Now, I should let you know from the off, I’m a huge Animal Crossing fan. I had the original (at least original for the West) Animal Crossing for the Gamecube, and played right through the night with my best buddy on many an occasion, searching for anomalies and special events. I continued my fascination with this strange, exploratory management title with Wild World on the DS and then New Leaf again on the 3DS.
For any of you that don’t know what Animal Crossing is (you poor soul), it’s an adorable life sim that manages to be both casual and extremely in depth in its mechanics and the way it plays, allowing any gamer from any age range to enjoy its colourful world, fun characters and super sound design. You’ll typically arrive in a new town/area and begin your life there. You’ll meet the residents, take on jobs and gather resources to earn the in-game currency of bells, decorate and upgrade your humble home, catch fish and bugs, or search for fossils and art to donate to your museum or to sell to the local merchants, travel to your friends’ towns, and so so much more. What makes it all the more interesting is that it runs on a 24/7 calendar cycle, which mirrors real life to the point of date and season. All these things affect what’s going on in the game tremendously. For example, only certain bugs and fish can be caught at certain times of the day and certain times of the year. There may be an extremely rare fish that you want for your museum collection that’s only available in December. Should you fail to catch that fish in December you’ll have to wait an entire year for another chance to be able to catch it! (Unless of course you cheat, but booerns to that). Furthermore, special celebrations take place on certain days. New Years for example typically has the townspeople gathering for a tremendous fireworks display, and these events usually offer you opportunities to gather special items or play minigames.
This really is just scratching the surface, and what makes Animal Crossing so superb is that you just continue to discover new things as the year goes by. It’s the ultimate pick up and play game for me, and I’m stoked for this arrival on iOS and Android. But how does it hold up against its fantastic predecessors? Let’s find out.
The game starts off in very typical AC fashion. The graphics and music are immediately recognisable and a wave of relief washed over me as it became clear that the right people had worked on this jump to iOS/Android format, and any concerns I did have, although not gone, were certainly calmed by the unique chattering sounds of the opening scene. For any long term Animal Crossing fans, you’ll immediately recognise the first character you on screen; our old friend K.K Slider. He asks us what kind kind of vacation we would take, should we have the choice. Somewhere far away, I told him. And in that, we’re whisked off to begin the game. Whether or not these choices bear any impact on the game is often unclear in AC, but they’re fun to answer none-the-less.
Welcome to your starting area. As expected; a small, self contained world filled with animal characters of varying species. In the past it’s been woodland villages or towns. This time we’re dropped in a kind of woodland camp, so not a whole lot of difference here, except we’re quickly made aware of the fact that instead of having villagers living in houses, they’ll be living in tents and moving around. Also in typical fashion, you discover that you are (or have been mistaken to be) the camp manager. And so our quest becomes clear. We are to look after and help this small gathering of strange creatures become prosperous and beautiful in the coming years. Hooray to you!
However, at this point I started to note a few differences. My first mission sent me to another area of the woodland, which is accessible either by walking to the edge of an area or opening your mini-map and quick travelling using your handy little camper van (which you can customise via 3 little gangster penguin car mechanics).
Once there I met my first outside inhabitant, and performed one or two tutorial quests for them, gaining friendship points in the process. This allowed me to invite them back to my camp to stay whenever they like, which isn’t a sinister as it sounds, but instead basically stands for the residency of townspeople. Later on I discovered that subsequent guests are a little more picky with where they stay, and may request that you obtain certain objects for your camp before they’ll commit to visiting you. Unbelievable.
Purchasing items has also changed. Before, you would go to a shop with daily opening hours in order to buy furniture and hope they had something in stock you liked. Now, although a marketplace is still available (with some very recognisable vendors), you are also able to acquire items more specifically and on demand with a crafting system, which requires both an adequate sum of bells as well as crafting materials. Why have they moved in this direction, I hear you ask? Well, I think we all know the answer to that.
“Don’t let micro-transactions put you off this title.”
Oh Christ yes, it was inevitable. Because very little is ever truly free. Pocket Camp works in that you craft items, and they take a certain amount of time to build. As is standard with micro-transactions in games, the first item you build only takes a minute, and the tutorial gives you a free “leaf ticket” which is the game equivalent of premium currency. This allows you to build the item instantly, letting you know there’s a way for you to skip these irritating waiting queues. I’m not one for micro-transactions. I don’t feel they’re always necessarily bad unless used in a pay-to-win scenario (I’m looking at you Battlefront 2). Fortunately for Pocket Camp, they’re more of an optional extra as far as I’ve seen in my short time with the game instead of a necessity in order to enjoy it. Remember, this is a game that’s all about taking it slowly. You’re supposed to breeze along. There’s no need to rush! The game moves in real time. Catch some fish, chat to some inhabitants, run some quests. Leave the game entirely and let it plod along without you. It’s no matter. Furthermore there are ways of getting leaf tickets without spending any cash, such as linking up your Nintendo account to the game which awarded me a whopping 100 leaf tickets. Don’t let micro-transactions put you off this title, is what I’m saying. Okay? Okay.
