E3 Hands-On: Harvest Moon: Mad Dash

Crazy fun.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 06/13/2019 17:26 Comment on this     ShareThis

Natsume has been really busting its tail the past few years after having taken over development duties on the Harvest Moon series here in the West. The last couple of entries in the franchise have been good fun, but this latest, Harvest Moon: Mad Dash, is a nice change of pace in that it’s a spin-off and not a sequel. What sort of spin-off? An action-puzzle game!

Mad Dash is set in the same world of Harvest Moon. The game also boasts the usual plethora of activities that series fans love, like harvesting, fishing, and milking. What makes Mad Dash different, however, is its focus on puzzle gameplay. Natsume has somehow taken the core tenets of Harvest Moon and married them to tile-based match-three mechanics.

In a nutshell, Mad Dash tasks the player with quickly joining tiles of the same color/type in order to meet a certain quota. That quota can be a specific number of a type of produce, fish, and so on. On the playing field, crops, ponds, and more are represented as colored tiles of various arrangements. The player must then take these tiles and move them to be connected to ones of the same type in order to form a grid of at least four.

Once assembled, these matching tiles produce a giant crop of veggies, or bear a bunch of fish, or essentially just give the player a gaggle of whatever was combined. Once harvested, the items go towards the quota for a given stage. That sounds simple enough, which is by design; Natsume Community Manager CeeCee said that Mad Dash is meant to be played with younger and less-skilled players, not just advanced gamers.

Yet, as some of the best accessible titles are wont to do, Mad Dash has its challenge built into its scoring system. Earning a single star is a breeze, but those who want to earn three are going to really have to kick into overdrive to make it happen. I always played with one other person during my time with Mad Dash and it was a riot buzzing around the screen, grabbing tiles, and watching the crops explode in size. The bigger the gathering of like tiles, the bigger the payoff; it’s an immensely satisfying chain reaction to behold as more tiles are spliced in.

What’s more, Mad Dash is very forgiving about how the tiles are combined. Square-shaped formations of the same type yield enormous vegetables, for instance, but linking them together instead without worrying about the overall shape still rewards bushels of crops to harvest. A meter fills as this happens and eventually triggers an event where every single tile on screen cab be harvested regardless of where it’s placed, which is a nice change of pace and immensely exciting.

As a co-op experience, CeeCee jokingly observed that while games like Overcooked! can end relationships, Mad Dash strives to bring people together, instead. Communication is key to gathering crops and items of the same type together, especially when avoiding hazards. As a couch co-op title, Mad Dash is poised to be a very fun time for friends and family looking to play together.

There’s no firm release date for Mad Dash, but it does currently have a fall 2019 launch window. The game will be available in the eShop as well as brick and mortar stores, which is another pleasant surprise. I had no idea what to expect from this title when it was announced, but now that I’ve played Mad Dash I can’t wait for it to come out. It’s a brilliant reimagining of the Harvest Moon formula as a puzzle experience. Keep it on your radar!

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