Farm Inheritance, the graphics are highly detailed and the gameplay is interesting. Just as you think you're starting to get bored something will happen to make you think otherwise! I've heard that some people have experienced difficulties with this game crashing but I haven't, my copy works fine. Overall a great game for horse loving people and you can pick it up very cheaply too!