Is Kairosoft just running laps?
Seemingly once every month or two, Kairosoft releases a new game. It’s not always clear if these games are new, ported from their back catalog of dumbphone games, or just newly translated, but seemingly every single one of them shoots straight to the top of the charts. For all their various themes, they’re mostly very similar, or at least fall into one of a few archetypes. Their latest, Pocket Stables, delves into the world of horse-racing, and while it does indeed play much like their RPG town sim, Dungeon Village, it still has that Kairosoft charm.
Like all of Kairosoft’s games, Pocket Stables is lighthearted and easy, with no real fear of failure. If you run out of money, you’ll simply be given more, but odds are that won’t even happen. The goal here is not to create a deep, realistic simulation of what it’s like to raise a thoroughbred, but just to craft an addictive time-waster.
You begin by building a horse ranch. This ranch serves as both an attraction and a practical training facility for your thoroughbreds. You’ll need to build facilities to build up your horse’s stats, but you’ll also want to build gift shops and other amusements for the fans that want to come see your champion racehorses. This component is pretty simple, even by Kairosoft standards, with only two real training facilities, and third to let them rest, so don’t expect a lot of complex strategy to the building phase.
Of course, the real meat of the game is building up your horses and the jockeys that ride them. Horses can be leveled up with a training regimen, but they only have a certain maximum potential they can reach. They also age and diminish over time, so it’s important to not only get the most out of their abilities while you can, but also to make sure to train a successor to take over by the time they can no longer advance.
The races themselves are non-interactive affairs, but you still get to watch them unfold in real-time, and cheer your steed on. Your horse has four basic stats: speed, stamina, dexterity, and intensity. These determine how your horse handles different parts of the race. High intensity will help him in that final push for the finish line, for example, stamina will determine his ability to maintain in long races, and dexterity allows him to take turns better. Completing races is your primary source of income, and working your way up the ranks toward bigger prizes is vital to getting the resources to raise more and better horses.
All of this is wrapped up in Kairosoft’s usual charming presentation. You’ll find the same colorful, isometric, low-res pixel art here that you see in all their games, and its appeal hasn’t worn out yet. The music quality has been taken up a notch from their earlier efforts, and the relaxing soundtrack is a good compliment to the laid-back gameplay. A lot of the appeal of Kairosoft’s games doesn’t come down to depth and challenge, but just a spirit of fun that pervades the title.
Pocket Stables doesn’t break any new ground for Kairosoft, nor does it reach any new heights. Dungeon Village and the free-to-play Dream House Days might be better starting points for newcomers. But for those with an insatiable appetite for more of those blocky sprites and silly names, Pocket Stables is not a misstep either. It has the same fun, simple gameplay and retro-gaming charm that have earned them so many hits before, and as long as that appeal hasn’t worn off on you yet, Pocket Stables will earn its keep.