Harvest Moon: Mad Dash has a great mix of Tetris and Overcooked gameplay and is heaps of fun playing multiplayer.
Harvest Moon: Mad Dash is an action puzzle game developed by APPCI and published by Natsume/Rising Star Games. It released on October 29, 2019 for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, then Steam on November 18. I was recently gifted a Nintendo Switch from my wife for my birthday in July. She bought a couple of games with it (Trials Rising and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) but apart from that first weekend when we were away, I’ve hardly touched it as I’m primarily a PC and Xbox gamer.
When the opportunity came up to review Harvest Moon: Mad Dash, I was drawn to the hectic gameplay that utilises the fundamentals of match-3 style games with a mix of gameplay from Tetris and Overcooked. My wife plays a heap of farming match-3 games on her mobile and we’ve played Overcooked together on PC, so I was pleased to see Mad Dash supported multiplayer with up to 4 players. As I only have the two joy cons, this would be perfect to play with my wife and is suitable to play in front of our 2-year old daughter.
The game starts by showing scenes of farmland with healthy crops of carrots and tomatoes, cows in meadows and shopfronts along a windy path towards a tall white lighthouse with its light shining bright. Eight large seeds fly out of the lighthouse in a flash of light and then we see the lighthouse has been damaged and forests of trees have taken over the land. Two characters are then shown exclaiming:
“Oh no! It’s terrible! The island is like a jungle now! But don’t worry! The Harvest Goddess told me what we need to do! Bring lots of crops and eight Time Seeds to the lighthouse to revive it.”
You are then faced with a path containing yellow dots which are stages before some roadblock of rocks. Each roadblock has a number above it indicating the number of stars required to clear it. You can earn a max of three stars per level, so the initial roadblock can be cleared once you 3-star the first two levels. The second roadblock requires 20, and thus commences the flow of the game. Earn enough stars to clear the path and keep progressing forward through farmland, underworlds, beach and the skyworld areas. The aim is to collect 180 stars and the eight missing time seeds to restore the lighthouse and vibrancy will return to the land.
Once in a level you will be given a quick tutorial for each new mechanic you come across. You will be on a field and start with simple squares of crop seedlings. You need to pick up squares of crops using the A button and connect them to others of the same type of crop using the B button to make it grow. Once you’ve connected enough together, the crops will sprout and glow meaning they’re ripe for picking. Pick the crops and you will earn points. Earn enough points by fulfilling the orders at the bottom, like in Overcooked, and you’ll earn stars.
The controls are easy to use though I found I had to play with the joy cons disconnected from the console. My right thumb would start to hurt after a few levels, especially as the intensity starts to lift in later levels. The graphics are great for this simple style of game and looked fine blown up on my 110” theatre screen, and the music is well suited to the farmer lifestyle. It sounds like a simple game, and it starts off very easy, however in the top left corner of each level is a countdown timer. When it gets down to 30 seconds, the music quickens and at 10 seconds the clock starts ticking. These changes in intensity can mean you start to rush and make mistakes by dropping the crop too short and not connecting, or not connecting in a perfect line or square. These small mistakes are no big deal in these early stages, but errors are time lost basically in later ones.
After a couple of levels, you will earn five stars which clears the first roadblock and then once the forest is cleared, new farms popup along the path with fresh fields. Clearing more levels, earning more stars and clearing more roadblocks will restore farms, fields and villages to their former glory. As you progress the levels, the difficulty starts to ramp up as you will need to match up ponds to catch fish, feed the cows to collect milk and sheep to collect wool. There are also hazards that come into play including charging bulls and lava that will destroy anything in their designated paths. The fields themselves get difficult to deal with when there’s obstacles or rivers in the way that prevent you from making perfect shapes.
There were some levels where I just couldn’t crack the 3-stars and this is where I called my wife in for backup using the Switch’s second joy con. Docking the console to the big screen, we got stuck into those more difficult levels and had a blast with my daughter laughing at the cows and big ‘matoes (tomatoes). When playing multiplayer, communication between each other is important. One second you will have mapped out the perfect crop, only for your partner to steal a square of your crop to make their own. Or you have the best intentions of moving a shape to group up with there’s to make a large yield, only they had the exact same idea and you’re blocking each other from placing the big point scoring section. Playing 2-player with my wife was where I had the most fun and was also useful to help pass stages that I couldn’t complete by myself. You will need to purchase additional joy cons if you want to play 3 or 4 player.
Harvest Moon: Mad Dash has a great mix of Tetris and Overcooked gameplay and is heaps of fun playing multiplayer. It’s simple design yet increasing challenge keeps you trying different strategies and is an excellent game to play multiplayer. I really enjoyed playing this with my wife and was it safe to play in front of our 2-year old daughter. Fans of the Harvest Moon series may see this as too large a shift away from the core gameplay of previous games, however this is my first entry into Harvest Moon and I really enjoyed it.