As a rabbit owner, I’ve felt consistently aggrieved by the obsession game developers have with the endless pet the dog memes. I get that they’re “man’s best friend” or whatever, but you got yours over and over and over again. Where’s the love for the bunnehs? The one or two games that have rabbits in them seem to think “violent bunny” is funny stuff. But, no. I’ve scratched my head about this and I’m pretty sure Bunhouse is the first game that I’ve ever seen that actually celebrates the most underrated pet of all.
Bunhouse is just the most wholesome, sweet, good-spirited thing, and its simple joy is a rarity for video games: it’s completely uncomplicated and soothing. You play as a bunny (it can be a standard rabbit, a Lop Ear, or a Netherland Dwarf), and you grow plants, which you sell for carrots, and then use those carrots to buy seeds and pots so you can grow more plants. Each plant needs a certain amount of moisture and sunlight, and you can manipulate the greenhouse, soil, and water to provide each plant an optimal growing environment. Plants grow in real time, sometimes you’ll need to move them to a bigger pot so they can reach full size, and as you sell more plants you gradually unlock a broader variety of seeds, pots, stands and tools to play with.
There’s no plot – this is no Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon. There are no time pressures, and while plants can die if you over or under-water them, or the soil quality gets to become too poor, the game’s not out there to challenge you and you’re not so much working in competition with the game’s systems to find success as you are working in collaboration with them. That’s a big part of why the game feels so chill, calming and wholesome. There’s nothing competitive or goal-orientated about Bunhouse. Even the unlocks just happen as you play. You technically don’t even need to grow plants, if you don’t want to. You’ll want to, because the act of growing plants is itself good for the soul, but the game never asks you to do anything.
Instead, you can just hop around and be a bunny. There’s local multiplayer, that allow you to be a bunneh with friends or family and enjoy the hop together. You can jump on a rowboat with a pal to go fishing (I’m not sure why a rabbit would want to fish, but there you go), or just do some yoga to stretch out those bunny muscles. While Bunhouse is kept simple on every level, the movement of the little buns is adorably charming, and filled with a simple, bright personality. It’s the tiny things that really carry it. The way that the buns hobble on two legs when carrying a plant or tree for sale is good for a chuckle every time, for example, or simply the movement of the lop-ear bunneh’s ears. Watching Lops… lop… with their ears flapping as they scoot around is one of life’s great joys, and Bunhouse’s arrival is particularly timely as I’m missing my recently-passed Lop buddy at the moment. It’s safe to say I quickly developed a sentimental attachment to Bunhouse.
Bunhouse is also a pleasant game to look at. Each of the plants has distinct growth stages, and while the little forested area that you bound around is small, it’s a joy to decorate – a little like a low-key Animal Crossing, just without the Tom Nook debt hanging over you. I would have perhaps liked some more options to decorate the space beyond the plants themselves, but that’s really nitpicking, and really that has to do with the stuff that’s in the game being so adorable that I simply want more of it. As a creative vision, I don’t think anything is missing from Bunhouse, as such.
Bunhouse is meditative and sweet. It’s the kind of game that you can boot up and play for a couple of minutes or hours, depending on how much you need to de-stress, and in so many ways it parallels the joy of having actual rabbits as pets. They might not be the loudest or most boisterous buddies, but their stoic warmth fills the home with wholesome goodness. Ultimately, rabbits are wonderful, and Bunhouse does them justice.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb