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Harvest Moon: Mad Dash is a fast-paced, welcome take on the slow franchise

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The series creators are branching out

Harvest Moon: Mad Dash is not your typical Harvest Moon. Instead of settling in to farm and starting a family, Mad Dash has you racing to harvest crops, catch fish, or milk cows alongside another player. It’s a frenzied version of a franchise that has long played with long-term player investments.

If Mad Dash seems outside the realm of what Harvest Moon can be, producer Yasutaka Maekawa has a counter — Mario. There aren’t just traditional platformer Mario games, he says, but also sports, racing, party games, and more. “Traditional Harvest Moon is more of a long game,” Maekawa says. “How about we go opposite, make it a really quick game, but have that Harvest Moon feel to it — the crops, watering, taking care of animals?”

In Mad Dash, the answer is obvious: set a timer for a few minutes and make players work together to hit high scores. The game is filled with different tasks or settings in each level, whether it’s stacking crops to grow them bigger, or rolling hay bales for hungry cows. In my experience, it works best when you communicate with your partner and split the work. One person focuses on this kind of crop, while your friend grabs another. Different plants are denoted by color and take time to harvest. Try to make your plants too big, however, and you might accidentally kill the whole crop.

The developers have introduced hazards into the mix. One cave-like level I played had lava that dripped from the ceiling. If you’re not paying attention — or work too slow — it’ll burn your hard work away. Each level keeps you constantly moving. Maekawa says that at its core, Mad Dash is still upholding the fundamentals of what makes Harvest Moon so good — “happy, family friendly gaming.”

Harvest Moon: Mad Dash launches for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 this fall.