Very few games ever take on the genre of professional horseback riding - which is actually pretty surprising considering the highly competitive environment of the game and its' high profile standards. Ride! Equestrian Simulation is one of the very few games in the world that takes players for a unique from-the-saddle experience of being part of horseback riding culture and sports. Of course, Ride! is far more than a novelty program - the developers at Dancing Dots have placed plenty of content and challenge into this innocent looking game; making it a definite hit among riding enthusiasts and purists alike.
Combining three of the most competitive horse riding events, Ride! is a solid game that will keep players on the edge and constantly galloping their way to the top of the ranks. With highly challenging courses and intricate controls, this is one game that truly comes close to a professional rider's experience, it's a gem of a horse riding game.
Ride! is a serious equestrian game, and there are no two ways about it. You get into the saddle, get taught complex keyboard controls, taught the basics of the real life sport and are sent off to compete in some of the most challenging environments to be launched since Cookie and Cream (do not let that title fool you, it is an incredibly difficult console game). Despite its tough learning curve and pretty stiff competition, the game manages to deliver on its promise: a true equestrian simulation.
Considering that professional horse riders compete in a vast myriad of competitions, Ride manages to sum them all up in three main events: show jumping, racing and dressage. Now the first clarification here is the racing portion of the game. Unlike the more famous track racing, the true horse-racing sport is done individually (much like qualifying car runs for circuit racing) and the scoring is based on time and penalties accrued. Moving on, the game combines its choice of events with a good deal of realism in rules and performance requirements. The race times to beat are pretty high and the scoring for the dressage is very strict - if you have been competing in real life, this would also be the case.
Of course, this equestrian game is not all about difficulty. In between each major competition, players are given the chance to train, raise stats and even enjoy a bit of dress-up (which is basically about choosing which colors to wear, there are not many options in terms of changing the form of your attire). These are all, as one would expect, laden with the same amount of sensible realism as the rest of the game - which sadly means that even the training sequences can be pretty tough in terms of difficulty. The good thing here is that you can set the computer to run the training sequence for you.
Looks Good Enough
One big sacrifice that the game takes is with its visuals and sounds. Now, this horse riding game actually looks pretty decent - in an early 2000's kind of way. The horse animations, backgrounds and the rider are all nicely rendered, though everything could use a bit more of a polish and possibly some color treatment to take away that plastic-like look that often plagues 3D imagery. And in case you are wondering: the horses look beautiful. While they are pretty hard to tell apart (unless the colors are strikingly contrasting), much of the textures and patterns mimic that of the real thing.
The audio is the department that seriously needs a rehash. Almost everything from the monotonous and limited sound track to the droning, annoying and downright pompous voice of the trainer will make users want to switch off their speakers. The only thing we liked was the pattering sound of hooves as we galloped across the course - which is the only thing we had hoped to be compatible with surround sound technology.
Ride! is not a game for everyone, but it is certainly a game for those who love the culture of high profile horseback racing. If you have no patience for the subtleties of the dressage and see no value in the art of show jumping, then you might be better off taking an actual horse or a quick ride around the fields instead. But if your heart is about all the finer things of horseback riding as a sport, then you cannot afford to pass up Ride!