To a Nintendo fan, few games cast as large a shadow over their free time as Animal Crossing. The series is famed as an all-encompassing, life absorbing experience which, since 2002 and across multiple iterations, has stolen thousands of hours of our collective lives to fishing, bug catching and general niceties with our animal neighbours. Previously, and perhaps mercifully, Animal Crossing has remained a mainstay exclusively on Nintendo platforms. Soon however Animal Crossing will break free from these shackles and join the likes of Mario, Pokémon and Fire Emblem on mobile platforms.
During a dedicated Nintendo Direct, Animal Crossing Pocket Camp was announced with a tantalising late November release-date. A free to play game, Pocket Camp allows players many of the same freedoms the Animal Crossing series is known for, but brings its own unique twists on the formula. Instead of moving into a new town and becoming mayor as with more traditional Animal Crossing games, this time the player arrives at a campsite and in classic animal crossing style, has the job of campsite manager promptly thrust upon them.
Thanks to an early release in Australia and a prompt, shameless 10+ hours of early access gaming on my own part, it is clear that Animal Crossing has transitioned seamlessly to mobile. Movement takes a point and click style which allows for an intuitive control scheme for shaking trees for fruit, casting out your fishing rod and catching bugs. Upon starting you have a fairly empty campsite and a small camper van: both allow for furniture to be placed to customise. However, it is the campsite where much of your focus will be placed, with an additional seven areas which you can fast travel between in your camper van to source items, talk to visiting animals or spend your hard-earned bells.
As with many mobile games, Pocket Camp includes a rewarding and addictive loop. When talking to animals across the various small regions they will often ask for specific items including bugs, fish, fruit and shells. If you can track these items down and give them to the animal you will get an instant reward of bells (the well-established animal crossing currency) alongside some crafting items such as wood, cotton and steel – one of the new central aspects of the game.
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp then while undoubtedly being simplified relative to the mainline games, also brings many novel ideas to the franchise which combine to form a surprisingly deep mobile experience
Completing these tasks will also allow you to raise your friendship level with each villager. After completing a few tasks for each animal, your friendship will be high enough for you to invite them to visit your campsite, though many animals will not visit unless you have furniture they want in the campsite. I’m sure we’ve all been there, right guys? Once you have invited them, they will remain at your campsite unless asked to leave meaning you can choose your eight favourites of the 40+ animals in the game to have at your campsite.
Upon each successful raising of a friendship level with an animal, you also gain experience towards an overall level for your player. As this raises you unlock additional furniture in your catalogue alongside item slots and Leaf tickets. Leaf tickets serve as the concession to the free to play model within the game and provide the source of income from the game for Nintendo. These tickets allow you to speed up the construction of furniture you have ordered which generally takes anywhere from two minutes to six hours. Leaf tickets also allow you to play a rock smashing mini-game which can boost your bell-count. Pocket Camp however plays perfectly without ever spending any money and given that Animal Crossing has always followed a real day time structure, waiting a few hours is nothing new to the series.
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp then while undoubtedly being simplified relative to the mainline games, also brings many novel ideas to the franchise which combine to form a surprisingly deep mobile experience. Future updates will certainly be implemented to further extend the lifespan of the game post-release but as it stands, Pocket Camp is a hugely charming experience which is well worth attention come late November.