Written by Sinéad Dullaghan
One might say the Animal Crossing series has impeccable timing. Released into the midst of global chaos thanks to the outbreak of COVID-19. There is no better time to find yourself whisked away to a deserted island to build a community from the ground up. New Horizons starts under very familiar circumstances: in debt to a capitalist, entrepreneurial racoon who goes by the name Tom Nook, proof that some things never change.
Players will find themselves working towards the homes of their dreams under the watchful eye of Mr Nook. Not much has changed across the Animal Crossing franchise however with wider resolution and HD graphics the series has a new lease of life!
New Horizons is a wonderfully charming addition to the cutest series of games. This wholesome community shines through soothing aesthetics that warm the soul and welcome you back with open arms. The game boasts polished cartoon graphics with minute details that bring the world and its various inhabitants to life. The residents themselves speak in complete gibberish but they do so with such animation in their little high-pitched voices that you feel at ease no matter what they’re saying!
Every interaction appears so light-hearted thanks to the resident’s ability to emote. It will bring you true joy to watch a resident’s face light up as you offer them oranges you gathered at their request. Nothing compares to the unadulterated glee that comes from your fellow residents cheering and clapping for your achievements. Any time I catch a fish I can always rely on an endearing neighbour to cheer me on as I bask in my accomplishment.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the embodiment of friendship and this is showcased through its bright colours, friendly characters and the most peaceful existence. The graphics and aesthetics work in complete harmony to ensure this big ball of friendship brings nothing but happiness to those who dwell amongst the islands.
New Horizons Gameplay
Any veteran fans of the series will already be familiar with the mundane yet delightfully relaxing tasks such as bug catching, fishing and gardening (you won’t believe the amount of weeding needed to create an idyllic island paradise) and general daily tasks required to make this island home. These simple jobs should be a walk in the park for even the newcomers, making this game accessible to all.
However, it can’t always be a bed of roses or else there would be no great sense of accomplishment! Debt can be crippling for many people across the globe, and Animal Crossing residents are no different. As blissful your existence may seem during your time in New Horizons, the looming presence of financial obligations are never far behind. You can have the home of your dreams but for a very steep price.
For newcomers to the series, however, you may be lulled into a false sense of security. To begin your life through the island getaway package you will simply owe Mr Nook 5000 miles. The good news is that these miles can be earned through completing milestones in various tasks across the island. The better news is completing the milestones that resemble a tutorial; will earn you enough miles to pay off your debt.
The miles don’t stop there though, you may continue to earn them and exchange them for items such as a nifty backpack or an exclusive floor for your new home! The bad news is, once your package is paid off the renovations on your dream home begin and this time Mr Nook isn’t as generous.
To create your first home, a one-room cabin will set you back 98,000 bells. Don’t worry though, you won’t have to pay it all upfront, no-sir-ee, instead, this large sum will hang over your head every time you treat yourself to a new pair of wellies or a lamp for your new home.
One of the new game mechanics is your very own Nook Smartphone. This device allows you access to numerous apps that can make your life in New Horizons that little bit easier.
Trying to earn some Nook Miles? Why not access an app that lets you track your progress? Gathering supplies for some DIY projects? Why not check what you need for that cute new bedside table on the go?
Nook’s Smartphone allows you to access a lot of information without crossing half the island to find out, adding to a smoother and more relaxing gameplay experience.
The beauty of this low-pressure life simulator is that you can spend your days doing whatever makes you happiest. New Horizons sees a vast improvement to the customisation options available within Animal Crossing.
In previous games, I was always free to customise my character and my home. However, I was always limited by the other residents within my villages. These residents would plonk their new homes wherever the wind blew them, disrupting many of my landscaping plans. Fear not though as New Horizons gives you full control of your island. You get to decide the location of every new resident’s home, the shop, even Mr Blather’s museum and if you ever change your mind Mr Nook will happily assist (for a less than reasonable fee).
Multiplayer is the one aspect this game falls down upon. To reap the benefits of multiplayer one must pay the Switch Online subscription (€20 annually) and even then you are limited by what you can do. Once your dues to Nintendo are paid, you will be able to travel to your friends’ islands and welcome visitors of your own!
This helps gather resources that are not indigenous to your island and well… that’s about it. People who share a Switch Console can inhabit the same island but do not have the same experience. Whilst you may share an island, the primary account holder will call the shots.
‘Player Two’ can decorate their homes and customise their character’s to their hearts’ content but when it comes to running the island, their sole purpose is to donate supplies to ‘Player One’. The additional player cannot complete tasks for Mr Nook or any of the other residents and therefore miss out on some of the key aspects that make Animal Crossing the game it is.
As a single-player game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons delights at every turn. If ever a game could be compared to pure happiness, this would be it. Through hard work and commitment, your island can blossom and become your home away from home.
If you can look past Tom Nook’s hefty price-tags you can find yourself at peace amongst your friendly co-residents. The themes of friendship, creativity and escapism are wrapped up in a cute little bow that is sure to enchant. Be that as it may, as a multiplayer game the mark was missed. If you find yourself unlucky enough to be the ‘additional player’ on a console, the magic is missing. With no control over an island you’re supposed to be sharing, everyday tasks fail to give any sense of accomplishment and the novelty wears off rather quickly.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a must-buy for those isolated and itching for some freedom. As a whole, New Horizons is a charming escape in a world we need escaping from. It stands in stark contrast to the violence that embodies a vast amount of games in today’s market. Animal Crossing has stood the test of time thanks to its sweetness and downright purity. It’s okay to enjoy the blood and gore marketed at us today but it’s also okay to take a step back and just water your animated flowers too.
Images through IGDB Press Kit & Animal Crossing Twitter Account