Animal Crossing: New Horizons review: Is this what indentured work feels like?

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8.5 Every Nook and cranny

The cutesy characters bring a lovely whimsy to the world of making and paying off debt while you work yourself up to owning all the cool stuff you want to own. You’ll make friends, find treasures and build a community on your very own island -- something we’ve all dreamt of doing at some point. 

  • Gameplay 9
  • Storyline 8
  • Motivation 7
  • Cute creatures 10
  • User Ratings (0 Votes) 0

Yes, we know it’s been more than a month since the launch of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons Switch title, and there’s a reason for the late review. We couldn’t decide whether we love it or loathe it. 

We reached a stage while playing this title where it wasn’t clear whether Tom Nook is adorable or unbearable. The fluffy dude started out okay, although we got a very culty feel from the whole Nook conglomerate. That was until we realised the faint similarity between Tom Nook and Tim Cook and now it’s obvious that Nook Inc. is just Apple. 

Over a month of indentured work and our debt isn’t near paid off, because we keep taking out loans and… it’s now clear that we’ve brought this upon ourselves. It’s the iPhone XS Max all over again… 

Take the bait

Animal Crossing is a social simulator disguised cleverly by cuteness, but unlike other sim games, this one’s an economist’s dream come true. Bonus points if you really like fluffy, cutesy animals and fishing. 

The premise seems simple — you’re sent to a deserted island under the pretence of developing ‘your own paradise’. And you can develop your own paradise — think The Sims but you garden, deal in a local currency, create and build infrastructure and make friends. The island has a wealth of natural resources that you can use to craft (there’s some Minecraft thrown in here too), while you can hunt insects and chop down trees. Don’t chop down all the trees though. 

A particularly cool feature is that the time of day and season match real life, so each day on the island will mirror your real-life situation. Except that you can’t currently leave your physical house, but that’s beside the point. 

Cutesy real-life

On your journey to develop this island, you’ll find quite a few aids to help you get into even more debt. Firstly, Tom Nook, the owner of Nook Inc., guides you toward taking out your first loan to build a house. You’ll do this by collecting Nook Miles (basically Discovery Vitality points) that you earn by completing small quests. 

Initial quests are easy enough to fulfil — shake some trees to get branches and build a fishing rod. Catch a few fish and earn miles, which in-turn will reward you with more recipes. These recipes are vital to making more robust tools and even decorations for your newly built house. 

Once you’ve mastered building better tools, you’ll find more ways to explore the island. Whether that’s by getting over the river (because you chose an island within an island, restricting your movement), or using a Nook Flying Ticket to go to another island — you’ll find more flexibility in movement. This greatly increases your resource gathering scope, which is the aim of the game in the early stages. 

Fast forward a bit and Mister Nook takes it upon himself to ‘employ’ you to build more houses to develop the island. The catch is that you’ll have to source the resources yourself AND furnish the houses with specific furniture that you’ll need to build. After this, you’ll work hard to pay off your initial home loan, just to take out another loan to build a bigger house. This is where we realised this is just indentured work. 

Now, if you’re a ‘completionist’ and get a thrill out of completing menial work in-game to feel like you’ve accomplished something, Animal Crossing is just the thing you need in your life. Maybe continuous virtual debt is too triggering for our adult brain to handle at the moment. 

But it’s an escape

Excluding the endless pit of debt (doesn’t Tom Nook look way too excited to be handing out debt all the time?), the detail in Animal Crossing’s world makes it an absolute joy to simply explore and build. 

Into gardening? Focus your efforts on diversifying the island’s flora by bringing other seeds back from different islands and create a beautiful forest. Into building stuff? Go ahead and collect as many DIY recipes as you can and build just about anything you want. You can even focus your efforts on interior design, making a cosy, personalised home using furnishings you’ve made. 

In a time where the world’s humans are confined to their homes, Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Switch gives us an escape we bloody well need. Using the online function, you can easily visit other friends in-game and leave each other notes or presents. People have even held birthday parties in-game, something that’s possible if all your friends have Switch consoles. 

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Verdict

Whether you’ll enjoy Animal Crossing: New Horizons or not will depend on the type of gamer you are. If you’re a ‘trophy hunter’, it’ll be just up your alley, with the Nook Miles system pushing you to complete daily and overall quests. 

The cutesy characters bring a lovely whimsy to the world of making and paying off debt while you work yourself up to owning all the cool stuff you want to own. You’ll make friends, find treasures and build a community on your very own island — something we’ve all dreamt of doing at some point. 

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Deputy Editor at Stuff. Never mind the fancy title, I like writing about things that are cool. Like games, gadgets and sometimes even software. Depending on how cool it is.

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