Capsule Review: Animal Crossing

A life sim set in a small town with humanoid animals of various species (though for some reason, the player character is apparently human). In many ways it feels like an offline MMORPG with no combat. There’s even some asynchronous multiplayer as multiple players can move into the town and see each others' houses and send each other mail. There’s no single overarching goal or win state; rather, the player can engage in various activities such as fishing or collecting insects, doing fetch-quest favors for villagers, donating to the local museum, saving up to buy house expansions, collecting furniture and outfits, and participating in various holiday events. There are also real-time day/night and seasonal cycles that affect what activities, townspeople, and fauna are available - which is actually pretty inconvenient, since shops are only open during certain hours and neighbors go to bed, meaning that a lot of the game is simply unavailable at night.

The game’s various checklists (maxing out your house, collecting all the fish/insects/fossils/paintings, getting a full set of themed furniture, etc.) may appeal to the completionist, but there is so much randomness and artificial delay here that any completionist without supreme patience is likely to quit in frustration. There is a decent amount of customization available in outfits and furniture, but again they are doled out so slowly and unpredictably that anyone drawn to these creative options is also likely to be frustrated. The extremely thin story and shallow characterization of the villagers presents no real opportunities for narrative immersion, there’s no true multiplayer socialization or competition, and none of the activities are especially challenging. The only way to enjoy the game for any length of time is to approach it as a casual routine - something to pop into here and there to relax with whichever activity suits your mood. But even here the game’s structure gets in the way, since it punishes you for neglecting it too long, with weeds growing and villagers berating you for your absence or even moving out. Once you miss too many days in a row, it won’t be relaxing to return to, so many players (myself included) just won’t.

The game still manages to maintain a warm and friendly tone, and it can be relaxing and comforting to play for a while. Inevitably the game ends with the player simply losing interest, but if you can accept that you can still have an enjoyable time along the way.

I Stopped Playing When: After purchasing several house expansions and filling my basement with gyroids, the game’s novelty had largely worn off. I no longer wanted to play every day, and when returning to the game meant being berated by my in-game neighbors for my absence in a town overrun with weeds, I stopped returning.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

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