Say Hello To Your New Addiction
I’m typing this review with one hand, the other firmly holding my phone to my face and making sure Apollo (my new best eagle friend) has everything he wants.
Only kidding, but you wouldn’t blame me if I was, would you?
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released by Nintendo and DeNa on November 21st, and boy has it already started to take over everyone’s lives. Pocket Camp plays very much like previous Animal Crossing games but, like any pocket, is a bit more restrictive. Nonetheless, even with a smaller ‘town’ (which is in actual fact, a campsite) and a tighter selection of furry friends for you to interact with, it doesn’t make the game any less enjoyable.
You start off with the regular introductions: Isabelle takes your name and basically force-feeds you all the information you need to get started. You get to pick what kind of ‘theme’ you’re going for with your campsite (I picked ‘cool’ because, reasons), learn some basics about furniture and various activities and, then, away you go! The world of Pocket Camp is very much your oyster and it’s up to you what you want to do in it.
So Many Choices, So Little Time…
If you’re worried that fishing and bug-hunting are, gone then fret not. Not only are they still in Pocket Camp, but they are still just as fun. In fact, Pocket Camp makes it so beginner-friendly that locations are now broken up into little sections that have brief descriptions of both the camper visiting and what you can collect from there.
It allows the player to decide what they want to do, rather than just blindly following objective after objective and hoping for the best. For example, you want to go fishing to grab that olive flounder? Then Saltwater Shores or Lost Lure Creek is the place for you. After some lovely peaches to give to Filbert so he’ll finally come visit? Hollow Breeze is where it’s at. Need some fruit beetles and various other creepy-crawlies in your life? Sunburst Island is going to be where you want to go.
But it’s not just those locations that are added to this wonderful, little game. There’s also OK Motors, Shovelstrike Quarry and the Marketplace – all of them unique in what activities they offer for the player to do. At the Marketplace, you can buy new clothes (from familiar faces, the Able sisters) which often change each time you visit, so make sure to grab what you can! You can also find Isabelle there, who can help with any issues you may not understand by using the Beginner’s Guide when talking to her – a simple enough feature that I found did answer a lot of my questions to the point I actually didn’t have to go on Google to search for it.
When you get tired of the Marketplace, there is, of course, OK Motors to go visit. Like the Marketplace, this wasn’t originally included in the previous Animal Crossing games, but it’s full of fun things to do regardless. One of my favourite things was customizing my van with my favourite colours and patterns, and sure you get a loan, but you can pay that off whenever you want, and after you pay, guess what?
You can make your van BIGGER! If that isn’t the darndest, coolest thing then I don’t know what is.
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t mention Shovelstrike Quarry… Well, I’ll be addressing that particular problem later on. For now, let’s talk customization.
Pocket Camp Sure Likes Making You Feel Cosy
Customization has always been a huge part of Animal Crossing, and Pocket Camp is no exception to this. What you see above is just one of the many variants that you can do to your van, because as I’ve said previously, the choice is entirely yours. Similar to your house back in previous games, you can customize and put whatever you’d like into your van. That includes a bed, bookcase or my personal favourite – a picture of my best friend, Apollo.
At OK Motors you can also customize the overall look of the van, yes, and different patterns like I’ve said, yes. But there is also the option to earn more ‘premium’ looks, which can get costly. That said, it’s a goal for me and I personally can’t wait to deck my van out in black and red plaid. If you’re a fan of getting all those goodies and going the extra mile, you’re going to love this customization option in particular.
Of course, your van isn’t the only thing you can customize. You’re the owner of this campsite, and it’s up to you to make your mark on it! You’re given a standard tent by Isabelle the moment you arrive, but there is an option to upgrade your tent to something a bit more snazzy-looking. What’s even better is that, depending on how many of your furry (or feathery) friends you’ve got there, upgrading your tent also helps with your friendship level too! You win either way, and it’s always entertaining to upgrade and get all those sweet rewards.
