This past weekend, I spent a lot of time thinking about Mount Fuji. Not the real one, but a pixelated version of the mountain range that’s available as a sightseeing opportunity in the new Apple Arcade release Japanese Rural Life Adventure. It’s a cozy game that’s all about making your way in a small mountainside town, giving you a long list of tasks to accomplish, with that beautiful Mount Fuji view pretty far down the line. It has become an important goal for me — for the past three days, I haven’t been able to stop playing, knowing that every cucumber I harvested and every fish I caught was going toward reaching that summit.
Developed by Japanese studio Game Start, the game is very much in the same vein as Harvest Moon or its more modern contemporary, Stardew Valley. That means adorable pixel art, a wholesome premise, and very laid-back gameplay. Here, the story involves you, a young person, moving to a remote cabin just outside of a small town. Of course, the cabin and surrounding landscape are a wreck, so in order to get by, you’ll need to fix things up and become self-sufficient. Eventually, you’ll get access to the wilderness around your property as well as the nearby town, which is populated almost entirely by elderly residents who need your help with, well, everything.
Like most similar games, Rural Life Adventure gives you a huge list of tasks to complete, but there’s no real pressure to get them done in a hurry. Initially, your focus is on your own home: planting fruit trees, getting things cleaned up for crops, rebuilding the house, making a well, and the like. You earn money by selling vegetables, fish, and other goods, which you can then reinvest in your house and tools. There’s an energy system, but it’s pretty nonintrusive; when you run out, you can simply take a nap or eat some grilled fish to get a boost.
Things eventually open up quite a bit. You’re essentially tasked with revitalizing the town by fixing up shrines, businesses, and even the school, with the goal of luring more young people like yourself to town. This, in turn, earns you even more cash, which opens up more of the game, letting you buy machines to process wheat and rice or other tools like a camera. I started out eating simple grilled fish to refill my energy but quickly worked my way up to cooking miso soup and omelets as I unlocked more goods. As the town becomes revitalized, more people will show up, and eventually, you’ll be able to take part in beautiful seasonal festivals. Also, you can rescue pets; currently, I live with a puppy, a kitten, and a chicken.
Part of what makes Rural Life Adventure work so well, aside from its very soothing vibes, is that it’s really well-tuned for a mobile game. On the iPhone, it plays out in portrait mode, so you can play one-handed, and almost all of the tasks manage to be simple yet satisfying. Fishing, for example, involves quickly tapping the fish until it runs out of energy, while cooking is often a multistep process that involves boiling, mixing, and slicing using your finger. (The only activity I haven’t figured out yet is wildlife photography, which involves a rapidly shifting focus point.)
Crucially, you can also get a lot done in a short session, which makes it great for mobile; this morning before work, I watered my crops, fed my animals, and bought some string from the local peddler lady that I needed to craft a staircase. (The reverse is also true, as I found myself playing for very long sessions this weekend and still having fun.) That said, part of the streamlining process to make the game work for mobile also means that certain elements inherent in this genre — like memorable characters or the ability to customize your avatar and home — are largely absent. Don’t play if you’re looking to find a countryside love interest.
Rural Life Adventure is part of a solid run of these cozy-style games on Apple Arcade, which of late has included a port of Stardew Valley and the Animal Crossing-like Hello Kitty Island Adventure (which join existing games like Cozy Grove). I’m not sure how long it’ll keep its comforting hooks in me, but for now, there’s lots of work to be done — and Mount Fuji is still off in the distance.