Could Animal Crossing: New Horizons have arrived at a more opportune time? In the midst of a period rife with panic, uncertainty, and isolation, out comes a game about the joys of exploring a deserted island and populating it with a bunch of happy animal friends. There’s never been a better time to take Tom Nook up on his offer to escape to an island paradise. Luckily, in addition to being in a very advantageous financial position in the market, New Horizons is absorbing, charming, relaxing, and frequently delightful. You get to bask in that island atmosphere, and Mr. Nook gets his Bells. It’s truly a win-win situation.
- What is Animal Crossing: New Horizons? It’s a simulation where you have the freedom to explore, socialize, catch fish and insects, dig up fossils, decorate your house, the list goes on. Earn Bells and Nook Miles and use them to make your own personal island paradise.
- Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
- Price: $59.99
- Developer: Nintendo EPD
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Release Date: March 20, 2020
- Website: https://www.animal-crossing.com/new-horizons/
- Multiplayer: Online
Nuts and Bolts and Bells
The flow of gameplay in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is designed to fold in new mechanics as quickly as you the player are willing to move forward, all the while increasing the complexity of your own island. As you explore, harvest resources, and chat with your neighbors day in and day out, tents will turn into houses, you’ll be given the opportunity to help open shops and museums, and the island itself will open up as you unlock more traversal and resource gathering options. There’s an easygoing-yet-compelling feel to progression in Animal Crossing, from small moments like discovering a new species of fish to big satisfactory payoffs like saving up enough Bells to wipe away a housing loan right after taking it on.
Additionally, with the Nook Mileage Program, various specific activities will allow you to accrue Miles and use them to, among other things, travel to other deserted islands in order to tap an alternate supply of natural resources. The options available to fuel your progression, Bells, Miles, and DIY projects, counterbalanced by obstacles like tool durability, insect hazards, and geographical constraints, provide a fun, laid-back framework for problem-solving. If you want to put your progression into overdrive by devising an ultra-efficient strategy for racking up Bells, Miles, and other resources, you have that option; and if you just want to walk around and pick the pretty flowers, that’s equally valid. New Horizons gives you the tools to optimize your island activities and the freedom to set those tools aside and relax.
Granted, it’s not a perfect island paradise. Certain controls, particularly where fishing is concerned, become a bit fiddly and imprecise. It’s a small annoyance to have to position your lure just right in order to attract the attention of the fish, but that small annoyance can have a way of growing over time. More tiresome is the process of supplying fish, insects, and fossils to Blathers the owl for museum exhibition. His name is certainly fitting, and some of the facts he provides about the subjects are indeed fun, but it still drags handing him each specimen one-by-one and skipping through the same dialogue repeatedly, a problem compounded the more you have to donate.
Of course, these are somewhat petty complaints. Overall, fishing is absorbing and sometimes even downright thrilling; and I’m glad to know that the plates on a stegosaurus’ back aren’t actually a part of its skeleton, but rather they grow right out of the skin. And I have none other than Blathers to thank for learning that.
Island Pace of Life
In terms of tone and aesthetics, New Horizons is basically pitch-perfect. The island you inhabit and develop is simple in terms of the art style, but this simplicity is offset by a vibrant color scheme and immersive soundscape that brings the idyllic setting to life. Your animal friends are also endlessly charming, from their personal quirks to visual effects like a halo of flowers materializing around Tom Nook’s head. The writing continues to sell the carefree, childlike optimism of the Animal Crossing universe. What other series has such a dogged commitment to fish and insect puns?
In some ways, the game’s attempts to put you at ease border on eerie. Why is everything I do amazing to these animals? Do I really warrant applause with every DIY project I finish? What are they trying to hide? Why does my phone know when I’m changing?! But fears of a Midsommar-eque mishap notwithstanding, New Horizons provides a great means of putting aside anxious thoughts and absorbing yourself in a fun, friendly, low-stakes world. This is especially valuable when our own world seems to have been spiked into a dumpster that also happens to be on fire.
There’s no panic on St. Mary’s Island, no sir, just an insurgency by the Spider-Wasp Coalition, and those treacherous arthropods stand no chance of breaking our enterprising spirit! Truly, the worst the tarantulas and wasps can do is leave you with a nasty sting on the eye or cause you to faint and wake up back at your abode. You’re inconvenienced far more by a flimsy tool breaking than by any “enemy” activity in the game.
Your customization options are also robust and varied. Indoor and outdoor furniture can be crafted, purchased, or even shaken out of a damn tree. You can design and customize patterns for shirts, purchase new articles of clothing either with Bells or by redeeming Nook Miles, and you will periodically receive clothing as a reward for helping out your neighbors with various tasks around the island.
You can also alter your passport, post bulletins, and snap pictures, and any number of the above activities can earn you more Miles and in turn spur on more customization. You also have the option of deciding the layout of your town by selecting the building spots for tents, houses, shops, museums, etc. In addition to being a deserted paradise, your island waits to be shaped at your whim.
Zoom Out: Verdict
Atmosphere - 9/10
Progression - 9/10
Exploration - 8/10
Customization - 8/10
Animal Crossing: New Horizons provides you with a world packed with rewarding activities, compelling progression, and a hefty amount of charm. It’s a game that couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
- Fishing, Bug-Catching, Digging, Woodchopping, etc.
- That Island Atmosphere
- Some fiddly controls
- Dialogue can become repetitive and tiresome
- Also Blathers