You also get the option of crafting (by obtaining materials from your friends) your own furniture, which depending on the theme, gets certain critters to come visit your site. While that itself is a bonus, there’s something great about customizing everything to your liking and making this virtual campsite truly yours.
Is Your Name Pocket Camp? Because I’m…Not Feeling A Connection At All
If you’ve been playing as religiously as I have, then you’re sure to have noticed a few issues when it comes to Pocket Camp’s servers. Those issues being that there’s hardly any connection to said servers at all. Granted this has happened to me only a few times, and yes, Nintendo has said they are looking into it. Nonetheless, where does that leave fans?
Nowhere, by the looks of it. There are no amount of words that can describe how frustrating it is when you’re simply moving around the map, minding your own business, just to disconnect from the server. When I did disconnect I found that I did so during the times when I was visiting friends.
Speaking of friends…
Multiplayer Has the Potential To Be Something Great
When I heard there was going to be multiplayer for Pocket Camp I’m pretty sure I punched the air. So, I can safely say that my expectations of the feature were always going to be high.
So you can see why I was disappointed.
Now, there is nothing wrong with the multiplayer per se. In fact, when the servers aren’t crashing, it runs wonderfully, and it’s a great way to find certain items on the fly so I can improve my relationships with my fellow campers. So it’s useful, it’s fine, everything is fine.
Apart from that, it’s not interactive enough for me to truly enjoy it. I can’t help but think that perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself and not giving Pocket Camp it’s full due, but I feel like it is missing out on a tremendous opportunity to implement more multiplayer features that actually feel fun.
While it’s nice to visit people’s campsites and give them all the kudos they deserve for their hard work, I wish there was a way we could play some mini-games with them. Or even just a mailbox feature that actually allows you to send messages! Something that enables a form of communication that actually makes it feel like multiplayer, because right now? It feels like I’m only talking to a robot of my friends and it’s kind of sad.
W-Wait Are Those…Microtransactions?!
Yes, the dreaded word: microtransactions. And before everyone starts yelling for my head, these aren’t as bad as they may appear. I, for example, have not felt the urge to buy them nor do I feel the need to buy them due to the various goals you’re given that can help you earn them in the first place. And, unlike certain games out there, there’s no real need to get them as depending on your own management, you can progress through Pocket Camp just fine without them.
However, there are some pesky moments where I had to go ‘really?’ when it came to these microtransactions. Like I said, I didn’t feel the urge to get them. However, I’m not too fond of shelling them out whenever I want to go to a certain mine that I said I’d talk about previously.
Look, it’s not that my friends don’t help me out in trying to get to Shovelstrike Quarry, but by the time I’ve had enough people help me out the mine has reset and I’ve got to do the whole thing all over again. It’s not fun, and I don’t think spending twenty leaf tickets just to hit some rocks (and hope you get some good stones) to be a good pay-off for all my trouble.
I’m also not fond of having to shell them out to be able to craft special furniture in order to get certain characters like K.K and Tom Nook at my campsite. I understand the urge to do it, to pick at the fans nostalgia for these characters in hope to get a few bits of money in. But to be frank, I find it just that little bit unnecessary, especially when K.K and Tom Nook are only there for a limited amount of time – meaning that you’ll either have to try your best to earn as many leaf tickets as you can or put your hand into your wallet.
So, Should You Pitch Up Your Tent Or Leave While You Can?
While there are a few problems I take issue with, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is an exciting adventure to have for anyone to have on their phones, and not just for Animal Crossing fans. It’s a fantastic introduction for first-time players to become involved in a series that’s well-loved, charming in its design and a friendship system that’s friendly and inviting. You don’t feel as though it’s a drag to play and that you’re getting something from doing all the activities you do.
And to achieve all that just on a mobile platform? That’s something to be applauded. Celebrated even, and I can only hope that many other mobile games take a look at Nintendo’s success in this game and see what they can take from it and use it to evolve their own work.
Available on: Android (Reviewed), iOS; Publisher: Nintendo; Developer: Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development; Players: 1; Released: 21st November 2017; ESRB: E+; MRSP: Free-To-Play
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp obtained from the Google Play Store.