Animal Crossing New Horizons Review — All Creatures, Except You, Are Critters Here

A character dealing with adversity

Life on a deserted island turned out to be completely different from what I expected. At first, I shook a fruit tree and a portable toilet (unused, in packaging) fell on me along with the oranges. Then I was bitten by a tarantula. I managed to catch the next tarantula with a net. In the surroundings of my tent, I have a folding bed, a pot with some strange plant, two cardboard boxes, a kerosene lamp, and a Nintendo Switch. It’s good that there is mobile internet reception and mail service. My mom sent me a letter with the words “daughter, I wish you good luck in your new place, don’t deny yourself anything,” and three tiny cherries were attached to the letter. It’s a good thing I didn’t eat them right away: I soon realized that I could dig a hole in the ground and plant the cherries there. Now, in addition to orange trees, there are also cherry trees here. Coconuts and bamboo have been obtained from other islands.

Enjoying a peaceful in-game life

…at night there is an amazing starry sky here, you can set up a bonfire on the sandy shore, lie on a makeshift log lounger and admire. You can step away, sit on the pier and fish in the viscous blue tidal waves. You can chat with the neighbors on the island (it’s not that uninhabited, well… rather moderately inhabited?), you can climb the highest cliffs and watch the moon from there. You can have a conversation with a friendly local ghost; furnish your little house, which will appear sooner or later instead of a small tent; search for treasures and dinosaur remains. You can do a lot. There is no need to rush, run somewhere, fight with someone, worry about something.

It seems like I’m in paradise.

A serene in-game environment

The Animal Crossing series has long been beloved by players from all over the world, but New Horizons has broken all records.

Many jokes, by the way, were made about the fact that AC: NH and Doom Eternal were released on the same day – well, AC has outsold Doom in many countries! Without counting digital copies, though, it’s difficult to include them in the statistics, but such a result is impressive.

This game could not have come out at a more suitable time. “We want adrenaline,” players used to say. Now we gloomily look out onto the street, where there are sirens, snow, rain of frogs mixed with locusts and quotes from Orwell, and think, “to hell with all this, I want at least an hour of peace a day.” And Animal Crossing gives us that peace – so necessary for everyone right now.

Relaxing in a tranquil setting

What exactly is the gameplay process? It starts, like any fantasy that is not available in the real world: our hero flies to a tropical island…

Sorry. Let’s start over.

The hero – or heroine, you can choose the name and appearance yourself – gets the opportunity to go to a small uninhabited island. One of many, actually, there seems to be a whole archipelago there. With him – or her – goes a raccoon named Tom Nook (sounds like “tanuki”, right?), responsible for construction and logistics, his assistants Timmy and Tommy, and two randomly selected “fellow party members”, um, I mean neighbors. We are provided with a tent and a sleeping bag, plus tools: a shovel, fishing rod, axe, they are not very reliable, but you can quickly make replacements. The island is warm, there are no deadly predators, no need to search for food every hour and seek shelter from a hurricane every two days…

Taking in the in-game beauty of nature

What can you do? Anything you want. Explore the island. Catch fish, beetles, mollusks. Collect materials – stones, wood. Make something interesting out of everything collected on the crafting bench. Climb a tree for oranges and discover dangerous wasps there. Run away from wasps, get stung by wasps, swell up like a nightmare, realize that medicine is made from wasp nests and recover. Find a bottle with a mysterious message on the shore…

Million, million possibilities.

Tom Nook will help and give hints as much as he can, but you will mostly have to work on your own. Over time, you will have a shop, a museum, a Town Hall, and visiting merchants – and someone among them may decide to stay here and open a branch of their business. An airport will open (tiny… with one seaplane) – for flights to neighboring islands. Life will go on.

Creating a personalized island paradise

Most other “life on the farm” or “life in a small town” simulators, similar in genre to AC, though immersing us in the enticing life of a gardener with a barn full of slugs, and a magical hundred-story mine in the backyard (Stardew Valley) or a post-apocalyptic crafter (My Time At Portia), still differ slightly. Mainly in that they make us hurry in one way or another. Plan. Time in these games goes by faster, minutes are counted as seconds, hours as minutes, at two in the morning the hero falls face-first into a nettle and falls asleep, only to wake up at seven (six? eight?) in the morning the next day on their own porch. If lucky – with all the money in their pockets, if unlucky – slightly poorer. It is necessary to carefully calculate the time and make a schedule in a notebook. Many tasks are also limited by a timer: if not completed in a couple of days – that’s it, missed the opportunity, too late to have a drink of mineral water.

