By Dean Moses
Game: Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Rating: E for Everyone
For many, videogames are a form of relaxation, a way to de-stress and slowly sink into another world. Some like to blast alien invaders, others enjoy solving a deep and riveting mystery, others still race at break-neck speeds around twisting tracks. And then there are those who just yearn to live a tranquil, virtual life with Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of the most anticipated titles to be released on the Nintendo Switch this year, a title that is uniquely based on simply living a life. There are no fights to be had, no monsters to kill, but there are plenty of activities to partake in. The game begins by allowing the player to create an avatar by selecting eyes, a mouth, nose, hairstyles, and other features before then choosing an island layout. You see, the premise is that your whimsical little character has decided to start a new life on a faraway island with two other residents, a pair of randomly generated anthropomorphic animals. Led by entrepreneur Tom Nook, this money hungry racoon will gradually instruct you on the gameplay mechanics, like the ability to pick out where your neighbors will live. Once settled, you will discover that there is no overall narrative aside from the one you make for yourself while carving out your own section of paradise on this animal island.
Follow the Clock
The time and date systems are one of Animal Crossing’s most iconic gameplay features. The game syncs itself with your console’s settings, meaning that the entire experience takes place in real time. So, if you play at 8 am on a Tuesday, it will follow the clock and calendar in game as well. This will alter certain aspects, such as if the island will be lit by the sun or moon, what seasons will be hitting your island, and even what activities, like shopping can be accessed. But no matter the time you play, it will be up to you to decide your actions. When first becoming settled, you will most probably want to build up your island with a store and perhaps a museum. This is done by making tools from collecting twigs and, in turn, using these tools to chop trees, catch fish and bugs, and even dig for treasure. Still, your progress will be painfully slow as constructing buildings or planting trees will take literal days before they are complete.
While frantically running around your island don’t neglect your fellow villagers. Making friends can lead to gift exchanges and plenty of casual moments that will leave you with a smile. Not only that, real friends from around the world can visit your island and vice versa. This allows you to not only hang out and play together, but also afford you the ability to send each other letters and gifts from them to discover at a later date.
Graphically, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has to be one of the cutest looking games on the Switch. The expressions your avatar and animal friends conjure will be hard pressed not to entertain. Watching your island grow from a desolate weed-filed landscape to a bustling town animated with lively enthusiasm, from the water lapping at the shore to the moths fluttering at the lamp lights. It is by no means the best-looking game on the market, yet it could well be the most charming.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons allows players a much-needed respite from the mindless action found in so many other titles these days. While playing for long periods of time may become somewhat dull, you will find a reason to return to your town day after day. There is nothing else quite like this and with the addition of online play, there won’t be for a long time to come.