I know what you’re probably thinking: Why on Earth does this game even exist? More importantly, why would anyone bother playing it?
If ever there was a seemingly less appealing idea for a videogame then you’d be hard pressed to find it and mowing lawns surely has to rank pretty low on anybody’s list of ‘Things I wish there were more of in games.
’Over the years there have been countless simulations of activities that players may otherwise be unable to experience for themselves (flying a 747 on a 12-hour flight for one), and while I have to admit that I have never really seen the attraction in many of the games out there I have always appreciated that there is a market out there which they appeal to.
When I jokingly suggested to my partner that we should have a go on Lawnmower Simulator via the Cloud Gaming aspect of Xbox Game Pass, neither of us were expecting more than an impending sense of boredom and futility.
I never imagined we would end up so hopelessly addicted.
Right from the off you have the chance to name your character and decide on a name for your fledgling business, along with choosing a logo and designing the company uniform. Once this is done, you can go and try out a few mowers before deciding which one you prefer and then it’s off to your first customer to learn the ropes.
It becomes immediately apparent that this is a ‘proper’ simulator when you struggle to figure out how to get the mower’s engine running, set the blades to the correct mowing height and adjust the revs so that you can actually make your way to the awaiting lawn. I have to admit that I was initially taken aback by how well the grass is simulated and even while messing about on the ‘test lawn’ I noticed some of the finer details in the way that the environment is affected by your speed and turning circle with chunks being torn into the ground or thicker grass needing multiple passes or a slower speed to ensure a higher quality cut.
Each job has specific requirements that mean you need to use a certain type of mower, cut the grass to a certain height and achieve a particular percentage of completion before the job is done. Add in the recommended cut times (which can lead to a bonus if you can complete the job quickly enough) and some other touches like the customer wanting stripes on the lawn and it quickly becomes apparent that you have to treat each job seriously if you want to find any level of success.
When I first started out, the recommended cut times seemed almost impossible and I regularly found myself doubling or even tripling the allocated time allowance but I soon came to realize that I was not paying close enough attention to some of the finer details of the contracts (such as making sure that the mower had a deck width which was suited to the job).
After a few hours I invested in a second mower for my company (which was much more efficient for my mowing style) and was able to hire another member of the team. Each time you complete a job it passes one day of the in-game time cycle and new jobs become available or disappear as you pick and choose the ones you prefer. This is a bit of a trade-off between the amount of time it is likely to take, how much money you can potentially earn and the amount of RP (Reputation Points) you can unlock by completing each contract.
Levelling up brings more varied contracts over time and certain contracts may become favorites either because of their simplicity (especially when you manage to unlock some of the fancier mowers – any mower with a zero-turn function is an absolute game changer in my opinion), speed or just a general enjoyment of the setting (I particularly enjoyed mowing the parade ground at the castle). After a few hours you’ll find a good range of places to choose from and as your team expands you may get into the habit of setting tasks that favor your time management in the hope that it allows for more rapid progress.
When it comes to managing your team, you need to consider that every team member can be trained once per day in any of three main aspects. It is well worth investing time and money here early on as the AI characters may earn reduced returns on the more complex contracts if they are not fully trained (I learned this to my detriment much further down the line). In addition, the mowers in your garage need regular maintenance to reduce the risk of inflated costs while people are out on a job and to ensure that the customers are fully satisfied with the work of you and your team.
Blades need to be repaired once they get near to 50% effectiveness or you’ll end up having to re-do a job or cover the same areas multiple times to get a clean cut; if your engine is poorly maintained the mower will not run as effectively and potentially increase the amount of time it takes to complete a job. These things are not explicitly explained in the game, so it’s worth spending a bit of time exploring the various sub-menus as you work your way through the career mode.
I have to admit that there was a point a few hours into the game where I felt like the fun might be starting to wane a little, mainly because it took me almost two-and-a-half hours to complete a particular job (which was completely unexpected and more than twice as long as I had spent previously) but I soon realized that I simply needed to invest in a bigger, better, faster mower for future jobs of this size. On top of this, the game then blessed me with something to provide a little respite from the endless back and forth of trying to tame a wild orchard: litter picks.
Litter picks require you to do exactly what you might expect from the name. Each location is split into reduced areas where the grass is slightly shorter and you are tasked with exploring in first-person to find anything which has been discarded. The reason these are such a great break from the main objective of the game is that they take literally a couple of minutes and they allow you to earn RP and some money (much less than a mow) while sending out your team on much larger, more time-consuming mows.
In essence, this allows you to power through a number of in-game days very quickly and this can be hugely useful when it comes to earning some quick cash and RP. As the game continues, these sporadically appear on your contract list and can be done as preferred or assigned to a team member instead. Whatever you choose, the RP and cash value still gets paid to your company (and then you pay wages and maintenance costs).
Even now, having maxed out the level of my character’s business reputation (earning almost half a million pounds in the process) I still can’t quite put my finger on exactly what kept bringing me back for more, night after night, or how I found myself developing different techniques depending on the choice of mower and the various gardens instead of trying to level up on Halo: Infinite. In all honesty, there’s not really that much to the game once you get past the idea of actually mowing a lawn…but it’s really, really good at what it does and that seems to be enough. If you fancy spending some time doing something which is challenging and occasionally frustrating but incredibly cathartic then I would highly recommend that you give this a try.
Right, I’d better go. I have turf to tend to.