Developer: DeNA & Nintendo EPD
Platform: iOS & Android
Review Version: Android Version 1.0.2
Release Date: 25th of October, 2017 (AU) & 21st of November, 2017 (Worldwide)
Calling all Animal Crossing lovers, the Pocket Camp campsite, is open for business and available in the palm of your hand.
Once upon a time last year, Miitomo was the sole mobile application Nintendo had on the market. Fast forward a couple of months and it was revealed that both a mobile Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing game were also in the works, but for the whole of 2016, nothing would be said about them, until both games were finally unveiled at last. For Fire Emblem Heroes, it was a Nintendo Direct dedicated to the upcoming Fire Emblem games in 2017 and 2018, back in February. The mobile application Animal Crossing game on the other hand would be the sole focus piece of an entire Nintendo Direct that broadcast last month and we didn’t just get a name, because we got a whole lot more.
Nintendo had finally unveiled Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp to the world and while some series fans weren’t particularly happy with it, as they want an Animal Crossing game on Switch, reactions to the game was pretty positive. It didn’t just look like a mobile game with the graphics and flair of an Animal Crossing game, but going by the Direct, it looked like a proper mobile incarnation that anyone willing to give it a go, could actually love, but now that it is actually in our hands and free to play, does it hold up? Does Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp deserve to call itself an Animal Crossing game? The answer, of course, is yes!
If there were any doubts about how a mobile game would work, we can put them in a box and toss that box into the nearest ocean because Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp works perfectly, but then, why wouldn’t it? As a series that has a history of being on handheld consoles such as the 3DS, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp actually feels right at home on a small mobile phone like my Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, but for the players who want a bigger screen to see all the action, all at once, then a tablet is the best way to go as playing on an iPad 2 is a complete different experience, but because I haven’t asked or answered, just what is Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, besides being a mobile instalment?
Well, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is a free-to-play social simulation game relies heavily on touch screen controls such as swiping, scrolling, taping and dragging that sees players thrown into the shoes of being the newly appointed manager of a campsite by Animal Crossing’s very own Isabelle. This isn’t the first time such an important role was thrust upon players near the beginning of an Animal Crossing game, as players are made town Mayor in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, so it’s nothing new per se, but all throughout Pocket Camp, it is clear it takes inspiration from a few of the more recent games as it shares a similar focus to Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer and the updated version of New Leaf entitled Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Welcome amiibo thanks to a campervan/motorhome aspect of the game, and I’m okay with that as both games were good in their own right, even without the whole Welcome amiibo update.
So after creating your own character and becoming Camp Manager, it is made clear to you that it is down to you to invite Animals back to your camp, make friends with them, build your relationships and even craft furniture that you either like the look of, or your new animal friends can’t get enough of and if it all sounds simple when put exactly the way I put it, it’s because it is. In typical Animal Crossing fashion, almost everything that there is to do is simple to learn, simple to do and extremely compelling, which means just because you logged on to play it for a couple of minutes to collect a log-in bonus or see what news has been posted in the notifications such as an announcement of a Christmas event, the couple of minutes can easily turn into a half hour.
The biggest gripe I do have with the app though, is its linear nature. Unlike other Animal Crossing games where you can be rewarded for doing things like preserving your town by keeping it clean and orderly, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp almost completely disregards that in favour of compelling you to grind collecting materials from all areas the map has to offer, completing requests for the animals you encounter and crafting furniture, just so that you can level up, gain access to new items and do it all, all over again. I know that’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world for an Animal Crossing: mobile game, but whereas before things like collecting and interacting are done because you want to do them and can benefit from them, now it’s quite literally required you do it as often as you can, just so that you can advance faster. It also sees things like the pastimes of fishing turned into a crucial thing to do, just so you can catch a fish to do, which by the way is one of the most active things you can do with Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and then hand the fish over to whichever of your animal friends desire it.
