Stardew Valley (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

The farming sim that took PCs by storm last year is now available on consoles.  In the game, your dying grandfather gives you an envelope to open later.  One day, while bored and frustrated at your cubicle job at Jojo Co., you open the envelope and find the deed to your grandfather’s farm in Stardew Valley.  So you pack up your things and start your new life out in the country.  Will you be able to work hard to make money and cultivate the land and friendships to find happiness, or will you succumb to Jojo Co. who is trying to buy the land for warehouse space?  Stardew Valley is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PCs, but reviewed on PS4 here.

If this premise sounds exactly like the Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons titles, well you’re exactly right, as Stardew Valley is just a carbon copy of those kinds of games. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The game still plays very well, and there hasn’t been a Harvest Moon title on a home console in quite some time, as they’ve all been on handhelds for the past few years.

When you first start your farm, you’ll need to clear the land, till a patch of it, and plant seeds and water them every day.  When they finish growing, you can pick them and put them in a shipping box to earn money.  There is an in-game clock that runs at a pretty good speed, maybe almost too fast, as the days are pretty short and you don’t really feel like you have enough time to do everything.  You must also keep an eye on your health and energy meters, which run out as you do activities.  You can refill them by eating food or going to sleep.  You’ll start the game with nearly all the tools you’ll need, like a garden hoe, axe, mattock, watering can, and even a fishing pole.  Later on you’ll even be able to raise animals as well.

But farming isn’t the only thing you’ll do in the game.  You can make friends with the townsfolk and give them gifts.  Some of the residents are single and you can even marry them and have kids later on.  You can also fish, mine for ores that you can use to upgrade your tools, fight monsters in the caves, play arcade games at the saloon, and much more.  You’ll even be able to find hidden spirits and help them to restore the land over Jojo Co.’s ever-looming presence.  You can pretty much do whatever you want to in the game, but you can pull up a handy screen that gives you goals to complete as well, which is helpful.

The game has a few small problems here and there.  There’s not really much in the way of tutorials on how to use your tools.  If you’ve played a Harvest Moon game before, you’ll be able to jump right in for the most part.  But I did have to restart my game once because I accidentally threw my fishing pole away because I didn’t know how to use it, and once you catch a fish, the mini-game you must play to reel it in isn’t very intuitive.  Plus some of the menus mix regular controls with mouse controls, which is a little jarring.  But I still loved the 16-bit style graphics and the gameplay was still solid.  If you enjoy Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing games, you’ll definitely want to give this a try, too.

Kid Factor:

Stardew Valley is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language, Simulated Gambling, and Use of Alcohol and Tobacco.  You can fight enemies in caves with a sword, and they just make a squishy sound while 16-bit guts splat out when defeated.  There is a lot of text, so reading skill is a must, but I haven’t come across any bad language yet so it must be used sparingly.  There is talk of gambling and people drink alcohol and talk about smoking in the saloon.  If your kids are old enough to enjoy games like Pokemon, they’ll be fine with this game, too.

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