STAFF REVIEW of Lawn Mowing Simulator (Xbox Series X)

Monday, August 9, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Lawn Mowing Simulator Box art It’s time to lace up those white New Balance shoes and grab a beer because it’s time to mow the lawn. Skyhook Games have taken the mundane task of mowing the lawn that many of us hated doing as kids and made a full simulator out of it, though with ride-on mowers that would have certainly made it my time cutting lawns as a kid feel less of a chore. With a few simulator games under their belt like Train Sim World, Train Simulator and others, Skyhook Games have built a reputation on creating simulator gaming experiences, and this one just happens to be about mowing the lawn.

I’ll admit, I initially scoffed at the idea when Lawn Mowing Simulator was announced, though in the last few years, simulators for other genres and mundane tasks have gained an odd popularity and following, and I don’t see this one being any different. I never used to understand the appeal of certain simulators, but my view shifted once I ended up reviewing Farming Simulator a few years back. While not for everyone, simulators like these can be quite entertaining in their own way, and while I live in an apartment and don’t have a lawn of my own to take care of, I can now do so virtually in Lawn Mowing Simulator.

I remember when I played the demo that was released a few weeks ago, thinking I was going to try it out and uninstall afterwards quite quickly, but I found myself oddly mesmerized with wanting to make the perfect lawn mower cuts and see how great I could make the lawn appear. This game is going to have a specific audience, but I have to admit that there’s been a few nights where I just needed a game to relax after playing my main gaming buffet of shooters and racers, and Lawn Mowing Simulator fit that bill perfectly. Now you too can enjoy trimming the lawn along the countryside in Great Britain. A simulator wouldn’t be worth its weight without any actual brands or manufacturers, and Lawn Mowing Simulator brings in authentic mowers from top brands like Toro, SCAG and STIGA, so those dads out there that really know their mowers should be quite pleased with its authenticity.

The bulk of your experience will come in its career mode. Here you start out as a single person accessing contracts that vary in pay and experience. Your goal is to build your lawncare business from the ground up, eventually hiring employees and managing all your expenses and assets. You’ll basically start with nothing, eventually saving enough cash to purchase better mowers, a headquarters, building upgrades, advertisements, attachments for the mowers and of course repairs, fuel and more.

You begin your lawncare career by first creating a male or female avatar. Don’t expect much of a character creator though, as you can’t even edit the basics, you simply choose from a handful of different templates and that’s it. Next, you’ll design your business logo, again, by simply choosing from a couple of icons and options without any way to add personality or edit them into something creative. Lastly is your business name, and this is where I can see some humor and puns come into play. Being the man-child that I am, my ‘Landing Strip’ lawncare business was set to take the world, well, Great Britain at least, by storm.

The majority of your gameplay is cutting lawns of course, but until you play and save enough, you’ll need to also handle your business affairs. Oddly, the business management aspect if the game was quite addicting, as you need to balance your cash flow, deciding the best time to purchase a new mower, hire a new employee or when to bite the bullet and purchase an expensive new building to accommodate your growing business.

Eventually you’ll be able to hire a worker for a weekly wage. People will apply to your business once you make a certain popularity rank, allowing you to choose to hire, ignore or fire if need be. When you do have an employee on the payroll, their skills and abilities will determine their pay. The better and more experienced they are the better job they’ll do, so naturally they’ll want to be compensated more so than an amateur landscaper. Each week you get to choose your job contracts that are available, allowing you to see the pay, experience, suggested size of mower and estimated time to complete. At first you’ll want to focus on earning as much money as you can, but this will shift later to RP (experience) gains to get your rank up quicker once money isn’t as big of an issue.

Once you have an employee working for you you’ll get to choose two jobs a week, assigning yourself one and the other job to your employee, along with what mower to use that you’ve purchased so far. I didn’t really notice a big difference in job performance of employees who were higher ranked compared to amateurs, as they always got the job done without many fines, plus employee’s level up the more jobs they do, eventually becoming specialists anyways. With enough popularity you’ll eventually be able to hire a second employee, allowing for three contracts to be completed each week, which is where the money really starts to roll in. Of course I would set them to do the longer and higher paying jobs where I could focus on the quicker contracts since they all complete when you're done your job.

So, do you save up to buy bigger and better mowers and attachments like stripe rollers, mulching kits, recyclers, grass collectors and more, or do you upgrade your headquarters and purchase more bays to store your mowers? What surprised me was that you can only ever hire two employees, even once you’ve reached the final tier of popularity and have acquired the maxed out headquarter upgrade. I found this a little odd since when you buy the last headquarters it shows you having multiple company trucks in its parking lot and a massive building, yet will only have three people working there, one being yourself.

