We are playing Bunny Park as we write this review. That’s not some feat of ambidextrousness: our Bunny Park is capable of running itself, and doesn’t necessarily need things like ‘players’ or ‘inputs’. That is because, while Bunny Park initially presents itself as a cutesy resource game, a Sim Bunny, it’s actually an idle game in rabbit’s clothing. Once you set it up, it churns through Xbox Gamerscore for you.
Released on the same day as Lemon Cake, also from developers Cozy Bee Games and publishers SOEDESCO, it could be played as a cutesy double-bill, and you’d likely come away with a shared opinion of them both. They are both adorable, as shallow as a puddle, and slapped with the most bizarre, misguided price tag. Bunny Park is £17.99 and – spoilers – it’s worth roughly a quarter of that.
Bunny Park starts in an inauspicious manner. You’re handed the deeds to a tiny plot of land, with a bunny hopping about. The plot is covered with rubbish to clear up (we’d debate that logs, mushrooms and rocks should be treated as waste, but that’s the least of the game’s problems), and you are given fifteen tutorial Powerpoint slides to set you up. It’s the dumpiest of all information dumps, with no context of what it’s referring to. Considering Bunny Park is one of the simplest games on the Xbox, it’s impressive that it manages to confuse as much as it does.
Once you realise that, yes, logs are considered rubbish, and yes deleting rubbish is your one and only source of income in the opening sections of the game, then the game achieves something of a flow. You’re dragging your leaden cursor around the garden (tapping away at other buttons to see if there is a way of speeding it up which, natch, doesn’t exist), consigning anything that isn’t battened down to the recycle bin. The cash tally steadily rises, and you eventually become able to afford stuff.
Meanwhile, rabbits are casually hopping about, and they’re hungry. First port of call is to drop off some carrots in front of them. But as they say, teach a man to make fire and they will be warm for a day, set a man on fire and they are warm for life: the optimal and long–term approach is to grow a carrot plot, infinitely respawning carrots rather than dropping one down to eat. A carrot plot is such a stupendously good deal, in fact, that you wonder why anyone would buy the individual carrots.
With some carrot plots constructed, rabbits start appearing. “If you build it, they will come” is the mantra of Bunny Park, and the quality and number of rabbits that appear is very much determined by what you install. Different vegetables attract different bunnies, and we’d guess that our increasing Coziness and Cuteness bars (not wholly explained) also ushered in new lupine guests.
Soon, the manual methods of gaining cash becomes unmanageable. You need help, and that comes in the form, curiously, of butterflies, renamed here as ‘bots’. Purchase them, and they will gather up rubbish, collect coins that spew from the rabbits, or give the rabbits cuddles (?). Rubbish garners you small amounts of coins, the coin-vomit garners you a large amount of coins, and we never wholly worked out why the rabbits need cuddles. There’s an achievement related to it, but otherwise we shrugged.
Your bunny sanctuary (lamely, we called ours The Bun-anza) soon runs itself. Butterflies scoop up rubbish and coins before you can reach them yourself, and the totals rise in a satisfying manner without us doing anything, as if we were Jeff Bezos checking our bank account. We would occasionally check in to buy the next plot of land, expanding the park because, well, there was nothing left to buy. We’d splash for the occasional rope swing or scarecrow without any confidence that they did anything other than make the place look pretty.
And therein lies the rub. There simply isn’t anything of worth to purchase. We remember an old 1990’s documentary where a tired Michael Jackson wandered into a store and bought pretty much everything, just because he could. We felt like Michael Jackson, which isn’t a common occurrence, buying things simply because we hadn’t bought them before. They might attract another rabbit, we reasoned, or they might bump one of our bars by a millimetre. They might even unlock an achievement. But, ultimately, we were staring into the void, and the void twitched its whiskers back at us.
After two hours, we had seen everything that Bunny Park could show us. We had unlocked everything that could be unlocked (some achievements remained for playing the game in the spring, summer and winter, but that’s not the best incentive for playing right now, exactly), and the shops had been exhausted. Our park was running by itself, and the bunnies and butterflies largely shooed us away.
Which brings us, neatly, back round to that price tag. £17.99. Seventeen pounds and ninety-nine pence. It has us breathing through our teeth and puffing out our cheeks like a plumber sizing up a job. There’s no way you can really excuse that, is there? Two hours of play is, itself, damning. But a large majority of that play is without touching the gamepad at all. Idle games are two-a-penny on mobile devices, and they have infinitely more content, depth and strategy than Bunny Park, and most are free, or pretty damn close to it. The Xbox even has a few.
There’s a small, timid rabbit in the corner of our mind that pipes up and says “but it’s all rather cute, isn’t it?”, and – yes, little rabbit – you are right. Bunny Park is colourful, accessible (once you get past the abysmal tutorial) and perhaps even forms an entry point for a younger gamer. But that younger gamer could have spent the £18 and passed out after twenty Kinder Eggs. Or stuck thirty-six Chupa-Chups in their face. We’re not entirely sure that Bunny Park would be the better experience.
Bunny Park is cute, then, and simple in its idle game appeal. In a sale, when an ‘80% off’ label is attached to it, Bunny Park might even look tempting. But right now it’s an £18 marshmallow. It’s finished in no time at all, it has almost zero depth to it, and the sweetness can’t override the feeling that we’ve been shortchanged. Bunny Park might be adorable, but there’s nothing behind those eyes.
You can buy Bunny Park from the Xbox Store