- Developer: Skyhook Games
- Publisher: Curve Digital
- Release date: 10th August 2021
- Genre: Simulation video game
- Platforms: Xbox One/Series X|S, Windows PC
- Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Lawn Mowing Simulator Review
It would be easy to assume that Lawn Mowing Simulator was a joke title or a crazy, janky, physics-based “simulator” in the vein of Goat Simulator. In reality, however, it’s a very well crafted game.
The premise is simple. You start as a one-person operation, with a single mower, and must complete contracts mowing lawns of varying size and complexity in and around the British countryside. As you progress deeper into the campaign you can relocate your headquarters to one with greater mower storage capacity, and then hire additional employees to drive them.
There are twelve branded ride-on mowers to choose from, recreated in exquisite levels of detail. Not only do they have differing handling characteristics and speeds depending on your choice, but they have different deck sizes, that affects the area cut per pass. As well as this, there are mulchers, grass collectors (which you periodically need to empty), and side and rear disposal mowers. Lawn Mowing Simulator has far more depth than I expected before firing it up.
One man went to mow, went to mow the meadow
Once you’ve selected your mower of choice, it’s time to get out there and make some money. Rather than just starting with you sat on your mower, you begin on foot in a first-person view and have to remove any rakes, garden gnomes or rocks that are concealed in the grass (there’s a very handy sprint button for this). Handily, it lets you know how many things there are to find. Once you’ve found everything, you can return to your mower, fire up the engine, and get going.
Invariably, the required cut height is around 6cm, so you need to set your deck height to this level before starting. Some lawns have meadow-like unkempt grass, and for these, you can either do two passes at different heights (ridiculously time-consuming and not recommended), or you can slow down if your mower starts to struggle. The engine for your mower has a visual representation of how much load it is under – max it out and you will leave uncut tufts of grass behind. While it can be a pain having to backup over these tufts, it’s far quicker than mowing the whole lawn twice.
Now that you’ve got everything prepared and ready to go, you can begin the zen-like process of mowing the lawns. There are no restrictions on how you do it and no best route indicator or time limit (though you get a bonus for finishing ahead of the predicted time). It doesn’t take long before you settle in and find your preferred way of tackling the job. I like to go around all the edges first, cutting into the corners and trimming the borders of flower beds.
Once all the tricky bits are taken care of, it’s a simple case of trundling around and making sure you don’t miss any bits. Aside from making sure the engine isn’t overloaded, there’s very little concentration needed, and I found myself drifting off into thought accompanied by the noisy but soothing sound of your mower’s engine (pretty much the only sounds you hear). It’s almost meditative in effect, though I’m sure for some it could easily be described as boring.
The beautifully rendered houses and gardens are a pleasure to drive around, but there was more pop-in than should be expected on the Series X, and I was a bit disappointed at the lack of draw distance for the grass, as on the larger parks and orchards the grass doesn’t fully render until you get closer. When you need to mow 99.5% of a lawn to fulfil the contract, hunting down the missing 0.1% can be a chore when you can’t see the grass around you.
Mow money, mow problems
Mowing takes far longer than I expected. One contract, in an orchard with very long and very wet grass, took me over an hour to complete. By the end of this job, I’ll admit to feeling the tedium set in. On my preferred small house jobs, it takes anywhere from 10-25 minutes to finish, but the larger jobs regularly take 30, 40, 50 or more minutes. Thankfully, now I have progressed to a larger headquarters with a team of six employees, I simply offload the biggest jobs to them, while I pootle around the easy jobs.
The management side of the career is robust and has just enough depth to keep it interesting. After each day, you can upgrade, repair and refuel your mowers, invest a bit of cash into training your employees to improve their skills and reduce the wear and tear they cause the machinery, and select the following day’s contracts. It’s nothing too taxing, and there are no difficult decisions to make other than ensuring sure you don’t leave yourself with a negative bank balance. If this does happen, it won’t let you begin the next day’s contracts, but you can take out a loan (at realistically exorbitant repayment rates) to put you back into the black.
Getting started is slow, and Lawn Mowing Simulator is very grindy by nature, but it’s not supposed to be a quick-fix game. There is no real end goal apart from expanding your company, though there is a challenge mode, with gradually more difficult challenges unlocking as you build up your XP.
I have really enjoyed my time with Lawn Mowing Simulator, far more so than I expected. Ideally, I’d put it in for a quick hour as a respite from the hectic stress of multiplayer, or when I don’t want to think too hard about what I’m doing. Due to needing to play a lot of it in a short space of time to write the review, though, I burned myself out on it a bit, and it did begin to feel like the chore it simulates. Played in small chunks, however, it can be a healthy dose of therapeutic relaxation.
Lawn Mowing Simulator is a surprisingly in-depth, serene and entertaining way to pass some time. The management side of the gameplay adds welcome depth, and the actual process of mowing lawns is a uniquely zen-like experience. Put some music or your favourite TV show on in the background, and the hours will fly by.
It’s likely to be too grindy and probably a bit boring for a lot of people, but if you like the thought of chugging around a stately home’s garden with no time pressure, intense narrative or angry teenagers shouting at you through their headsets, this could be just the game for you.