Why am I writing this now? There are currently no events, no special reasons to go back in and play this free to play time-sink. Well being sick limits your interactions to video games and a simple mindless mobile game can be just what the doctor ordered. Is this the case with ACPC? Or is it just another terrible freemium money grabber?
I’ve owned every Animal Crossing video game, There I said it. I’ve even bought consoles such as the 3Ds literally just to play the next iteration of the series. It’s criminal it never showed up on the WiiU in more than a simple app and mediocre board game but there we go. The idea of an app version was a mixed reaction when the news came out not just to fans of the series but casual players to. Personally I do enjoy Fire Emblem Heroes (another of Nintendo’s other free to play apps) but Miitomo and Mario Run left a lot to be desired. Strangely Animal Crossing is a mixed bag of being both; Fantastic and ultimately pointless at the same time. It should be worth mentioning that at the time of this article amiibo and the collectable cards don’t unlock anything in the app but give it time I’m sure they will and this review is from someone who’s been playing since launch.
The original game is a very large deep Sim-like experience of village life with maintaining the area, picking fruit, fishing and bug catching all wrapped up in a simplistic relaxing and enjoyable shell. It’s the skittles of video games for me, many colours and flavours but always left with a nice taste after. It’s obvious the entire base game wouldn’t have translated well into a smaller app but they’ve impressively cut down a large amount of the grind into smaller more easily done tasks. The fishing/bug catching is now in small designated areas where you simply tap on the prey to cast a line or swing the net and tap again to catch it. The fruit is shaken from pre-arranged trees but does grow back (same as the previous games but now with a visible timer). Your now limited to these preset trees and assets but you can plant your flowers in a garden just off the campsite and this just gives a reason to explore the areas and return for more visits.
Villagers wander the areas and stay in selected zones for a set time before heading out (usually 4 hours). Once you’ve completed enough tasks (which are essentially requests for items, typically 3x oranges or 1x squid, etc) and crafted their favourite items they can visit and stay at your camp. There in lies the thick Marmite layer of the experience though. Crafting in Animal Crossing Pocket Camp is both the main reason for continuously completing requests and a massive bugbear for certain items pushing heavily towards Leaf Tickets – the microtransactions for this game. With no way of being able to trade craft materials or buy them a lot of the game becomes a grind for completing animal’s tasks to get the rewards that allow you to craft the items they want before they’ll visit. This is only softened by using MyNintendo points to artificially boost them and making sure you stock up on the items they request well in advance.
The campsite is the main attraction where when your select villagers will hang out and interact with the items you’ve crafted. At the time of this review your residents seem to be the only reliable way of gathering essence (another crafting material) with the quarry area still resulting in slim pickings. Still on a lighter note; You do get to kit out your camper van which your customised character travels from area to area in the same way you customised your house in the series but I find that few people venture in to have a look and it tends to be the campsite that gains the most attention despite your van and character appearing randomly in other people’s games.
Obviously Animal Crossing isn’t going to tax a mobile device but the polish and refining has definitely not gone unnoticed. The animals are well made, the areas have a colourful setup with the seasons changing the floor, trees and general makeup of each area just as the previous games. Text is easy to read, the user interface is bright and colourful and you rarely struggle to find out what you need to progress. It also runs well on both a medium powered Android mobile (as my wife has been playing on a Sony Xperia Z5 Compact) but personally I’ve been enjoying it on the iPhone7Red.
The music and sounds are just perfect. If you simply closed your eyes and listened to the app you would have been forgiven for thinking this was a Switch Animal Crossing game (which would be a system seller fyi Nintendo). The villagers make the lovely noisy burbles for text, the music is soft and melodic and it all just fits brilliantly. The only slight annoyance is the lack of customising the villages music theme but this isn’t much of a deal breaker for the game as it’s your layout and items Happy House Designer style that makes it unique. It’s quite tranquil and I’ve found myself using the app to relax more than anything else, switching off and just completing a few tasks to pass the time.
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp is a very Marmite game, you either love it or hate it and this has shown in the current status of your own in game friends list. Chances are you installed it, had a go and then either fell into 3 camps; Playing it daily, Playing it when there’s an event and Played it for a few days and uninstalled. It’s annoying that managing your friends list can be a chore as to enter the quarry area you need 5 players help to enter, although this has been recently updated so asking for help is much easier.
The whole game has come leaps and bounds since launch. A lot of the early quibbles have been fixed with higher rewards from residents, the ability to craft outfits and the whole game being a lot more stable. It does appear that they are listening to fans and continuing to work to a better product. Hopefully it follows Nintendo’s previous trends and goes on the up and up and not like Miitomo where it get’s canned for lack of a player base. Also hopefully we’ll get as many suits as we do dresses…
As a long time fan of the series you can tell there are lots of corners cut to make this into a freemium app. Plenty of favourite villagers are likely being held back for updates or rare items that spawn them and cost an obscene amount of leaf tickets. When you collect fish or bugs you no longer get a happy little pun which made the collecting its own little enjoyable meta. All of these problems aren’t even touching on the issue of balance, in that the game is often extreme either giving very little or a huge amount. Numerous sites post for each event how tedious and boring the grind is during events and it’s no surprise as these are built for low-level new players who easily use leaf tickets and the low-level animals to trade up for event items while high level people grind tirelessly for that last crystal. They’ve included customising surrounds for your campsite but again these are locked behind a ridiculous amount of leaf tickets.
All that complaining, griping and yet here I am typing words about how it works largely from memory with very little looking up and going back in. It’s left a hell of a lasting impression and when this is done I’ll likely be going back in for a few minutes. I’m well aware that in 2 hours time my world will have shifted and I’ll be able to do tasks for animals, fish, bug hunt and get closer to photos of my favourite animals. It’s a hard one to recommend but it’s a hard one to stop the grind once you get into it. There’s a reason Pokemon Go still has a player base and I’m starting to see why. It’s a game to play for a few moments, not for a few hours. It fits the pick up and play then put down and stop that most mobile apps miss. This is my bag and it’s full of bells.
8/10 – Crossing into new territory