By: Dylan Lepore | @dylanslegos
It's Literally Just Mowing is a game developed for people who like the satisfaction of a well-cut lawn but don't want to do the actual work. The result is a self-aware game that delivers in giving you a casual zen experience by mowing grass from anywhere in the world on your mobile device.
Developed by Dean Loades and Matt Knights of Protostar, an independent games developer based in Australia, It's Literally Just Mowing, at its core, does its job, which is a game just about mowing.
A Hero Rises?
As you boot up It's Literally Just Mowing, the game presents a quick tutorial where a "hero" can be chosen: Marve or Maisie. Their physical appearance can't be changed; however, you can swap between "heroes" at any time. I say "heroes" in quotations because they're not doing anything heroic unless you count mowing grass hero's work. I never felt like a hero after mowing mine or someone else's lawn ... but that's just me.
The game's controls are simple, swipe up to begin a level (or yard), a bird's-eye view of the yard will be activated, and then to mow, swipe up, down, left, or right to move the lawnmower across the yard. It's Literally Just Mowing! There are no penalties, no score, no time limit, or no enemies; unless you are considering the blades of grass, your enemies, in which case, I guess you can call yourself a hero.
Before mowing, the grass is of something to note. The developers call it Protostar GrassTech™, calming it's the best-looking grass on mobile. Speaking to that, the lawn is beautiful to look at when it's blowing in the wind or when sunbeams are shining through, and if you're a fan of digital grass, I don't think it disappoints. Considering Protostar TMed their grass and this game is literally just mowing, the grass itself could be noted as the star of the game.
Screenshot: Protostar (HC GamerLife)
As you start to mow over that finally designed grass, parts of the yard begin to change and bring life to otherwise barren portions of the environment. Yards can vary from regular homes, fountains, soccer fields (try getting the soccer ball in the goal), statues, and lawn Artworks, such as the Mona Lisa. This help brings some variety to It's Literally Just Mowing as cool environment changes gave me something to look forward to than just a well-cut lawn.
The game is split up into a few levels (or yards) per street. Once you complete your first street, you will join the International Mowers Guild (IMG), in which point a letter pops up on your screen greeting you. IMG counts as a ranking system. The more streets you complete, the higher you rank up with IMG. You will get a new hat for your "hero" each time you level up. There are 19 current hats to get, and they can not be obtained from Toolboxes (more on those later).
The sound design in It's Literally Just Mowing is very peaceful even when the game is on pause, as the sound of the lawnmower's engine is cut off. Sounds of a busy suburban neighborhood, birds singing, and the wind whistling in the background gave me a chill sensation akin to a white noise machine. I would stop mowing to simply listen.
While mowing, it sounds how a good working lawnmower would sound like: a pleasant hum. It gets quieter when you are not mowing over grass, as the lawnmower slightly picks up speed.
Just How Literal is this Game
As It's Literally Just Mowing is literally just mowing, it still has a main menu, like most videogames, and this is where the game starts to show its faults. In the main menu, you will see four slots titled "empty," which is where you hold Toolboxes, and four icons underneath: Settings, Microtransactions, Collections, and Butterfly/Game Stat Book.
Screenshot: Protostar (HC GamerLife)
Once you clear all the yards on the street, you get one of three Toolboxes: (Common) Toolbox, Rare Toolbox, and Epic Toolbox. Make no mistake that these Toolboxes are, in fact, loot boxes. These boxes can open either from waiting a few hours up to a day or by using Gems to decrease the time it takes to open them, and the cost increases with each rarity. There are also Lightning Toolbox variants that open instantly. Loot boxes are never fun even if the developer only uses them slightly. While they are mainstream in mobile gaming right now, I would be more impressed with a mobile game that found a way not to use loot boxes at all. Still, I must commend Protostar for not making the drop rate for rare collectibles little to none as the game is modest in its giving.
Through these Toolboxes, you can collect items to customize your lawnmower, there are 74 different collectibles in the game, and they vary from lawnmower bodies, blades, seats, tires, and steering wheels. Some collectibles can even have up to five different color schemes that you would have to collect, increasing the base number of collectible items.
Forward to microtransactions. Gems have one job: that is to open chests. You can get Gems by collecting butterflies (I'll get to that), daily streaks, and ranking up. However, you can also pay for Gems and Toolboxes in the store: Gems can go from costing $0.99 for 500 Gems to $49.99 for 32,000 Gems, and for the removal of ads and an additional 2,500 Gems, it costs $4.99. Gems also can be used for purchasing Lighting Toolboxes. It's only fair that a game with loot boxes also has microtransactions, right.
Further, level selection is not a feature within the app. This is unfortunate as the idea of going back to yards such as the soccer field or lawn Artwork you unvailed is not an option. You would have to wait for the particular yard to cycle through again, besides for the same lawn artwork, as they don't show up twice, in my experience. A missed opportunity in the replay value department.
At Least the Grass Gets Greener
On the bright side, there are some other features that don't cost a thing, such as the Butterfly and Game Stat Book. There are 20 butterflies to collect in the game as you mow yards - 15 common and five rare. You will know that you can obtain a butterfly when a white glowing orb flies around the yard. Tap the orb, and it will reveal a butterfly. What's interesting is that the butterflies are real representations of butterflies of the same names. So, if I ever wanted to get into Lepidopterology, I now have a base to start my new career.
Screenshot: Protostar (HC GamerLife)
The game also features the Game Stat Book which shows your rank, yards mowed, streets mowed, and even how many blades of grass you mowed, which is neat. In Settings, you can "Cloud Save" your progress in the game and download your progress to other devices and continue where you left off. A handy feature if you want to mow grass at your friend's house on their phone ... just make sure to explain that you're not actually there to mow their yard. That would be weird.
As far as advertising goes, ads are few and far between. It's about for every 6 to 10 yards mowed an ad pops up; however, in my experience, an ad will pop up every time you complete your first yard after initial boot up. Not too bad.
While It's Literally Just Mowing is undermined by advertising, microtransactions, and loot boxes; I would be lying if I didn't say I enjoyed it. I never felt so at peace while mowing, and even with its faults, Protostar makes the experience rewarding not just with satisfaction but in its collecting. Truth be told, there are about 12 other lawn mowing games on the App Store: one that costs $0.99 and 11 other ones that don't compare to this game's quality. For a two-person team, Protostar is making noticeable strides in the world of simple game design and I look forward to their next project. For right now, I'm pretty serious about that Lepidopterology degree.
7/10 - Good
It's Literally Just Mowing
Release date: February 27, 2020
Platform(s): Apple & Google mobile devices
Published and Developed: Protostar