Bit Orchard: Animal Valley is the epitome of a handheld game, in my eyes. Your eyes, too – mine aren’t exclusive. Why is that? It’s just the right balance of casual gameplay but enough depth and repetition to make you dabble with your orchard at any opportunity. Not a euphemism.
Fortunately, this isn’t one of those simulator games where your grandfather has snuffed it and left you their land, but it does share those grinding elements of doing the same action again and again, and specifically with this game: wishing your life away.
Unlike similar farming titles, i.e. Stardew Valley, there’s not much handholding. It doesn’t take long to work out what to do, and the task list in the top left of the screen makes your objectives relatively clear, but there are plenty of times in Bit Orchard: Animal Valley where you’ll be hitting the sack for lack of anything else to do. Either that, or the sun will set, and you’ll be automatically teleported to your bed.
So, you’re running an apple orchard in the game, which means planting seeds, watering the trees and keeping the crows away with scarecrows or simply chasing them. During the day cycle, apples will spawn – regular, big and golden ones – and you’ll sell these to buy more seeds, upgrade your land, and purchase furnishings for your home to make it fancy. Earning this money also relates to some of the tasks.
In the early stages of 2Boone Games and RedDeer Games’ title, there’s a lot of repetition: wake up, water the orchard, collect a couple of apples, go to bed, repeat. That wasn’t an issue for me, but the set tasks gave the impression that there wasn’t much scope, and everything offered in Bit Orchard: Animal Valley could be seen in that first hour. Not true.
After completing each list of tasks, a new one will materialise, additional NPCs and other objectives. Sick of apples? How about fishing? One might assume that running an orchard is only about the apples, but the animal in the title is accurate. Come on, one of the first tasks is befriending a bunny. That said, getting them to be your friend is another rinse and repeat scenario of petting them, heading to bed, petting them… you get the idea.
I’m sure you’re aware that point and clicks are my favourite games, and while I enjoy these games on the Switch, my preference for the platform is quick-fire games with an arcade sensibility of being able to get immediately into it and able to exit out at any time. I don’t know – perhaps your train has arrived, you need to do some work, or your significant other (or mother) tells you to stop playing games. Bit Orchard: Animal Valley allows you to drop in and out on the fly, but as alluring as a Tamagotchi.
Your orchard won’t continue growing without you, so there’s no need to frequently return as if it were a free mobile game that rewards you with logging in. Instead, Bit Orchard: Animal Valley rewards you with cute <ahem>, and relaxing gameplay.
To put it in perspective, I had a Game Boy when they first came out and only had Navy Seals and Tetris. Still the case. I also never had a Tamagotchi. Still, the monochrome visuals and chirp tunes, which aren’t my thing, won me over in the first ten minutes. Corny as it sounds, I felt joyful playing Bit Orchard: Animal Valley. If you’re going to be sick, stay away from my apples.
I have Stardew Valley and recently bought Doraemon: Story of Seasons for my daughter, but they aren’t games I play. Yet, Bit Orchard: Animal Valley is deceptively charming and a game I wouldn’t hesitate to chuck on whenever I have that elusive ‘down time’. I will stress that this game is repetitive, and there will be lots of skipping days or debatable monotony of doing the same thing. Again, it wasn’t an issue for me, but putting it out there in case you don’t have the patience. Also, what’s with the ‘restart’ option in the pause menu? It’s so easy to select it in error. That’s dangerous!