A while ago, Nintendo put an end to the long wait for all the fans of the Animal Crossing -series. On 20th of March, the new game in the series was finally released on Switch: New Horizons. As a devoted fan, I was thrilled. And here we have it: New Horizons, fresh from the oven.
This real-time social simulation throws the player in the middle of a deserted island with few tips and tools. A cosy little tent, some recipes for making tools and of course, a substantial debt. Travelling to a deserted island is not cheap. From the very start, the core gameplay loop is introduced. Take loan, work hard to pay it off, take a new loan. This simple loop keeps the game rolling and the player hooked. The game does not bother to introduce other game mechanics to the player in detail. Those previously familiar with the series would not be taken aback, for the meat and potatoes familiar to veteran players remain. However, those new to the title might find themselves adrift. Playing with a seasoned friend or reading tips online could help a new player to get started. But after all, Animal Crossing: New Leaf does not have a set win condition, and playing your style is just as right, like any other style.
For me, Animal Crossing games have always been a very atmospheric experience with its slow phased gameplay, changing natural environments and soothing soundscape. And it turns, out that New Horizons is not an exception. What stroke me first upon opening the game were the visuals. The game was pleasing to look at. The vivid colours, soft lighting and smooth textures work together in perfect balance creating a coherent visible world. There’s only one element distracting my personal visual enjoyment of the game: the hands of my character. Why could you not give my character thumbs but cursed them with chubby balls at the end of their arms? I guess you just can’t have it all.
Another game characteristic worth mentioning is the flow of the game. The game itself sets certain limitations on the gameplay progress. This causes the player to adapt to the real-time nature of the game (or changing the time and date on their Switch). Some game features are only available at certain times: shops are not open during the night and turnips can be purchased only on Sunday mornings. These features can feel restricting at times, but for me, it is only part of the charm. New Horizons has taught me (more or less) to just go with the flow and take it easy. On the other hand, I hope I could have more control over who resided on my island, as some characters really do not amuse me with their being.
Overall, New Horizons presents a smooth, and polished visual and aural experience drawing the player into a carefree life on a deserted island. The game offers a vast array of options for customizing your tropical island to your liking, and there are 391 unique villagers alone to choose from! I would heartily recommend New Horizons to anyone enjoying slow phased, open-ended, and customizable gameplay experiences. The game might not excite those who crave for an action-packed thrill, but if you feel like you need a deserted island getaway package: pick up New Horizons.
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: March 20, 2020
Genre: Social simulation
Banner picture: Promo picture from the game
Gameplay pictures: Taken by the author