When they're not being bet on for money or helping cowboys gun down bandits, horses are the angelic, trusty companions of rural-raised girls. Yes, there's certainly a market for this type of thing on the Wii, where kid-friendly controls are a sure fit for a tween-targeted title. In sum, My Horse & Me marries the feminine flair of a pet ownership game with the competitive thrill of underground show jumping. Well, not really. As much as back-alley, urban horse racing is something we'd love to see (3 Gallop 3 Furious: Equestrian Drift), W!Games settles for a safer approach, a traditional take on the animal's uncanny ability to leap over horizontal poles and be groomed. The game brings decent presentation and design along with minigames and extras that'd please most pre-teens, content that is sadly eclipsed by a mess of a control template.
The Wii's one-two tether of the nunchuk and Wiimote seems like an ideal situation for a game that involves, y'know, reins. In theory, the setup makes sense: use the A and B buttons to accelerate or slow down, pull your left and right hands up individually to steer the animal in either direction, and use two-handed up or down motions to issue a stop or gallop command. In execution, it's a poor juggling act that 23-year-old gamers will struggle with, let alone their younger siblings.
It's an issue of over-simplified motion. Steering doesn't respond to subtle variations, meaning you're either turning full-on left or hard right. The rate of your turns can be controlled a bit by slowing your speed, but this doesn't provide a proper sense of control, either (a simple on-screen meter to show your trot velocity might've been welcome). With even beginner-level stages being a relative maze of curling routes and narrow jumps, the need for precise, intuitive control is paramount, and My Horse & Me doesn't have it. This means more than a few frustrating collisions and instances of "I'm stuck, where's the clutch to put this thing in reverse?" It's unfortunate that the developer couldn't pack in a tutorial to lessen the difficulty curve at least a little, and infrequent misreads of your reins by the game get old quick.
Anyway, this is more of an issue because MH&M's (now with peanuts!) single-player is a linear progression of five difficulties that requires players to amass medals in individual events to move on. It took us a solid eight attempts to complete the first stage's jumps, and even then our total time wasn't good enough to grab a trophy.
With middling self-esteem, we were redeemed a little by the game's light layer of customization options. MH&M's smooth interface (an odd rotating snow globe, it's best described as) stages these options well, where players can choose memorable colors like palomino, dark chestnut, and sorrell for their steed's coat. There's also some simple dress-up: riding jackets, boots, gloves, and basic skins for male and female riders alike, a nice addition for younger players looking to tinker with the experience. Unfortunately, the game skips on unlockable clothes and pony accessories, content that would've been welcome to expand the limited context that you can take care of your horse (which stands as: brushing them, and hosing them).
We're not seeking a full-blown stable simulator, but seeing some basic attributes for horse health, like diet, speed and stamina might've made MH&M a (dare we say) deeper experience. After all, it's titles like these that ween players onto genuine RPGs later on, right? Other presentation parts are passable, with animation and character models taking the lead and basic grassy backgrounds further behind. The other main offender, feature-wise are My Horse's measly minigames. Whether you're protecting corn from chickens, grabbing colored stars or coins, or playing a weird take on Simon Says that's played in a stable, too many of these center on collection and running around in a small environment -- a simple adventure mode or anything to do with horses that doesn't involve riding them would've complimented the single-player stuff better.
My Horse & Me's equestrian quest is stymied by a messy control template that lassos players with frustrating functionality. An alternative, analog-based config could've made this a better game for youngsters. While the overall design and extras are decent, without a consistent feel to its controls, My Horse & Me isn't worth saddling up.