Then again, whether or not you are forced to advance to get the full experience out of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, again it’s not the worst thing in the world, as it just means this fully fleshed 3D Animal Crossing game for mobile devices, wants you to keep coming back to it and keep playing and since it is a game of a few features, I suppose it would only be fitting to talk about some of them. First up, crafting. Crafting is done using the items you have either collected yourself, been given as rewards for completing tasks, or you’ve happened to purchase using Platinum Points because you’ve synced the game to your My Nintendo account, which just so happens to help save your save data, or brought in game, but we’ll get to that other means later.
Depending on what you wish to create, can require a different amount/set of materials and a varying amount of Bells, but as long as you want it and you feel would tie in nicely with the camp of your own creation, than that is exactly what you should do, but don’t go forgetting those amenities now will you? Building them always results in an also unveiling party that all your animal friends will attend and lets you bond with them all even more so and if that’s not enough customisation and friends action, don’t worry as there is a lot more of that. Not only can you design your perfect camp, but with plenty of different clothing options for your avatar and various designs for your campervan on both the outside and inside, you truly can make the little Pocket Camp, you’re very own personal Pocket camp that can then be shared with others in the form of making friends with other players and then visiting each other’s campsites.
You don’t have to visit them if you don’t want to, but it’s always good to see how the other half lives and give them kudos as the act of doing so could very well be all it takes for you to complete a certain Timed or Stretch goal and earn yourself a reward that could be more materials, more Bells or the elusive Leaf Tickets that are very hard to come by. Why? Well, although Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is a free-to-start mobile app, it does of course feature in-app purchases and Leaf Tickets are exactly what real world money buys you and since they can be used to for a range of things, like speeding up crafting, although they are handy if you wish to grind quickly, they are not that necessary. (Just because you can spend money, it doesn’t mean you have to as Pocket Camp can be played as an entirely free game.)
If you do wish to spend money for Leaf Tickets though, there are a great number of things you can buy like Request Tickets, which can be used to buy additional requests that greatly increase how much you can build your relationship with one of your favourite animals like Goldie. You can buy Throw Nets that allow you to catch multiple fish at once. Then there’s Honey for catching multiple bugs and even fertilizer that allows you to regrow fruit on trees immediately, so Leaf Tickets do have their uses, but only need to be used if you desire to do so and they can be earned in-game, but buying them is quicker.
Back to the friends thing though, although there is not much in the way of connecting with other players, as even adding them can be a bit of a task, there is a supported feature where players can store items they don’t need in a Market Box, which other players, aka your friends, can then access and purchase the items they need, so if you’re the seller, get ready to benefit. But if you don’t care about any of that and solely care about knowing if Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp actually sounds like how an Animal Crossing game should, then rest easy, because the soundtrack is very Animal Crossing, so if you have yet to play, there are plenty of soothing and instrumental tunes that will charm and delight you, which in itself is Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp in a nutshell.
Sure, it might have nowhere near as much content as previous games have had to offer, or be as large as them, but as a mobile game, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is something its developers can continuously support via updates and in-game events for as long as they desire to do so. Besides you never know, more features and locations could be added via version updates in the future, as Miitomo, Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes have all beniffted in such a manner since they released, so Animal Crossing should be no exption. But if you have put of getting it out of fear this game will win you over, then let me tell you know that Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp broke my sister. She’snot the best game in the world as she feels every game should be like the Mass Effect trioloy, or just have Commander Jane Shepard in them, but the second she started playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, she was hooked and has been able to stop playing ever since, so if it can win her over, it can do the same with you, just as long as you give it the opportunity.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan of the series, or new to Animal Crossing altogether, the fact of the matter is, albeit Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp can be a little too linear, it is still is a true Animal Crossing title. It has the charm we know and love it for, an openness and subtle addictive nature that it makes it easy to keep in going back to it and most importantly, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is another beautifully made mobile title that does a great job of encompassing one of Nintendo’s best-selling IP’s and puts it into the hands of players, who would normally turn their nose up at it, purely because they don’t play Nintendo games in general and because like any of Nintendo’s other mobile offerings, it is free to start and unlike Super Mario Run, you won’t have to buy the whole game, because you get that just by downloading the app.
THE VERDICT: 8/10
This post was written by Solid Jack