Take the satisfying botany of Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley, strip out the complexity, and make it bunnies. That’s how you get Bunhouse, a rabbit themed indie game on the Switch and PC from one-man developer Reky Studios. Designed as a relaxing game to play with up to four players, Bunhouse sees you grow plants and upgrade a greenhouse while unlocking collectable hats and mustaches for your bunny avatar. It’s honestly a great concept and one you can feel a lot of love went into, but it’s unfortunately marred by wonky controls, fuzzy graphics, and a few frustrating mechanics.
The bulk of Bunhouse‘s gameplay revolves around planting in your greenhouse, watering, and changing up the soil to ensure good growth, then selling the matured plants for Carrots. Carrots are then used to upgrade your tools, expand the greenhouse, and buy more plant seeds, though these can also be used on cosmetic additions like paint and hanging vines. While waiting for your plants to grow, you can fish for extra carrots or eventually on dig around for buried goodies. It’s a relaxing loop, or it would be if not for a few consistent annoyances.
Controlling your “Bun” is simple enough, but the sluggish and imprecise movement makes navigating the world a chore. Your can speed up your Bun with a surprisingly swift and satisfying bound, but in the enclosed space of your greenhouse it will catapult you forward and often past where you want to be. Combined with finicky object targeting, simply putting your plants down in the right pot can become frustrating. Your plants can also die quite quickly if they’re without water, so if you plant several at once, you’ll need to be careful. You can end up fighting the controls to get them all watered before they start drooping. Pipe and sprinkler upgrades make watering large numbers of plants more manageable, but they don’t make arranging or planting them any easier.
The upgrades do, however, add a nice little sense of progress. You start out filling and refilling a handful of small pots, but soon have a veritable jungle of greenery, with tools to help water, fertilize, and generally care for them. Or you can keep to a small few and work to make a deliberate design for your greenhouse layout, rather than turn it into a lucrative plant assembly line. The options are there if you wish to expand, but Bunhouse never feels like it is railroading you towards them.
You also unlock more side activities as you play, starting with the simple fishing minigame, but later getting a shovel to dig for treasure or a lawnmower for keeping your lawn in check. Each of these is charming in their own way and can often supply you with extra Carrots, but don’t they provide much more than a distraction while your plants grow. You can eventually get an aquarium to store your fish or get new seeds from digging, but the focus is always on the growing, and most of the upgrades tie into that.
Graphically, Bunhouse is quite basic. That in itself isn’t an awful thing, as the game exudes a low fidelity charm so it doesn’t end up being distracting. What is a problem happens to be the blurry fuzziness that covers everything. Whether it’s a technical issue or an artistic choice I couldn’t say, but with the tiny text size and font choice it makes simply looking at the screen a pain after a short while. There is also frequent pop in for objects and backgrounds, which ends up puncturing the scenic vibes more often than not.
It’s the little touches in Bunhouse that really bring the charm. You can row a boat out onto the lake whilst a friend fishes off the side, and orders of plants and equipment are delivered by a pair of birds carrying a palette between them. Even as I grew more frustrated with the controls I was often brought back by a cute detail I hadn’t noticed before. There’s a good selection of fur patterns and plenty of hats or mustaches to unlock, but just as often it’s things like the way your Buns push a lawnmower or do yoga in the sun.
It’s a shame that the experience of actually playing Bunhouse feels so off, because it’s a cute game with a lovely, laid back atmosphere and it’s a clear labour of love from Reky Studios. It’s just that for all the charm points and rabbits in hats, the simple things can bring you right out of the experience. Fighting unwieldy controls, a molasses slow camera, and unclear visuals makes the game often frustrating to play, rather than the relaxing experience that was intended.