I always feel quite lucky doing what I do with this blog. I mean, I get games for free and that’s a pretty decent deal. Now, when a game comes up for review, sometimes I just get them sent to me without asking. I check my emails and there’s a review code for a game. It’s a nice surprise as I’ve actually found a few little gems from a game just being sent without my knowledge. However, most of the time, review codes work on a request system. I send a request to whoever is handling the press or even directly to the publisher and (if I’m lucky) I get sent a review code. Most of the time, I research a game before I put a review code request in. I get sent press releases, trailers, news, etc. From those, I can look at a game and try to work out if it is something I would like to spend time playing and reviewing. However, now and again, I put in a request based on nothing but the title of the game. This is one of those instances…
From developer Skyhook Games and publisher Curve Digital comes Lawn Mowing Simulator, a game that does exactly what it says on the tin. See, these games that have that ‘sim’ suffix come in two distinct flavours. 1) Those stupidly fun, OTT, nonsense simulators like Goat Simulator. 2) A genuine attempt at making a realistic and real-world simulator like Microsoft Flight Simulator. Lawn Mowing Simulator falls into the latter of those two as it attempts to make a video game out of actual lawn mowing with real-world mowers and such. Oh yeah, before I crack on with this review, I may as well get this obligatory reference out of the way…
Yes, The Simpsons already did it. Funnily enough, the missus asked me if I was going to mow our lawn today as it’s looking a bit overgrown, but I said I don’t have time as I have to review a game where I mow lawns… she’s not happy. Also, this is not the first time I have played games that focus on mowing lawns as I used to love playing Jeff Minter’s Hover Bovver on my Commodore 64. Oh yeah, I’ve got plenty of lawn mowing video game experience, I’m the right man for this review.
First up, I’m going to cover the graphics. Honestly, Lawn Mowing Simulator really is a looker. Being set in England and the English countryside, you get to see quite a range of locales. On one job, you’ll be mowing the lawn of an everyday resident, you may be working on the lawn of someone famous or a stately manor and even castle grounds. Each lawn is different, different shapes, different obstacles to mow around, etc. The gardens are pretty damn detailed too, the overgrown grass gently moves in the breeze, flowers and garden decorations adorn the lawns. Trees cast shadows, people walk past in the background and more. Considering this is a game that is pretty much 100% garden focused, there’s a serious amount of detail crammed in the environments.
Then there are the mowers themselves, twelve in total and all of them are pretty realistic. I don’t know the first thing about lawnmowers, but from what I can tell (after doing a bit of research), the mowers in the game are dead on balls accurate to their real-life counterparts. The whirring of the blades causes little plumes of air to swirl under the mower. Each mower feels and acts differently. As far as I can tell, the mowers are pretty authentic.
For the most important bit, how Lawn Mowing Simulator actually plays. There are three modes to choose from. Challenge mode gives you a lawn and pre-set requisites to hit. Maybe you need to finish the lawn in a set amount of time, try to mow a lawn with a limited amount of fuel and more. There’s also a free mow mode and here, you just pick a lawn, a mower and away you go with no constraints to mow at your own leisure. But the main meat of Lawn Mowing Simulator comes from its career mode. Which definitely requires a lot more writing to cover.
Career mode really has a lot going on other than just making people’s lawn look nice. You start out by creating your own avatar and company. Come up with a name, colour scheme, company logo and away you go. You then accept mowing jobs from clients who will pay you for your service and different clients will have different requests for their lawn. How long or short they want the grass to be, some will be happy if you leave the grass cuttings, some won’t. This is where your choice of mower comes in as they all have different attributes. Some will have a hooper that collects the cut grass, some mulch the grass and so on. While the core gameplay is about cutting grass, that is still pretty damn in-depth. You don’t just take the mower on the lawn and start cutting. First, you’ll need to take a quick tour of the garden you’ll be cutting to remove any objects left lying around that could damage your mower and its blades. Once you are happy with the lawn, you get on your mower and start her up, adjust the throttle, set the cutting height to whatever the client asked, head to the lawn itself and lower the blade.
