Far more stick than carrot.
My Horse & Me attempts to capitalize on the horse sense that many little girls (and probably some boys) are fond of, well, horses. The game greets its victims with a squeaky-clean photo of a tween girl hugging her horse—clearly this game is targeted at unsuspecting parents and horse-obsessed little girls. Hopefully potential buyers will avoid the bait: My Horse & Me is a simple, rushed, and wholly uninspired game that fails to follow through on its promise of capturing the bond between horse and rider.
Based on the title and point-of-purchase box art, one might expect My Horse & Me to be a pet simulator in the style of Nintendogs. Well, it isn't. You don't train your horse. You don't explore with your horse. You don't pet or feed your horse. In fact, you and your horse will not build any sort of relationship at all. You can crudely customize how you look by selecting among five generic, blurry, character models and similarly uninteresting clothing (shirts, boots, hats, etc). In the same vein, you can change the color of your horse's coat, mane, and saddle. But customization is fairly pointless, as you'll see little more than the rears of you and your horse outside of the customization menu. You will want to spend hours grooming your rigid, lifeless horse using a magically floating brush/hose Remote pointer icon—even though you (well, the model that represents you) remain stationary on screen, next to your horse. Needless to say, brushing a traditional plastic pony with an actual brush is a far better and probably cheaper simulation.
So what is My Horse & Me? It is a crude horse-riding game supported by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports. While FEI governs a variety of equestrian events, My Horse & Me forgoes all but one: show jumping. In show jumping, horse and rider must complete an obstacle course consisting of fences to be jumped in a precise order as quickly as possible. My Horse & Me recreates this event, often involving complex course layouts. Players will wind up gluing their eyes to a white line delineating the correct path through the hurdles. Just to make things annoying, this line fades in and out of view. Veering from the outlined path would be encouraged to shave seconds, except that it is far too easy to become lost and the time needed for gold is usually cake. Doing well unlocks more difficult courses and more worthless clothing.
Players control their horse with a Remote and Nunchuk as a substitution for reins. Pulling up with your right hand signals your horse to turn right; pulling up with your left hand signals the horse to turn left. (The options menu accommodates players who prefer holding the Remote in their left hand.) The turning controls work decently after some practice, as long as you do not gesture abruptly, but your horse generally feels sluggish, with no sense of speed or agility. You'll become disoriented after unsuccessfully attempting a jump or running into a wall, since the horse will change direction of its own accord, but that is probably true to real life. Gestures used to speed up and slow down (pull back and shake three times, respectively) do not register as well as those for turning. The developers half-heartedly address this by using A and B buttons as the proverbial gas and brake. The game's tutorial does an awful job of explaining this, telling you to ride at a certain speed without showing you how to properly adjust your speed. Is the target audience really expected to browse through a menu to find out these buttons are used when riding?
In addition to show jumping, there are a few single-player mini-games. Most of them involve driving your horse-tank around a confined area to collect items. Perhaps the most entertaining one in this style is Chickens 'n Corn. Corn in this game grows at an alarming rate, and the chickens have a similarly insatiable appetite. Under a time limit, it is your job to harvest fully-grown corn from various fertile locations, chasing away any chickens before they gobble up growing or fully grown corn. This game has a simple, arcade appeal, though that appeal is not lasting. As with show jumping, it is difficult to see where the corn or the chickens are without a radar or map. Other throwaway mini-games include a Simon derivative and a game where you must identify subtle differences in two versions of the same scene.
My Horse & Me is shovel-ware, pure and simple. It looks ugly, its gameplay is limited, and its primary features—show jumping and item-collecting—bear little resemblance to its target audience. Including more than one equestrian sport could have made this game passable, but simulating the experience of owning a horse would have been far more appropriate.