Let’s talk about all the games that made it onto our list of the best games of the year. Instead of picking just one out of our list of nominees, instead we decided to take all of them, and order them from 10 to 1.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is one of many things to me. Animal Crossing has always been a healthy channel for my anxiety. Up until now, I’ve found that toting a 3DS everywhere is a bit unwieldy, and you get some looks when you’re not in a group of people who already know what the thing is. Phones are inconspicuous. People expect you to have games on your phone. And this is one that’s really worthwhile.
But this isn’t a post about how Animal Crossing helped my anxiety; it’s an opinion on just how right Nintendo got it.
Animal Crossing has always been about the small community you keep in your town. It’s been, for the most part, stationery. You’ve been tethered to a console, handheld or otherwise, and villagers have had a schedule. They sleep at a certain time dependent on their type, and they’ll interact with shops and other buildings in town. You’ve got a certain amount of time to catch certain types of fish and bugs. Stores have hours they’re open.
Pocket Camp has taken the Animal Crossing formula and condensed it. It gives you a small RV camper, expandable up to two rooms. It gives you a campsite to invite villagers to as you choose, and presents different areas potential villagers move in and out of every three hours. Instead of giving you an arbitrary friendship goal of “make friends with this villager and talk to them every day if you want them to stay in your town”, you do favors for them and up your friendship level.
There are some quirks with the system. Animal Crossing has never been a progression-based game. It’s laid-back, casual, and the only real obligation is paying off your initial home loan. However, for most people, there’s something about Animal Crossing that makes you want to keep playing. In part, it’s that casual atmosphere of living in a neat, quiet town and being able to fish all day. Another large component that Nintendo expanded on in New Leaf and Happy Home Designer is that you can style your home any way you want, given the furniture options of the game.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp offers much of the same core components, though. For as long as I’ve been playing, people have been asking for more control over who’s in your town and where they live: your campsite is open on an invite-only basis. You can increase your friendship level with whichever villagers you want and ignore ones you’re only using for resources without fear of them moving away. Your camper is a niche decorative space, and your campsite is a bigger, open room.
Issues With Progression
Despite the fact that Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is, without a doubt, the best mobile game I’ve played, it has some issues. Especially as you get into higher levels, progression slows down dramatically and it gets harder to level up amenities, Pocket Camp’s equivalent of public works projects. All of these builds require resources and time. The simple resources like wood, steel, and cotton aren’t an issue. They’re much easier to come by than essence, which you need 20-30 of to build one amenity. You get a fair amount by completing the stretch goals listed in the game, but after that you get them in quantities of 1-3 from villagers occasionally, after you’ve befriended them to a certain level or when you level that friendship up. Sometimes they’re available as daily rewards, but as a quantity of one.
I’m not saying that anything really needs to be done about this, it’s not a huge issue. It’s more of an inconvenience than anything. However, it’s probably a good idea to balance it out before rolling out another essence type, as shown by a recent datamine.
Another issue is that despite being able to have whatever villagers you want in your campsite, it takes a while to get them all there. Each one needs a specific set of furniture to be built, and some of the build requirements for furniture are a bit absurd. Again, an inconvenience.
Overall, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is incredibly solid. It’s a nice holdout to fill that awkward wait between New Leaf and Animal Crossing for the Switch. On top of releasing the game and keeping true to the Animal Crossing spirit, Nintendo seems to be planning consistent updates with new villagers, new furniture, and new things to do in general. It’s sure to have a longer life for more players than other forays into mobile gaming for Nintendo, or so I hope.