Harvest Moon is a sure bet when it comes to being an easygoing game experience. Its core concept is anything but relaxing, like building a farm from literally the ground up and making sure it’s productive, and at the same time having to keep tabs on your personal life, and at the same time, it’s a breezy game to play, a welcome break away from the hectic pacing so naturally associated with gaming. The newest game in the series, Harvest Moon: Mad Dash at first sounded like a radical take on the established Harvest Moon tropes, and as soon as I started its E3 demo, it proved true.
Harvest Moon: Mad Dash played like a block match puzzle game mixed with a healthy dose of Overcooked’s chaos, as Natsume’s Adam Fitch and I madly scrambled around the square-shaped field in order to combine seeds into bigger and bigger shapes in order to get them to grow into vegetables we could then collect and sell for cash. The main gist of a mainline Harvest Moon is handling some of the base elements in growing crops, like sowing and watering them, but Mad Dash skips those steps entirely for the sake of dishing out fast arcadey gameplay, and it felt like a fun twist that I’m sure a lot of people looking for a party game to pick up and play are sure to have a blast playing.
The cute cartoony antics for which Harvest Moon is known for are fully present in this new game, thanks to some of the most colorful graphics I saw at E3. The easy gameplay felt breezy enough for me to carry a conversation with Fitch as we grew our crops, and later moved on to feeding our sleepy cows and collecting their milk. Helping out our livestock proved to be a little more work than simply matching seed blocks into crops, because we had to lead the bovines to hay stacks before they would eat and then go to sleep, at which point they started glowing, pointing to us that they were ready to be milked.
We were doing so well that we reached a special power stage in the game that allowed us to instantly get the produce off of them without having to wait, proving to be the more chaotic parts of the demo, since we were scrambling around trying to deliver everything as fast as we could.
We played a beach level Mad Dash, but there also are going to be farm, underworld, and skyworld maps to go crazy farming, each with their own theme and gimmicks to look out for as you jump from stage to stage on an overworld map. Milking, fishing and tending crops are also set to take place all at the same time, so I’m sure the easy time I had during this demo is bound to be a distant memory by the time I’m living up to this game’s name with some friends.
Overall, Harvest Moon: Mad Dash was one of the most fun times I had playing a simpler multiplayer game while at E3, and considering that Callum and I saw a lot of great multiplayer indie titles at this year’s Indie Media Exchange — which we’ll touch upon very soon with our personal picks! — that’s saying a lot. Honestly, I felt like Harvest Moon was in dire need of a shake up, and if Mad Dash is what it takes for the series to reach a bigger audience, then I’m more than ready to grab some friends and couch play it once it’s finally out this Fall on PlayStation 4 and Switch.