Cutting the grass is as simple as just driving over it, but there is still a lot to think about as you do it. You can overwork your mower and cause damage. Accidentally destroy flowers. Crash into the garden’s decor and more. All of these issues will result in you taking money penalties at the end of the job, which you obviously want to avoid. You can even damage the ground itself by going full lock on the steering and flooring it…
As I kept doing when trying to turn the mower around. Any damage caused will have to be paid for by you and that can begin to eat into your profits. And about those profits, they can be used to buy better mowers, upgrades for existing mowers. You can even upgrade and buy a new HQ for your business. You are offered more than one job of varying difficulties, but you are only one person with one mower, so can’t take on every job that comes your way. This is where hiring staff comes in. Oh yeah, you can hire staff. Help comes in a variety of flavours too from top-tier and experienced workers to taking on young and first-timers. Of course, their pay reflects their skills so going for a hard-working and experienced worker will mean higher wages, but they do a proper professional job. Whereas the lesser experienced staff will be cheaper but make more mistakes that will have to be paid for from your profits. You really need to keep an eye on your money and manage it properly if you want your mowing business to grow.
In order to please your client, aside from meeting their specific demands (and not damaging their lawn), you’ll need to mow 99.5% of the grass to get the most pay. You can actually decide to quit and go home if you’ve only mowed 1% if you want… but obviously, you’re not going to make much money doing that. Still, hitting that 99.5% of grass mowed really can be a bit of a pain. I can get 99% with relative ease, but that final .5% really can be awkward to find. See, it’s quite easy to miss the tiniest amount of grass and that tiny amount adds up when there are several tiny amounts missed. Even so much as a single blade of grass can add to the missing .5% that you need to finish the lawn properly. You do have something called ProVision which highlights any uncut grass in white, which does help to get that missing .5%. As you can see from the next pic, using the ProVision picks up the smallest amount of uncut grass.
But there’s a bit of an issue when using this. You can only use it when stationary. As you are timed when mowing your customer’s lawn (finishing under the suggested time gets you a bonus, going over the time lands you a money penalty), having to stop every time you need to use ProVision to seek out the odd missing blade of grass when you are at 99.3% completion really is annoying as you will be using Pro Vision multiple times trying to get that magic 99.5% completion. Seriously, if the target had been 99% and then anything over that is a bonus, it would’ve made this aspect of the game much more bearable.
Then, aside from earning money for your business, you’ll also earn reputation points. You’ll start out doing pretty easy-ish lawns for people. But as your rep builds and your business expands, you’ll get requests from bigger and better clients. Bigger and better lawns to do with bigger and better rewards. Oh, and you know that striped lawn effect you see now and then? Yup, you can do that too… if the client asks for it and you have the right upgrade on your mower.
Okay so full disclosure here as I end this review. I actually had an ulterior motive as to why I requested a review code for Lawn Mowing Simulator, I wanted to make fun of it. Not just this game but pretty much all of these simulator sub-genre of games. I’ve played a few of them over the years Train Simulator, Flight Simulator, Farming Simulator and so on and I’ve always found them to be utterly boring. So why do I continue to play them? Because I want to try to understand the mass appeal, and there is mass appeal too as some of these sim game franchises go back decades. Anyway, I was going to write a very sarcastic and snippy review that ridiculed not just this game, but the whole simulator sub-genre. But my plan has had to drastically change.
I honestly can’t make fun of Lawn Mowing Simulator because I actually really bloody like it. I think that developer, Skyhook Games, have done a fantastic job of putting together an intriguing and very playable simulation game. It’s not just about cutting grass, the career mode is genuinely great and I have a soft spot for games where you have to run a business. I adored having to ‘grow’ my grass cutting company from the ground up. I wanted to train up my employees and make my business a very reputable and reliable one. I really got into the actual mowing too, there was something extremely relaxing and soothing about it. I sat back in my chair as the humming of my mower and the ambient sounds of the English countryside sounded off, it was genuinely calming and serene. I began to seriously care that I did a good job and tried my hardest not to let my clients down, doing my damndest to meet their requests and give them the lawn they really wanted. I absolutely love this game, my sarcasm and hyperbole are completely non-existent here.
Plus, I actually found myself learning about lawnmowers too. I seriously go into reading up on the stats of each mower, ensuring it was the right machine for what the client wanted. I became a regular Hank Hill and really began to care about my mowers and my client’s lawns, I tell you hwhat!
With a price tag of £24.99, I seriously have to recommend Lawn Mowing Simulator. Outside of the grass cutting, which itself has quite a lot of depth to it and is very relaxing, there is a truly fantastic business sim here. Starting with nothing and slowly expanding your empire, hiring staff, buying new mowers, maintaining those mowers, upgrading your HQ, buying a new and far better HQ, improving your reputation and so much more. What originally started out as a bit of a joke idea for a review has ended up becoming a genuine review of a game that I honestly love. Skyhook Games has managed to prove this cynical and bitter game reviewer wrong by delivering a really damn good game that is well worth playing.