Nintendo dedicated its October 24th Nintendo Direct to showcasing the newest Animal Crossing game, Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. This is another of Nintendo’s forays into the mobile app market, following Miitomo and Super Mario Run. Pocket Camp is technically slated to release later this month but thanks to the people at Kotaku, I got access to an early version of the game currently available only in Australia.
It genuinely looks like an Animal Crossing game. All of the cute villagers from previous entries reprise their roles, and there’s even a few new ones to introduce yourself to. This time around, however, they’re not villagers but instead campers. You take on the task of developing a campground rather than a town, living out of an RV in the meantime. It’s a nice change of pace for the series, taking another step from New Leaf providing players the ability to customize their communities. You travel your world performing tasks for other villagers and collect resources like wood, cotton, and steel. This is another way in which Pocket Camp diverges from other Animal Crossing games. Bells are more of a secondary currency, with resources acting as the primary ingredient in purchasing furniture. Certain villagers will only travel to your camp once you craft their specifically desired accoutrements, so you’ll have to work if you want to make your camp area popular. The Nooks and the Ables return as well, setting up their own mobile shops, and now, you can also visit the blackbirds over at OK Motors, who will help customize your campervan for a fee, of course.
Nintendo wisely designed this game around the constraints of the smartphone. You now have a much larger inventory, to compensate for all of the collectibles and items you’ll pick up. When you want to craft a guitar or a new tent, you call up Cyrus and order whatever you can afford, conveniently delivered right to you! There wasn’t the great variety of items available that have been present in the other Animal Crossing games, but considering this is a pre-release build, I’ll let Nintendo off the hook. One thing I liked in particular were the new visual indicators added when attempting to catch fish or insects. Because smartphones are often put into silent mode, having more clear signs of when to pounce is a nice feature. Also included is a robust Goals system, similar to the CAT Machine mechanic in New Leaf. Completing various tasks throughout the day will net you all kinds of goodies. There’s hundreds of preset goals and timed ones reset daily, so you’re always incentivized to return.
The fact that this is a smartphone game is both a good and bad thing. Crafting small pieces of furniture can take only a minute or two, but larger items will have you sometimes waiting over twelve hours before you can get that new TV set. Nintendo allows you to circumvent the waiting time with Leaf Tickets. You can collect this currency by playing the game, or you can purchase tickets with real-world money. What is it with mobile games delaying you from making progress behind a paywall? I’m not really a fan of this freemium model but at least here it isn’t being shoved into your face all the time. Purely having it in the background as an option is nice.
There’s always a social element to Animal Crossing games, and Pocket Camp gains more traction out of its system than previous games have. Along with villagers, you can add real world friends to your contacts. You can visit your friends’ camps and get ideas for your campground or RV, or barter and exchange items. It’s easy to quickly add friends without having to exchange a player ID and you are able to contact them at any time. Friends are helpful in getting what you want in Pocket Camp, but isn’t it also nice to be an amicable person?
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp may not be coming out until later this month, but if you’re a fan of the series, this game is a fun pick-up-and-go kind of experience, easy to start and return to as needed. Tutorials will pop up for new users, which is helpful for first time players, but annoying for veterans. The Animal Crossing games have legitimately been among my favorites, and over time, Pocket Camp might be included among them.