Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Game Review

Animal Crossing is one of those titles that is widely known, but not everyone will have played the series. It first appeared in 2001 on the Nintendo 64 and GameCube consoles before making its way to handheld consoles in 2005 with the next instalment. Almost twenty years later, the fifth instalment in the main series has been released, dubbed as Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Storyline

While it is a non-linear game, there is a short storyline embedded that makes it seem linear at the surface. Every player starts out the same way, by moving to a deserted island after having purchased a desert island package from Tom Nook. From there on, “quests” are given to increase the population and popularity of the island. All in favour of having the famous K.K. Slider perform on your island. These quests do follow each other up perfectly, the timing of completion can be different for every player.

Other than this main storyline, every player can create their own by living their lives on their islands as they would want to. Nothing is forbidden, nothing is necessary.

Design

When it comes down to the visuals, this game does not seem to be one that should appeal to adults. It is colourful and cartoony, with characters that are straight-up animals with the wrong colour schemes. Have you ever seen a blue alligator or a green mouse in real life? I hardly doubt it, but anything goes in this game and it is the most adorable thing ever.

The realistic visuals that we know from The Sims are thrown out the window, and surprisingly it simply works for Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Even the items, such as fruits, fish and interior decoration pieces are depicted in this style. In fact, I might not have liked the game as much the graphics were more realistic.

While there is plenty of dialogue, there are no voice-overs and that is quite alright. It is common in these types of games to have inaudible dialogue, giving the player the option to create intricate voices for the characters they meet. And it works. As for the island tunes, if you are distracted by the official tunes at a later stage in the game, you can always change these to tunes more suitable for you. The game offers you the ability to create a short snippet yourself, using musical notes. If you are not musical yourself, you can always find a great song on the internet.

Gameplay

It might not look like it at first sight, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a life simulation game played in real-time. By no means is it like The Sims, another life simulation game. In fact, everyone who has played Animal Crossing: New Horizons will say other things about it. One will say it’s similar to farming simulations, and in a way, I can agree with that as you can easily spend twenty minutes in the game and then call it a day.

So, what exactly can you do in this game? It is a long list really and the priorities are different for everyone. After beating the storyline, and seeing the in-game credits, you will be given the opportunity to change your island via terraforming. This means that you create waterfalls and rivers, but also mountains. Additionally, you can add paths to your island, creating a bustling city or a tranquil forest. And this is what most people will be spending all their time on. Perfecting their island.

But before you can terraform, there are a plethora of other things that you can do. And these things will still be possible after you have perfected your personal paradise. As you gain access to your island, you will have a native fruit that grows on trees scattered across the island. All-in-all there are six fruit-bearing tree types available: apples, pears, peaches, cherries, oranges, and palm trees carrying coconuts. There are three more tree types, but these are more decorative: hardwood trees, cedar trees and bamboo trees. All these trees can be replanted and if you want to start new trees you would simply need to buy saplings or bury the fruits. Every tree can be chopped for different kinds of wood, which is a crafting material.

Yes, this game has crafting materials and it does not stop at wood. Crafting materials can range from wood you have gathered from trees to ores you have mined from rocks to weeds you have picked up. There are plenty of DYI recipes available, but most you will need to unlock by talking to villagers and popping the balloon gifts that appear on your island.

Life on the island is about more than just gathering materials though. You can fish in the rivers and the sea and capture bugs. These can be sold, but not before you have given one specimen to Blathers, the curator of the museum. And then there are fossils, which you can find on your island daily. There are even various types of flowers that come in various colours, which you can breed to create an even bigger variety of colours.

Your island is not the only thing you will spend hours and hours on perfecting. While you start off with a small tent, you will be upgrading it quickly to an actual house. And once that has kicked off, you will be upgrading your house by getting loans to create more rooms. Those rooms will need to be decorated with items you can craft, or objects you can buy at the store. Your villagers will need their own housing, and thus you will be building them houses. Naturally, you will need to build bridges and ramps so that they can access their houses and the rest of the island. And then there’s clothing as well. So much clothing.

If you think this is where it ends, you are mistaken. Nintendo has been releasing new content such as the shady art seller which allows your curator to expand the museum. Of course, we must not forget about the special events such as fishing tourneys, Easter and Earth Day which have already passed. In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing what other holidays we will get to see and what items these holidays will bring. All this combined ensures that many will continue to play this game for the next few months at least.

While I am completely enamoured by this charming game, I have noticed some downsides. While you can have friends visiting your island, you won’t see where they are on your mini-map. Not to mention the time it takes for them to get to your island. The game also provides you with DYI recipes which include objects from other DYI recipes. And you might not have them. This makes the DYI recipe a bit obsolete until you can find the others you require. Of course, this is done so that players will trade with others, promoting and somewhat forcing players to be social to a high degree.

The Verdict

I started playing the game since release, and I have recommended this game to quite a few people already. Naturally, it depends on what type of gamer you are. If you are into more casual games, where you can do a plethora of things such as landscaping, fruit plucking and fishing, you would be set with this game. It is not action-packed and there is no intricate adventure. Although trying to shape your island can be an adventure on its own. With plenty of updates in terms of content, this game is a blast to play.

Drydwen

Writer. Dreamer. Gamer.

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