The peaks and ‘Stardew Valley’s of Android releases

Image from Stardew Valley
Image from Stardew Valley

This review is of the Android release of ‘Stardew Valley.’ The  game was played on a phone that has a Snapdragon 845 CPU, 8GB of RAM,  and runs ver. 9.0.4 of OxygenOS.

I, like so many others, have fallen head over heels for the  endearing, agrarian little town created by Eric Barone. I have racked up  around 150 in-game hours of Stardew Valley across both the PC  and Switch releases of the game, cultivating my own farms and starting  my own online co-operative. As the game has added features since its  original 2016, some have been implemented more easily than others.

So how does this new resident in the Valley fit in with the other  entries in the series? With some of the more problematic features like  multiplayer absent at launch, will that help make for a purple star  game, or will the perturbed spirits do everything they can to make this  entry worse?

New year, new platform

Image from Stardew Valley

First  thing’s first: It’s still the same great game that everyone has come to  know and love. The underlying mechanics and gameplay cycle are still  present and just as zen and engaging as ever. Seeing cows and chickens  on the smallest screen the series has ever appeared on doesn’t minimize  the emotional bond that forms.

All the think pieces and essays about how deceptively fun the game is  or how it holds special significance to some still ring true. And in a  mobile format, the game is arguably now more accessible than ever.  However, there are still some notable differences in this new mobile  version of the game that make it a distinct experience.

Glaring omissions and update fodder

One of the first things that will jump out to any veteran resident of  the Valley upon starting the game up for the first time is the lack of a  multiplayer mode. When the game launched, there was no such feature,  and it even took a while to implement on consoles after the feature was  added to the original PC version of the game. However, after sinking so  many hours into farming with friends on other platforms, the missing  multiplayer makes the game feel noticeably lonelier.

Image from Stardew Valley

Aside from the missing mode, the other difference in the mobile version of Stardew Valley  that players will notice is the control scheme. There are several  different ways to control the game, but none of them immediately felt  right. The default setting includes a tap-to-move function that also  uses specific tools based on what tile is selected. Other options are an  invisible control stick and two buttons, a scheme with only one button,  and several options that blend the different methods of control. After  trying out a few, the default method ended up feeling pretty natural  after a few minutes and a bit of patience.

While the controls got easier as the game progressed, one nit pick  that remained annoying was the pathfinding. When using the tap-to-move,  the player’s farmer does not always take the most efficient route to the  selected destination. The farmer does a decent enough job avoiding  level geometry, but not good enough to rival the good sense of a human  operator. This may push some to adopt a different control scheme, but  tapping out shorter paths helped eliminate this minor annoyance.

Glitch and update problems

One of the things that made gameplay difficult was the presence of  various glitches as the game went through its first round of updates. At  launch the only notable glitch I experienced was one where a tool would  be used repeatedly until the use tool button was pressed again. This  occurred infrequently, but when it did, this glitch always took out a  big chunk of that day’s energy.

A short while later, the game was updated, and it took me a while to  figure out how to proceed playing with the next round of glitches that  were patched into the game. The swinging glitch was fixed, but numbers  attached to item stacks were missing in chests and in the inventory  screen. However, the numbers would show up when an item was shown in the  toolbar. In addition, text was too large, adding items to the community  center was impossible, and the end-of-day profits screen glitched out.  This last glitch was especially inconvenient, because I was convinced  for a short while that I could not advance to the next day since this  was the final screen before the game saves the progress of the previous  day.

Thankfully, all of these glitches have been patched out of the game,  but since some were added in post-launch, it remains to be seen if the  game can maintain its current stable state.

Not all is bad though

Even though there are some annoyances, the new platform has one  interesting new feature baked into the experience at launch. Whenever a  game session is exited, even in the middle of a day, upon reloading, the  game will ask if the player wants to resume their game from the moment  that they stopped their previous play session. While similar features  are present in the console ports of the game, the mobile is the only  port so far that allows the game to be completely exited out of and the  device turned off yet still be prompted to play from where the game was  left off. This helps keep play sessions short and sweet without  pressuring players to hold on until a given day is completed.

At the end of the day, Chucklefish has put out a game that mirrors other releases of Stardew Valley  as it released on other platforms. Doubtless, this mobile port of the  game will be well served by future updates as glitches are patched out  and updated features are patched in. For those who have yet to play any  version of Stardew Valley, other platforms that are more stable  and feature-rich are better choices at the moment. However, for the fan  who wants to take the game with them on the go, this port offers a  familiar setting, albeit with slightly awkward controls.

Images: Stardew Valley

Featured Image: Stardew Valley

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