As soon as I heard about the game It’s Literally Just Mowing, I was like, “Hell yeah!” Unfortunately, the game is not literally just mowing.
It’s Literally Just Mowing, which arrived on iOS and Google Play last week, has been promoted as being about mowing some lawns, and that’s it. But once I played it, I found a mobile game like so many other mobile games, rife with microtransactions and advertisements that ruin any sense of zen it had going for it.
It’s Literally Just Mowing is, at its core, still very much a simple game about mowing lawns. You’re given a patch of land to mow, you mow it, and then you move onto the next overgrown lot. Progression is tied to cleaning up full streets, each with multiple lawns. As you rack up completed neighborhoods, an association of lawn care professionals ranks your progress and rewards you with new hats. This provides a simple, entertaining feedback loop. That is, until the insidious hallmarks of mobile game monetization are revealed.
Every so often, It’s Literally Just Mowing shifts to a full-screen ad for another game. I can’t blame them; it’s free and the developers deserve to make a living off what is a pretty solid game. But the sheer frequency with which these mini-commercials interrupt gameplay is antithetical to how It’s Literally Just Mowing has been marketed. I went through a stretch where I got an ad between every level, seriously throwing off any sense of rhythm the game would otherwise have achieved.
Naturally, players can remove ads completely by paying a one-time fee of $4.99. If I was going to spend much more time with It’s Literally Just Mowing, I wouldn’t have any problems shooting the developers a few bucks for their labor. That payment also nets you 2,500 gems, the in-game currency that allows folks to purchase additional loot boxes.
Oh yeah, you read me right: It’s Literally Just Mowing has loot boxes. Players can earn loot boxes by playing the game, which then take hours to open, or players can purchase them using gems. The in-game currency is also doled out sporadically, quick enough so that you don’t forget about it but slow enough that spending real money on it becomes a tempting proposition. These gem packages range from 99 cents for 500 all the way up to $49.99 for 32,000. While not as wallet-gouging as some games—loot boxes range from 250 to 5,000 gems in cost—it still very much distracts from the relaxing experience It’s Literally Just Mowing could have been.
I’m not trying to be a narc or anything by criticizing the monetization in It’s Literally Just Mowing. The developers put out a great game and they deserve to see some sort of return on their work. I’m just disappointed. Ever since I was a kid working with my dad in our yard, mowing the lawn has been one of the few outdoor activities I really enjoy. “Satisfying” is the one word that really describes how it feels. Something about following a pattern and seeing tangible progress from your work hits all the right serotonin receptors in my brain. I was hoping to get at least some of the same feelings from It’s Literally Just Mowing. Unfortunately, the constant diversions prevented that.