Stardew Valley Mobile

I never played Stardew Valley in its original form on PC, but I did play the PlayStation Vita, PS4, and Switch versions. All of those played roughly the same, give or take some minor control quirks.

In fact, around Thanksgiving of 2020, I started a new game on the Switch and played mostly through the general into stuff — you know, meeting the townsfolk, getting the fishing rod, learning about the old town hall, and opening up the mine. We’re talking real early-game stuff here.

So when I found out the mobile version was on sale, I was definitely interested, though I was not without my reservations. On the one hand, it would be great to be able to play the game wherever I want simply by using my phone, which I always have on me — unlike my Switch, which I don’t lug around everywhere I go, believe it or not. On the other hand, I started a new game less than two months ago, and I was not looking forward to doing all the early-game content again so soon.

But at a meager $4 on sale, I figured why not? If nothing else, I could buy it just to have it, so when I want to dive in later, it’s right there at my fingertips. In fact, for $4, it’s worth it just to investigate how the game manages to play with touchscreen controls.

That was my initial thought. But I didn’t stop there, as I had planned. After some initial growing pains, I’ve fallen in love with the mobile version of Stardew Valley. In fact, I love it more now than I did before, despite having already played it on three different consoles.

Stardew Valley Mobile

For starters, the screen on my Google Pixel tends to display the game with more crispness and vibrancy than the Vita or Switch screens do. So having such a pixel-sharp view into the titular Stardew Valley was a great introduction to this version of the game.

But the real wizardry started appearing as I acclimated to the control style. The touchscreen controls quickly become second nature, and now they’re by far my preferred control scheme for Stardew Valley. This version takes full advantage of the touchscreen, which really allows the game to blossom, no longer tied down by a controller or mouse and keyboard setup.

There are a number of control schemes — something like a dozen or so, with different variations of each one — so finding one that works for you shouldn’t be an issue. At first, I felt the on-screen thumbpad and devoted touch circle for button prompts would be the sweet spot. But I ended up settling on the thumbpad alone, which allows the rest of the screen to be free of control prompts. The beauty of this is that it’s pretty much all you need.

Your inventory is always visible on the left side of the screen, which means you won’t need to use bumpers or triggers to cycle through your tools and items. You can simply touch one to equip it. Even better is how much utilty the game gets out of tapping. Want to bust a stone? Just tap it; your character will walk over and whack it with their pickaxe. Want to chop down that tree? Just keep your finger pressed to the tree and your character will walk over and chop that sucker down.

By allowing your character to perform complex chains of actions simply by tapping is, like, next-level. You can even tap to make your character walk wherever you want them to go. Tap a door and they’ll walk over to it and enter or exit that structure. Tap a person and they’ll walk up to them and initiate conversation. I know 2021 just started, but I’m already calling this my personal game-changer of the year!

As you can probably see in the image below, this makes tilling soil and planting and watering seeds a breeze. No more having to awkwardly line up a seed using your controller, hoping your character plants it on the right soil tile — just tap the screen and voila! You’ve got your seed planted. Same goes for harvesting: As long as you have a scythe in your inventory, just tap that kale and your character will do the rest.

Stardew Valley Mobile

Another great feature is that, when you are buying items, you can simply use a slider at the bottom of the screen to select your desired quantity, then click the buy button. It’s also easier to manage your inventory and drop items in your delivery box, just tap the item then tap the desired slot — or drag and drop. It’s ingeniously simple and convenient.

And even though this seems like using an autopilot feature, you are still very much in control of your actions, just without all the extra thumb-dancing.

Plus, since mobile phones offer pinch functionality, you can literally zoom out to high heaven and get a massive overview just by expanding the screen with two fingers. And, of course, you can also zoom in to see damn near every pixelated pore on your character’s face (why you would ever want to be that close, I can’t say, but the option is there is you want it).

Stardew Valley Mobile

There’s also a handy resume feature for when you happen to step away mid-session to perform some other phone-related tasks. Seemingly, as long as the app is still running in the background, you can resume right where you left off.

Stardew Valley has always been a special game. Its feedback loop is endlessly engaging no matter how you play it. You could throw yourself headfirst into becoming a farming magnate (my preferred method), or say “Screw it,” and just engage with the townsfolk, maybe convince one of them to marry you (which couldn’t be more unappealing for me). Stardew Valley is, of course, one of the greats. But replaying it in this fresh way (in my opinion, the best way) is almost like experiencing it for the first time all over again.

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