There’s a lot that goes into mowing a lawn perfectly, more than you’d initially expect. After starting a contract you’ll first need to do a ground check. This is where you run around the yard looking for a set amount of items that have been left on the lawn, because if you don’t pick them up you’ll damage your mower if you accidently run over some sheers, garden gnomes, toys, sticks and other items. This only takes maybe a minute or so to complete but it will earn you a small bonus if you find them all in time allotted.

Next on the list is to get back to the mower on your trailer and start the engine. Put it into gear and you’ll be riding towards wherever you wish to begin the cutting. Lastly, each client wants their lawn a specific height, usually between 5-8cm, so you need to make sure your blade is adjusted accordingly. Once all of this is complete, you then begin doing what you do best, landscaping to perfection. Each job has a requirement of completion needed to be met before you can finish if you want the full payment, usually 99.5% to 99.9% cut, which is to be expected.

Your first few mowers will not be all that quick or powerful, making for yards with some hills or a lot of flowerbeds and trees quite a challenge. Eventually your mowers become larger and much more nimble, making quick work of jobs once you get used to the handling of each. Clicking in the Right Stick when still will highlight any grass you’ve yet to mow, usually a last resort to find those odd few patches you missed when making your initial passes. While I tended to cut along the edges first and work my way inwards, others may choose to do straight lines across and back; there’s no wrong way. The only time you’ll need to be very specific in your directions is when you want to add striping to the lawn, you know, the fancy lines you see in some yards or sports stadiums, only possible with a roller attachment on some of the mowers. This of course takes a little more precision and patience, but damn does the yard look good when you’re complete.

Set in Great Britain, the majority of your jobs will be in high end cottage homes, castle grounds and even some fields and farms. Some yards even have some slight inclines, making it a challenge for the smaller mowers with less horsepower. A few yards are also very intricate and have lots of curves and twists, while others are straighter and rectangle but have more trees to work around.

The grass itself can be quite tall if the owners have let it grow for quite a while, meaning your smaller mowers might need to make more than one pass at different cut heights as to not overload and damage your mower. Constantly pass over the same spots and your wheels will ruin the lawn, resulting in a fine, as will cutting any flowers or hitting the owner’s properly like fences or ornaments on the lawn. These fines aren’t major but make you want to be more precise with your passes, as you can also damage your blade and mower too if you’re not careful, resulting in larger repair bills down the road.

As mentioned above, Lawn Mowing Simulator wouldn’t be a true simulator without real world brands to back it up. This is where mowers from Toro, SCAG and STIGA come in to play, offering a dozen real world mowers that I had no idea were so expensive. Each mower has its own style of riding, steering, attachments and more. Some come with collectors that need to be emptied once full, others will mulch the clippings, it all depends on the contract and what the client wants. While there’s currently no classic push mowers or weed whackers, I’m hoping these might get added down the road. The only other glaring omission is wheel support for Xbox. I hooked mine up hoping I could find a way to make it work, but nothing as of yet, though developers have said it's in the works.

When you complete the career mode or just want a break from it, you can choose either Challenge or Free Roam mode. Free Roam is just that, allowing you to freely cut any lawn without any consequences or limits. Challenge Mode is interesting. You are tasked with very specific objectives. Sometimes this means you only have a short time limit to complete a job, or maybe your mower only has 10% fuel left, so you need to be very deliberate in your passes. These unlock the further you progress in popularity in the campaign and range from quite easy to very challenging.

While the character models and animations won’t wow you, the lawns themselves and scenery do look quite good. You can clearly see the lanes you’ve cut after you’ve passed over an area of grass, especially if the blade height is quite low. It can be a little tricky to figure out where your blade line begins and ends for cutting, but this comes with practice, of which you’ll have plenty if you want to afford everything Lawn Mowing Simulator has to offer.

I was kind of surprised that there wasn’t much of a soundtrack when mowing. Menus and such have some light music, but when you’re mowing all you’re going to hear is the 'WWHRHRHRHHRHRHRHH' sound of the engine and blades the whole time. Yes, I get that it’s like that in real life, but I highly suggest putting on a favorite Spotify soundtrack as you get your 'mow-on'. Thankfully you can turn down individual audio portions like the engine so it’s not as grating over time.

I admit, I initially laughed at the idea of Lawn Mowing Simulator when it was first announced, but after playing for hours on end, there’s nothing quite as relaxing after a long day of work, turning on the console and mowing some grass. Maybe it’s just the dad in me, but I quite enjoyed my time with Lawn Mowing Simulator and satisfaction of seeing a lawn moving job well done. Even with its minor issues and lengthy grind it still made the cut.

**Lawn Mowing Simulator was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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