Well, this is the first time I’ve ever reviewed a piece of DLC and if I’m going to take a look at some DLC, it may as well be a game I rather enjoy. Developer Skyhook Games and publisher Curve Digital actually won me over with Lawn Mowing Simulator last year, as my review proves. And now, mowing the lawn just got a little bit prehistoric with Lawn Mowing Simulator: Dino Safari.
Dino Safari first opened its doors in 1994 to capitalise on the mainstream obsession with all things prehistoric, and is proudly still going strong today. This beloved local location is one of the area’s premier tourist attractions, transporting kids and adults alike into a bygone time around its proud central volcano. There are four main zones containing eight dinosaurs whose grounds need maintaining… if you’re brave enough!
As I have already reviewed the main game (click here), I don’t really need to go into all the gameplay mechanics and such. If you have played Lawn Mowing Simulator previously, then you know what to expect in terms of gameplay here. What you get with this DLC are four new areas to mow. You get Raptor Enclosure, Cretaceous Canyon, Herbivore Valley and T-Rex Paddock. Now, the dinosaurs here are not real, this is not you taking a trip to Jurassic Park to maintain their grass. Nor does your mower double up as a time machine for you to travel back 200 million years ago. The Dino Safari DLC has you cutting the grass of areas inhabited by animatronic dinosaurs of a child-friendly tourist attraction. So you don’t need to worry about running over the foot of a T-Rex and it eating you.
The four new areas give you additional career contracts and even six new achievements to unlock. As with the base game, Dino Safari is crammed with some really great details. The ambient and calming sounds are still here. Only now, they are accompanied with some dino roars and so on. There are new assets to help sell the fact that you are now in a dino attraction, faux electric fences, dino nests full of eggs, volcanoes in the background… and dino-themed rubbish bins. The dinosaurs themselves look great, they have that very animatronic feel to them, as the animations are intentionally jerky and slightly awkward looking.
Priced at £4.99 (slightly cheaper if you buy it via Game Pass) this is a nice little addition to the base game. You get a few more lawns to mow and can even ride a mower between a T-Rex’s legs too. Lawn Mowing Simulator is a game that I have a lot of love for, it’s peaceful and relaxing, with a really great career mode. So more of it is always nice to see Throwing some (animatronic) dinosaurs into the mix wasn’t what I was expecting at all but I’m really glad this Dino Safari DLC exists. It’s just a great bit of harmless fun.
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 Simulatorreally 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 Simulatoractually 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 Simulatorbecause 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.
Time for some isometric, twin-stick, shooty-shooty, RPG action now with The Ascent. From first-time developers, Neon Giant and indie publisher Curve Digital comes this rather splendid looking shooter. Originally set to be a launch title for Microsoft’s latest Xbox console, The Ascent was delayed until July 2021 instead. There are two very distinct reasons why a game is delayed. 1) the devs really want to make the game as fantastic as it can be and work on it until it is as perfect as they can make it. 2) it’s utter shit (the whole covid thing hasn’t really helped either). Time for me to find out which of those two The Ascent really is.
I already said how The Ascent was a rather splendid looking game and I feel that trailer there backs up that claim. Still, you really can’t beat witnessing visuals on a nice big TV in HD with your own eyes, instead of relying on a YouTube video. You know what, yup, it is a stunning looking game. Going for a very Blade Runner, a futuristic dystopian world, cyberthis and cyberthat-type of aesthetic, The Ascent impreses from the moment you press the start button.
The game is crammed with little details and micro-details. Some truly gorgeous lighting effects, destructible scenery, dense environments and so much more that’ll keep your eyes very much entertained throughout. Then there are a multitude of various areas that you will find yourself in as you play The Ascent. Grungy rusted basements, dazzling neon bathed cities, rat-infested back streets and so much more. Each location with its own style, crammed full of that amazing attention to detail. Seriously, there were times when I was playing The Ascent when I just stopped to admire the world I was in, just stand there and stare out at goings-on beyond the playing area. Watching flying cars cut through the skyline, robots walk around repairing the scenery and so much more. The world of The Ascent is wonderfully decadent, detailed and teeming with life.
