I loved horses in my tween years. I would actually go out into my backyard and see how large of an area we could have if we built a stable and a pasture. I checked some books out of the library about how to care for horses and read short novels about girls who rode horses. I watched every movie that had a horse in it in some way. Sylvester was my favorite. I didn’t know of any girls my age who didn’t love horses. A lot of tween girls love horses, and that’s why Star Stable is so popular, even if the gameplay is very basic and somewhat boring at times.
Star Stable is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, where you take control of a girl with a horse in a small town based around a stable. Like many other MMORPGs, Star Stable has you spending your time doing quests. The early quests teach you how to care for and control your horse. Then you have regular quests that send you out into the world for various reasons. The game limits interactions with other players, similar to other MMOs aimed at the younger set, like Wizard 101. Friends can play the game together, but you can play all on your own if you want to. It is important to note, though, that the game is only free to play up to level 5. Once you hit that level you need to pay a fee if you want access to any more content. You can buy a lifetime subscription for $69.95.
I don’t have anything against MMOs for kids. I actually really enjoyed Wizard 101. But even with my love of horses, Star Stable didn’t suck me in. The main problem I had with the game was that there was very little you needed to do that actually required a horse. There are some racing missions, but beyond that, the quests involve finding an item and returning it to its rightful owner or performing some task in order to further the plot. Even the interactions with the horse, such as brushing or feeding, felt stale—all you do is watch your character perform the actions. I also had some trouble controlling my horse, but that was my lack of skill, not the game’s. I saw many other players galloping past me with precision.
The plot is okay, but it’s not anything all that original. Apparently some evil corporation wants to raze the stables to make room for something that wasn’t entirely clear, at least in the three or so hours I spent with the game. However, there was one part of one early quest that really made cringe. This quest is to prove yourself to a team of girls by completing an obstacle course in a certain time. That isn’t a problem except for the fact that the leader of the team tells you to keep your hands off her boyfriend. Eye roll. Can’t we get past the stereotype that all tween girls think about is boys?
In the end, Star Stable is a simulation with quests that are really not that interesting. Because of its premise, there are no battles. Maybe it’s just me, but I like a little bit of fighting in some form in most of my games. If you’re a parent who wants a safe game with no violence whatsoever, then this might be the right game for your child. There is nothing inherently wrong with Star Stable, and my 10-year-old self may have really loved the game. But the last thing I did was park my horse in the stable, give him food, water, and a good brushing then turned off the game. I don’t expect to return.