Rodeo Stampede Review

Pocket Safari Mayhem

Rodeo Stampede
Featherweight Games

In the world of quick fix pick-up-and-play mobile games, new ideas are far less common than they should be. For every Crossy Road or Steppy Pants, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of copycats eager to cash in on those ideas.

Much to our delight, Rodeo Stampede isn't one of these games.

Yee-Haw!

While the game is instantly intuitive from your first play, the gameplay in Rodeo Stampede isn't quite like anything we've seen before. Players will fill the tall boots and ten gallon hat of a cowboy as he rides atop a variety of animals barreling across the open plains. Those animals will only welcome your rider for so long though, so it's up to players to steer the creatures and jump off at the perfect time to land on the back of their next untamed travel companion before losing control and careening into an undesirable end. Jump successfully, and you could ride seemingly forever. Jump poorly, and... well, I suppose "DEATH BY STAMPEDE" will look pretty awesome in an obituary.

If this was all Rodeo Stampede had to offer, it would still be a pretty great mobile distraction. But in a wonderful twist, the core gameplay only serves as the base for something a bit meatier that provides plenty of incentive to keep coming back for more.

We Bought a Zoo

As much as we might like to think of cowboys as reckless outlaws, for the most part, they've always been hard-working ranch hands with a passion for animal-wrangling. The cowboy in Rodeo Stampede is no exception. You see, all of this animal-hopping serves a purpose: to discover and capture new animals to showcase in your zoo.

The zoo is a floating Noah's Ark of sorts (because video games) where players will upgrade exhibits, charge admission, and expand their collections in an attempt to turn a profit. Earn enough, and you'll be able to open up new sections of the world to explore in your hunt for new animals, and the cycle begins anew.

Elements of this two-pronged approach reminded me quite a bit of 2014's nifty mobile game Disco Zoo, but in Rodeo Stampede the zoo seems to fill a more meaningful purpose. Yes, it's fun to look at the animals you've collected, but upgrading exhibits becomes an integral part of the gameplay thanks to the rewards that come with it. 

Each habitat improvement results in a specific perk that is permanently unlocked going forward. Reaching level 3 with your buffalo habitat, for example, will make a buffalo charge forward and smash anything in its way once you land on it -- while reaching level 8 with your elephant habitat will double the number of rare elephants in the stampede, giving you a better chance at capturing something downright magical.

Fierce Creatures

What's great about the animals is that there's more than just a visual difference to each ride you'll hitch. Elephants are strong enough to smash through trees, but angry enough to buck you off the moment your time is up. Ostriches are speedy, but harder to control as a result. Learning these differences is key to succeeding in Rodeo Stampede -- and not just to improve your overall distance in each run.

Imagine getting a mission that asks you to land a 50m jump, but every time you try, you land flat on your face at 35m. If you don't know that a tall and quick creature is going to get you more distance than a slow and small one, you'll never manage to check that box and move on to the next challenge. It's little touches like this that elevate Rodeo Stampede from "fun concept" to something truly special.

Gotta Catch'em All

Rodeo Stampede is one of those rare mobile games that's nearly flawless in its execution, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.

If there's one complaint to be had about Rodeo Stampede, it's that new animal types don't appear as frequently as we'd have liked. Pacing is important from a design perspective (you don't want to give away the whole zoo overnight), but there's a different kind of pacing that players might expect, and Rodeo Stampede fails to make those two expectations mesh in a satisfying way.

It's one thing to limit new types of animals, but since Rodeo Stampede wisely offers variations on the same animal, increasing the frequency of "rare" creatures could scratch the same itch without sacrificing the bigger experience. And I'm not even suggesting that it should be easy to catch animals with more frequency -- just dangle that carrot in front of my face a little more often and let me try. If a special ostrich is twice as fast and wily as a regular ostrich, and thus harder to capture, awesome.

All in all though, this is a very small complaint to be had when you look at the project as a whole.

Cowboy Up

The App Store suffers no shortage of quick-play games, many of which provide great amusement for a week or two before players pack up and move on to greener pastures. At first glance, Rodeo Stampede may look like one such game. But with a deep enough hook in its animal collection, zoo-building, and gameplay, something tells me that Rodeo Stampede has the potential to stick around for a long time.

I'm not saying it's definitely going to be the next Crossy Road, but I wouldn't rule it out either.

If you're worried this is just the next momentary craze that's just not going to click with you, put those fears to rest. Rodeo Stampede is a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and one I can see taking up long-term residency on my iPhone's home screen. Leap over to the App Store and land on this one right now.

Rodeo Stampede is available as a free download on the App Store, supported by advertising and in-app purchases. Android users can also enjoy Rodeo Stampede by downloading it from Google Play.