But as you all already know by now, looks are not everything. What’s the point in a fantastic looking game if the gameplay itself is all rather dull? Thankfully, The Ascent is far from dull. You play as one of many corporate slaves known as Indents who have top work of their debt for their freedom. The game is set in an arcology (a portmanteau of ‘architecture’ and ‘ecology’), a huge multi-tiered mega-city that houses all of its residents on the planet Veles. You ‘work’ for the largest corporation on Veles, the Ascent Group, and when they suddenly go bankrupt, the future of the arcology you live in is plunged into chaos as the other corporations fight for control and the numerous districts begin rioting… and this is just about it for the story. The world you live in had plunged into utter chaos and you are pretty much fighting to survive as you turn to taking on various jobs to earn some much needed-coin.
The main meat of the game is its combat, which as covered, is really nothing more than a twin-stick shooter. You’ve seen it all before, shoot enemies, circle-strafe, follow a marker on the HUD, complete missions, earn XP, level up, unlock new skills, weapons and items. But I feel I have oversimplified things a tad there. While all you do is shoot a ton of enemies, there is quite a lot of depth to just how you do that. Different enemies have different weaknesses and you’ll soon find yourself having to use a variety of weapons to deal with the multitude of enemies. There’s a cover system too, plus you can aim high if you need to deal with any foes that are above or just bigger than you. At first, the combat seems very, very basic but as the game progresses, it really opens up and eventually becomes much more involved and strategic later.
In fact, the whole game really doesn’t kick into gear for a while. Everything feels shallow for the first two or three hours of play but stick with it and once you get a few upgrades and better weapons, things really begin to improve. There are a few niggles that I feel I should highlight. The story of The Ascent really isn’t all that interesting, it’s very cliché, very one-note and I don’t think the game will win any awards for its writing. The same goes for the characters you will inevitably interact with as you do progress through the game. If you have seen any sci-fi film in the last three decades, then you have already met all the characters in The Ascent. There are some particularly nasty difficulty spikes that occasionally pop up. You can go from taking out enemies with relative ease, to suddenly being mobbed and overwhelmed in seconds. The many areas in the game can be a little too big too. You will find yourself doing a lot of backtracking and running across the pretty large maps many, many times… especially with the main hub. Now, there are a couple of fast travel options, taxis and the metro. Even so, with two different fast travels, you will still be doing a lot of footwork that seems a little unnecessary, as if the fast travel just needed a bit of tweaking.
The Ascent has about a fifteen-hour or so playtime in regards to the main story, but there is a lot to do with side-quests, looting, exploring, etc. While the game is not exactly open world, it still does offer a decent amount of freedom and as I said earlier, The Ascent is just so damn gorgeous to look at that I personally enjoyed taking in the world and giving my eyes something to do. Depending on how you really want to look at this game will most definitely sway your opinion on it. While it isn’t exactly deep like a lot of other action-RPGs, I honestly don’t think it needed to be. The Ascent knows exactly what it is, that being a fast-paced shooter with some light RPG elements. It is not trying to be Cyberpunk 2077 (thankfully as this is far more playable with a lot fewer glitches… better looking too), it’s just a very simple shooter with some level of depth for what it is.
One of the really impressive facts about The Ascent is that it was the work of just eleven people. The team at Neon Giant have done a simply amazing job here. I’ve played AAA titles with a staff that runs into dozens upon dozens upon dozens of staff that haven’t given me the level of enjoyment and wonder that The Ascent did. This is one of the things I love about indie games and devs, that a smaller team armed with nothing much more than pure passion and raw talent can make a game that can rival and even surpass bigger titles and studios. Overall, The Ascent is a very enjoyable shooter, a game that takes place in one of the most beautiful and detailed game worlds I have ever seen. A game that doesn’t oversell itself and one that, as basic as it is, still has a decent level of depth. Available on Game Pass right now, so it’s not as if you’re going to be out of pocket to try it out for a few hours. Give it a play, you might just be surprised.
Well, there’s a game title for you. From developer DoubleMoose and publisher Curve Digital comes the rather aggressively titled, Just Die Already. Honestly I knew nothing about this game going into the review, I just loved the title and wanted to play it. So what is it all about? I’ll let the devs themselves answer that with this blurb about the game:
“You are an old retired person in a near future where people aren’t having any children. There isn’t anyone to pay for pensions due to those ungrateful millennials who prefer playing video games instead of doing actual work. With no one to cover your living costs, you – just like all other old people in this world – have no other choice but to survive on your own.”
