I have just crashed my way through a training course earning a rating of F. I think that means I have failed at being a horse but I don't care because I'm not just any horse, I am TERRENCE THE UNICORN.
Actually, this is Secret of the Magic Crystals and I think I'm Terrence the Unicorn's owner. She is a small girl whose disgraced academic dad or grandad or someone thought that meteorite fragments would have magical effects on horses and only horses. I think he was expelled from academia before this meteorite business got to the peer review stage.
Whatever. I'm now role playing a fabulous horse who is failing unicorn school.
I decide that although I like being bad at horsing I should be the kind of unicorn who can be an amazing horse if it wants to, it just thinks normal horses are lame and is interviewing agents in preparation for its career as a megastar.
I (Pip) go downstairs to make a cup of tea. The more I think about it the more I wonder how hard showjumping actually is. I do an experimental gallop from one end of the kitchen to the other, skidding to a halt and hitting the fridge. The kettle still hasn't boiled which leaves me more time for experimentation and I put two chairs in the middle of the floor. I balance a roll of tinfoil between them to make a jump.
"If I break my leg this is going to be an embarrassing one to explain in A&E", I think as I start to gallop.
I make it! (Although the landing is graceless enough that my housemate's cat freaks out and I topple over.)
RIGHT. To horse school! I'm utterly prepared and basically a horse psychologist at this point and… Oh, it's just a really slow QTE which needs the arrow keys and not WASD which is what I was using before.
I perfect being a basic horse.
I perfect dressage too, which is just being a sassy horse.
But Terrence is now too tired to do anything so I leave him in the stable and enjoy an aerial view of the farm. I think that counts as sleep because I'm then allowed to drag him to the farm gate and send him off to compete in races. The game tells me I can make special potions to help my pets in their races and I wonder if this is actually a horse doping simulator.
The special potions include a recipe I have apparently purchased from a local witch. It involves dog roses, beetroot and borage and will make my horse smarter and more dextrous. Presumably he will maybe be able to confuse the other horses with card tricks or something.
My shoulder twinges and I remember the collision with the fridge earlier. Perhaps Terrence needs better shoes with better grip or something. That way I can win without doping or potioning or whatever. Or at least I can compete and earn money. The game doesn't seem to tell you if you won or not. Maybe at some point your horse would just not come back if they lost really badly? I discover a few races into my career that you need to leave the dialogue box open for it to cycle through a really basic race commentary and placing.
I force Terrence into enough races that we can buy a shoe recipe and it triggers another lethargic QTE. Stumping about in the barn I accidentally work out how to clean his hooves and that refills the red bar on the bottom of the screen. Hooray! I'm good at horses again, perhaps?
A tip flashes up about earning herbs while doing chores for the local villagers so I shove Terrence out of the gate to deliver letters and milk and things. On the second errand he leaves the farm doing the four-legged equivalent of the George Michael walk from Arrested Development. When he comes back he's all hunched up and holds one hoof aloft in a sad, lame way.
We open up the barn and I pick up a stethoscope. It turns into a reflex hammer for no good reason and I hit him with it. He needs unspecified medicine which costs 100 gold. That is more gold than we earned doing errands. Good job Terrence.
There is a chance my unicorn is a terrible investment. He reminds me of a car I once owned. It was good for getting to work on the outskirts of town but prone to lengthy expensive illnesses and with no way of playing CDs.
The thing about Secret of the Magic Crystals is that I'm not sure why or how I came to own it. It is entirely possible I was looking for something involving a unicorn and thought this might fit the bill. Alas it seems to be a reskinned version of a plain horsecare sim rather than having anything specifically unicorny to recommend it. There are a couple of hints that the narrative might expand a little as the game goes on but I don't think I have developed enough of a bond with Terrence for that.
We had a laugh, we had some highs and lows (that is the nature of showjumping), but I can't help feeling disappointed every time he fails to use his unicorn horn to gore a rival to death. I can't help feeling disappointed in the villagers too. Their incurious response to a unicorn is depressing. Is this really the world in which we must live? Where a unicorn excites no-one?
That world is not for me.