Celebrating friendship and fun

In AC time runs parallel to real time. If you log into the game at seventeen thirty-eight, it will be seventeen thirty-eight, not a minute later. There’s no need to rush. All the buildings on your little island also progress in real time – for example, it takes at least four days to establish a museum. While you bring Tom Nook interesting fish and bugs, while he calls his friend – a biologist and archaeologist, while this friend arrives on the island and decides to start the museum… I’m currently waiting for the Town Hall to be built – today everything is closed, it won’t open until tomorrow, and the Nook Miles exchange terminal cannot be used temporarily.

No worries. We’re not in a hurry, right? For now, I’ve crafted a bench-swing and rearranged the seats around the campfire in a fancy way. I thought about it and rearranged them again.

It’s almost zen. A special kind of zen with animals and fishing.

Animals, yes. Actually, why Animal Crossing – all the creatures here, except for you, are animals: bears, horses, birds, raccoons. There are many of them, over three hundred different ones, each with their own name, story, and personality. You can invite them to your island, befriend them, communicate with them, and spoil them with gifts. They reciprocate: with crafting recipes, items (for some reason, I often get power line poles, no idea what that trend is about). Other players, if you’re interested in multiplayer, are humans. Again, social distancing in the game is not mandatory, so people are already organizing mass parties in AC, dancing at discos, and exchanging gifts. There’s even a built-in photo studio with lots of options!

Enjoying a playful in-game moment

The game rewards you simply for playing. The Nook Miles system gives you miles for practically everything – even for getting stung by wasps, even for breaking a certain number of tools. (You can’t avoid breaking tools completely, as they are quite fragile at first, but later you can craft more reliable shovels and fishing rods.) There are tasks, familiar to MMO players under the code name “dailies” – to perform a certain number of specific actions per day. There are larger “quests” that you will have to work on. There are a lot of them. It’s practically impossible to get bored.

A serene evening on the island

In the end, you can always go fishing or collect seashells… or build a replica of Stonehenge in your neighbor’s yard! I’m not joking, I have a spare one lying around. The good thing is that they give us the entire island to take care of, so we can arrange our own yard, our friend’s yard, and basically all the space as we please. Right now, I’m setting up flower beds everywhere. And I’m decorating the area with bamboo groves. I hope the bamboo takes root. And that’s just on the outside; inside! Yes, instead of a small cozy tent, they quickly give us an equally cozy house, and it can and should be furnished. There’s plenty of furniture, and it seems like I haven’t even seen one-tenth of it yet. And practically everything can be repainted, adjusted, rearranged… Hooray!

Nightfall on a peaceful island

The house, indeed, is given on credit, and this debt must be repaid; here it is, sudden realism! But there is no sword of Damocles of a mortgage or the need to pay interest on time hanging over us, like in, for example, Recettear. The first sum accumulates quite quickly, even if you just collect seashells on the beach and sell them at the store. And then you can expand the house and the warehouse! And move the dwelling to another place – both your own and someone else’s, and reshape the island in every way, building gentle hills where you need to climb rocks with the help of a ladder. And… how can I manage to build another bridge? A second bridge is very much needed.

Navigating the island at dusk

The game is very beautiful and atmospheric. All these small details: leaves trembling in the pouring rain, umbrellas made of burdock (after all, you can’t walk with an ordinary umbrella on a tropical island, can you?), insects startled by your footsteps, buzzing loudly as they take off from the grass, the rhythmic sound of waves, the splash of playful fish in the pond, melodies of an old radio slightly interrupted by static noise. Wonderful music. Funny bubbling and purring sounds of animal speech that don’t resemble human words at all. And the animals themselves – they fish, chase beetles, warm themselves by the fire, chat with each other. They live their own lives.

I have barely touched the world of Animal Crossing New Horizons. I haven’t discovered many secrets, haven’t collected all the interesting residents: I want to have some cats or dogs, but for some reason, a pink alligator moved to my island. Now the April event has started, a yellow bunny is hopping around the island, you can collect Easter eggs and, of course, make various things out of them. Have you ever tried crafting a fence out of eggs? Or a couch?.. I also met a mysterious camel trader who sells “a pig in a poke” – wallpapers, floors, and carpets that you don’t know how they look until you buy them… There is so much more here, so much happiness on this uninhabited… well, already inhabited warm and sunny island. As Sniff from “Moomins” used to say – “I love little adventures, just the right size”. And here they are – little adventures, just the right size. For little animals.

Animal Crossing screenshot

Island of tranquility. The very island that is so necessary for all of us.

P.S. Psst! Excuse me, sir. Are there any honest raccoons, badgers, humans, or other bipeds on the island in the Southern Hemisphere? I really need to go fishing there. They say you have sharks! Pretty please?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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