Finally, I can play as an old cantankerous bastard getting annoyed at the youth of today. So, after picking one of four OAPs to play as, you start out in an old people’s home and want to escape your mundane life, not wanting to die in a nursing home. You yearn to go looking for some excitement and crazy ways to end your own life. So you try to get kicked out of the home, you do this by creating a little disruption, ruin a birthday party, annoy the other residents. Before you know it, you are turfed out to fend for yourself and this is when the game begins proper.
If you are familiar with Goat Simulator from 2014, then you know exactly what you are getting into here. This is basically Goat Simulator, but with old people and a lot more blood. In fact, the two games are from the same creator, Armin Ibrisagic. Just Die Already gives you an open world, a realistic physics defying game engine and an old person to use to cause OTT destruction and havoc. Civilians walk the streets, hundreds of objects and items to pick up an use, vehicles to control and much more. You are free to do whatever you want with whatever you want, go wherever you want. Described as an ‘old people mayhem sandbox game’. Yup, that pretty much sums the entire game up nicely.
There is no story to follow, but the game does give you a bucket list of things to do, with different areas of the map having their own lists. Tasks range from something as mundane as eating some food or taunting someone to far more elaborate tasks such as ride a hobby horse while holding your own decapitated head or hack an NPC up with an axe. With each completed task, you unlock a new item that you can grab from the vending machines scattered around the map, many of the items even have their own bucket list entry too. There are some very amusing hidden areas to find and a multitude of ways that you can discover to bring about your own death. Though when you do die, you can just respawn fully healed at the press of a button. Still, your OAP can take some serious damage before they do finally kick the bucket. You can break limbs (which heal over time), even have limbs removed completely, including your head and still stay alive. I was even reduced to just a pair of hips, no legs, no torso, just hips and I was still rolling around on the floor alive. This really is Monty Python’s Black Knight levels of absurdity in terms of body damage. Pretty much any and everything in the game will bring you serious injury and death, I mean, you can freely piss on electrical outlets. That’s the type of game this is.
The map the game takes place in is impressively big for a indie game. Split into seperate areas that each offer their own bucket list tasks and unique environments and items too. From the main city with shops and skyscrapers, to the docks area where deadly fish swim in the waters and more. There is a multiplayer mode, which I never tried, but I think that could add a lot of extra fun if you have a few friends to play with. Just Die Already also features cross platform play, so you can play with friends regardless of what machine they have.
Quite honestly, Just Die Already is a lot of nonsensical fun. There’s a lot to do and a huge variety of ways to do it too and the game gives you complete freedom to do whatever you want. But, I also found myself getting a bit bored quite easily though. I played it for a couple of hours just to get a feel for the game, making a few notes for this review and really enjoyed myself. Then I played it again for another hour or so, after a break, just to get more of the gameplay under my belt so I could start to write this review proper… And that was when I started to feel the gameplay got a bit tiresome. Then I played for an hour while actually writing and finishing this review, that was when I became utterly bored by the concept. You do kind of see everything the game has to offer within an hour or two if I’m being honest.
Now, it is not that Just Die Already is a bad game, because it really isn’t. More a case of, even with the openness of the game and the variety or weapons/items it does have, it is still very one-note. You just cause all sorts of destruction and die a lot… And that’s really it. It is a very shallow gameplay experience, even at its most madcap, Just Die Already is really very basic under the OTT physics engine and big map and despite the bucket list of things to do, they are all pretty much the same thing over and over with very little variety along the way. Plus those purposely bad controls and OTT ragdoll effects eventually become more of a hindrance than a joy.
As I said, I certainly had fun with this game, even if it was short-lived. Perhaps playing it in shorter bursts is the way to go instead of trying to cram in as much as I could to write this review? I do think I’ll return to it now and again when I want to unplug and just feel like being a bit silly and want some utter nonsense and fun. Just Die Already has a very reasonable price tag of £11.99 and you do get a lot of game for your money too, so it’ll hardly break your bank balance or cut into your life savings. It just needed a bit more variety to the gameplay and perhaps a bit more depth to keep people coming back for more. Fun for a while, but shallow. If you enjoy these type of Goat Simulator, physics defying games, then I do suggest that you give Just Die Already a go.
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