From Horizon Chase 2 to Sayonara Wild Hearts, Apple Arcade has plenty to offer for those wanting high octane action. But one of the more recent additions to the library is an altogether more sedate affair.
Developed by Tiny Island Survival makers Game Start, Japanese Rural Life Adventure is a farming sim that’s not a million miles away in its pixelated look and laid-back gameplay from Stardew Valley.
The game kicks off with your character inheriting a derelict old house in the Japanese countryside which you’re soon tasked with renovating alongside growing crops, rearing animals, and befriending neighboring villagers.
As the games opens up, it becomes clear that there’s a greater goal of revitalizing not just your new home but also the town itself.
While carrying out chores like watering crops, feeding animals, collecting resources, harvesting vegetables and crafting new items may not scream edge-of-the-seat excitement, once you’re locked into the glacial rhythm of the game’s events and its general wholesomeness, it soon becomes an absorbing, comfy affair that’s very hard to put down.
Boost your community by carrying out chores
Much of the fun comes from building relationships with the mainly elderly locals and hanging out during traditional Japanese festivals, like Hatsumode and Omisoka and its hard not to start feeling a bit invested in the community as you help fix up shrines, struggling businesses, and the local school that are in disrepair.
If you need to chill out after completing your tasks, you can go grab your rod and head off for some fishing at a nearby stream — essentially a no-pressure, Zen-like sub game that is again curiously engrossing.
The game’s leisurely approach extends to its portrait mode layout which allows for a one-handed control when performing your tasks, while core to the pressure-free gameplay is an energy system that simply requires you to take a nap or rustle up a meal when you’ve run out of puff.
Just about as mellow as gaming gets, Japanese Rural Life Adventure offers a gentle distraction, yet manages to get its hooks into you in a way most casual offerings so often fail to do.
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Kevin Lynch is a London-born, Dublin-based writer and journalist.
He started out as a music writer in the late 1990s, before moving to the Daily Mirror to become the newspaper’s technology editor, during which time he wrote a weekly column that saw him chart the boom of consumer tech and gaming as well as the resurrection and rise of Apple Inc.
He has also served as editor of GuinnessWorldRecords.com and has been a member of the judging panel for the BAFTA British Academy Video Game Awards.