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Bunhouse Review

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If you’re looking for a ‘why?’ in Bunhouse, you’re not going to get it. You might question why you are a bunny, or why you’re growing plant after plant, but those questions will stay unanswered. You might wonder (rightly) why a civilisation of rabbits would have carrots as a currency, or why the Kickstarter backers for Bunhouse have been displayed as – of all things – some graves in a cemetery, as if the developers wanted to send a vaguely threatening message to their funders. 

In other games, there might be some exposition to explain these things, perhaps some dialogue with other would-be rabbit farmers as you progress. We could imagine the cast of Wind in the Willows turning up as friendly neighbours, for example. But Bunhouse eschews all of that and keeps things simple, near-wordless and odd. You are a bunny. You have a greenhouse. Have at it. 

Bunhouse review 1
There’s a whole lotta fun in the Bunhouse

It is, in all honesty, a bit bewildering at first. Bunhouse doesn’t have much in the way of guide-rails for your little rabbit. A planter’s journal lists the plants you can purchase and what sunlight, pots and water they require, but that’s as close to an objective as you’ll get. There aren’t challenges or quests to complete. There’s no counter in the corner of the game window, totalling the number of plants you’ve grown. You’re left to motivate yourself, and that will immediately cause some potential converts to hop away.

Commit, though, and something good may happen. Each plant you grow can be taken to a table to be sold. That generates carrots, which can be spent on more seeds – perhaps the odd plant that you haven’t grown yet – or some upgrades to the greenhouse. Sprinklers automatically water plants so you don’t have to, while additional pots mean more can be grown concurrently. You might even be able to afford a larger greenhouse with more space (not that you will need it at first). 

The financial operation grows gently over time. To my taste Bunhouse opts to be a little too light-touch: I would have gladly taken a motivation that made the thirtieth poppy or the fiftieth monstera more enticing to grow. Seeing my cash balance going up was a positive, but I wanted to be surprised or delighted: to see an Animal Crossing-like visitor show up, perhaps, or satisfy orders from a grumpy customer. It would have given a much needed break from the repetition that followed.

The closest Bunhouse gets to surprise is a slow parade of new things to look after. Grow enough, upgrade enough, and your planter’s journal will update with one or two new plants. These are welcome but not sensational: they aren’t weird or wacky plants from Little Shop of Horrors. They are real-life flora, portrayed realistically (my wife tells me that the foliage, the size of pot they need and much more are on-the-money), which means that – while there’s some educational true-to-lifeness in there – there’s not a huge amount of room for differentiation. When you’ve seen one green fern, you’ve seen them all.

Bunhouse review 3
Be careful with your watering

If you’re my daughter (which I’m pretty sure you’re not), this will be somewhat freeing. We both had very different reactions to Bunhouse. I found it to be curiously inert: a little gardening toy that doesn’t respond in nearly enough ways. It felt like I was playing with a dead rabbit rather than a live one. But my nine year-old daughter had some good times with it. I’d probably take a half mark off the score, but she would keep it on. She found the lack of any limits, outside dying plants, to be welcome, and that meant she could engage with it at her own speed. Bunhouse certainly has a first gear that is enjoyable for younger players to stay in. 

Neither of us, however, were immune to Bunhouse’s lack of polish. Generally, Bunhouse looks fine – it’s a little angular and washed out, but the bunnies are cute, and the ability to swap out heads and hats was appreciated in our house. Up to four-player co-op farming was also a huge bonus. But this bun needed to stay in the oven a little longer, as multiple bugs and control quirks poked their heads out of rabbit holes. 

We hit a duplication bug that plagued us for the entirety of our time in Bunhouse. Something happened that meant there were two of everything, and lifting up a plant meant another plant remained. Our first reaction was a big ‘wahay’, as it meant that we suddenly had twice as many plants as before. But in reality one of the duplicates was a dead entity. It would just sit there, unable to be binned, used or sold. We worked round it, but it was a pain. 

It’s the controls that kept nibbling away at us. Seeds need to be placed carefully in pots, but you have to be oriented in just the right direction for the interaction to be recognised. It’s inordinately fiddly, as the hotspot flickers between ‘yes you’ve done it’ and ‘no you haven’t’, and you have to time it just right. Important items like watering cans and fertiliser bags need to be manually picked up and dropped, but they can equally get in your way. And the punishment can be steep: fail to water a plant in time and it will die on you. Overwater a plant that you didn’t aim for (giving a new meaning to ‘splash damage’) and it, too, will perish. Sometimes Bunhouse can feel like you’re playing with chopsticks. 

Bunhouse review 2
What’s that little birdy?

In its defence, Bunhouse excels in the detail. While controls may frustrate, it’s got some hidden depths that are occasionally fun. A boat and lake awaits you, just outside the Bunhouse, and you can take part in a spot of fishing. At first, there’s not a solid reason why – you pick up a few soggy carrots, we suppose – but then a Blathers-like aquarium turns up, and you get to fill it with every unique fish you find. Bunhouse didn’t have to chuck something as random as a fishing minigame in, but we’re glad it did. 

We had two very different reactions to Bunhouse in our house. One of us found it to be aimless, even for a farming sim. They (I) wanted to at least feel the satisfaction of ticking things off or satisfying requests. As a counterpoint, the other rabbit in our house enjoyed it precisely for those reasons: there was no pressure, and no failure. They could hop about, twitching their nose and accumulating carrots. 

Which rabbit are you? Whichever camp you find yourself in, you might want to look around for holes. Bugs and control quirks make this a patchy experience. Cute as Bunhouse is, its faults might be sizable enough that you default back to Stardew Valley.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Cute as a button
  • Plenty of plants to incrementally unlock
  • Some fun diversions, like fishing
Cons:
  • Feels overly aimless
  • Too many bugs and control issues
  • Presentationally a little drab
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Digerati
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
  • Release date and price - 12 April 2024 | £16.74
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Cute as a button</li> <li>Plenty of plants to incrementally unlock</li> <li>Some fun diversions, like fishing</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Feels overly aimless</li> <li>Too many bugs and control issues</li> <li>Presentationally a little drab</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Digerati</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch <li>Release date and price - 12 April 2024 | £16.74</li> </ul>Bunhouse Review
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