As I’ve stated, Animal Crossing games are historically pretty massive. It’s unlikely this title is going to be as big, but there’s still way too much to cover in one review. Instead I’m going to go over a few of the new features that have been included, and a few of the key things I enjoyed in previous games, and look at how they hold up in this one.
“[Fishing] is more fun than it ever was before”
1. Touch controls – Not my favourite control schemes in the world, but Pocket Camp does it well. You can hold and drag your finger to run around the screen or tap to move to a specific spot, as well as interact with people and items. However, there is one element that has become more fun than it ever was before, and it’s one of my favourite elements to the game. FISHING! Fishing has always been a slightly awkward affair in that you’d need to line your character up, get the right distance from it and then cast your line perfectly so that the lure positions itself directly in front of the fish. This is no longer the case. Now all you have to do is stand in a general position and tap wherever you’d like to cast the lure! It’s perfect! Tap again to reel the fish in when it takes a bite. It’s so simple, and the perfect implementation of touch controls. Bravo and thank you, sir. And while we’re on the topic…
2. Catching Bugs and Fish – It’s not only the fishing game that’s gone under this more automatic renovation. The bug catching has as well. Simply tap a visible bug on a tree trunk or airspace, and your character will automatically approach slowly, requiring you to screen tap just as the exclamation mark appears. In my mind, this isn’t so much a positive change. Fishing previously felt a little cumbersome, but the fun was endless in running around like a nutter with a butterfly net, and more down to skill on your part. It seems a shame this has had to go, but I appreciate that with the less dexterous touch controls, this is is probably a welcome change. The game has slimmed down the exploration element also, in that there are now dedicated fishing and bug catching areas as opposed to being able to catch bugs and fish wherever you went. You simply select the sea area, river area or flora, and start tapping away. It’s taken away some of the challenge of the great hunt, but at the same time it makes catching bugs and fish a breeze, and a lot of fun too.
3. Marketbox – This is a lovely addition that allows you to put a certain number of items up for sale that can be purchased by other players. Absolutely anything can be put in here, so get hunting, catch and crafting and name your price! Capitalism rocks!
4. Time and Stretch goals – Pocket Camp has added these as ways of earning extra bells and/or leaf tickets. This way you’ll constantly have ways to earn some extra schmakas as you play the game, and for those that do prefer a game with consistent targets, it can give them some things to work towards.
5. Leveling – Is leveling a necessary edition to Animal Crossing? No probably not, but I imagine it’s one of the additions implemented to provoke the purchase of leaf tickets in some way. Levels award you bells, crafting unlocks and a wider variety of animal friends, but I won’t be focusing on this. Just let it ride on by in the background, eh?
6. Making friends (awww) – So, I wasn’t sure how the multiplayer system was going to work on this title. In the past you’d have to agree and arrange to visit each other’s towns. In this title, because there are many communal areas outside of your immediate camp area, you can come across other players in all sorts of places! Now whether they are actually in control of their little character or if they’re just a representation of them, I’m not sure, but when you find them you’re able to visit their campsite, ask them to be friends or look at anything they’ve got for sale in their personal marketbox.
7. Needs and Desires – In the past, you’d have to speak to inhabitants to ask for a mission in order to have them send you after something, if they wanted to send you after anything at all. Now you’ll be able to see floating above the head of the animals what they’re looking for as well as well as whether or not you currently have it, allowing you to waste no time chatting aimlessly if you know you don’t have have the goods.
8. Decorating – Gone are the days of laying your furniture manually and pushing/turning it around. A simple grid system is in use now that allows quick laying down/upheaval of your crafted items, which i suspect has been lifted from Happy Home Academy. Though this may be a faster way of going about decorating, I must say I miss physically walk around my home and pushing everything about. But ho-hum.
9. No fossils. In fact, NO MUSEUM – This is a huge negative for me unfortunately, as collecting all the fish, bugs, fossils and paintings, and displaying them in the museum was a huge part of the game experience for me. I’ve had it confirmed that there is no museum this time around, so I can’t be sure yet, but it appears fish and bugs are caught solely for monetary, personal display or gifting purposes.
10. No Calendar Events – I can’t be 100% sure about this yet either, but there doesn’t appear to be any in game calendar which would lead me to believe that this title only runs on a 24/7 basis and not a 365 day one. If this is the case, that would be a tremendous shame. However, I find it difficult to believe they’d throw away such a huge part of the franchise, and am hoping for the best.
11. Horse Mackerel – You know what I mean, players. They’re still fucking everywhere.
There are still many questions I haven’t been able to answer yet that only time will tell. Is there a cafe or bar where I can sit and listen to K.K Slider’s latest hits? Will Crazy Redd and his counterfeit antiques make an appearance? Are there any exotic lands only accessible through special means? I have a feeling I’m going to be playing Animal Crossing Pocket Camp for some time, so watch this space for more updates and figments of intrigue on this no doubt immensely popular new mobile title.
It’s available now for FREE on iOS and Android. Let us know your opinions by commenting here, on our Twitter or Facebook.