Animal Crossing: New Horizons review: The perfect escape from reality

Nintendo /

Nintendo has another system seller on its hands with Animal Crossing: New Horizons, as it provides a perfect escape from reality for both veterans to the series and newcomers alike.

Title: Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed on)
Release date: March 20, 2020

We can’t go outside. A family of four in a two-bedroom apartment is stuck inside for weeks on end just like numerous families and individuals across the world as COVID-19 continues to spread. It isn’t until you’re stuck inside with a tiny balcony as your only outdoor reprieve that you realize just how great playgrounds are when you have two boys under the age of 10. And then Animal Crossing: New Horizons released.

It provided a taste of the outdoors, a playground to get lost in, and a routine when our daily routines are in upheaval. If you’re an Animal Crossing fan already, this review isn’t necessarily for you, since Animal Crossing: New Horizons is more of what you already know and love, but with a couple of new features. But if you’re on the fence and have never played an Animal Crossing game, this might prove helpful. That’s especially true if you don’t even play video games but have heard about Animal Crossing: New Horizons and you’re considering buying a Switch for it to pass the time (assuming you can find one).

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you make your home on an island getaway, where the Nook family sets you up with a tent and the beginning of an addictive gameplay loop. You make your way around the island, collecting twigs to create axes, nets, fishing rods and more harvesting tools to further collect more materials, fish and butterflies. There are progression gates in place, tasks you need to do in order to open up more options for your island life. Donate a certain amount of fossils and bugs and you’ll get a museum on your island.  Donate enough wood and iron and your island will get a store.

All of this is done to eventually move up in status. Your little tent didn’t come with no strings attached. Sticking with the theme of island getaway, you owe 5,000 Nook Miles to pay off your trip. Doing so will unlock a small house for you to live in instead of a tent. Pay that off with Bells (which you get from selling items to the Nook shop or by planting a money tree) and you’ll get a bigger house. This is the addictive loop. You keep with the same actions — harvesting, collecting, building, selling, donating — and it brings rewards, like new villagers, items, bridges and ladders to unlock more parts of the island, and more.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons E3_screen_03 - Nintendo Switch
Nintendo /

You don’t stop earning Nook Miles either. Nook Miles are earned for doing things that you’re doing as part of your gameplay loop. They’re rewarded for milestones, like catching a certain number of fish, but you also get that as a part of daily quests that reward Nook Miles. These actions are smaller in nature, like sell 20 weeds. When you do so you’ll get 150 Nook Miles, and that sell 20 weeds quest is instantly replaced with something new to do. With the Nook Miles, you can purchase new crafting recipes, hairstyles, and tickets to visit pre-generated islands that you can harvest resources at.

When it comes to multiplayer, it both shines and frustrates at the same time. Online play is where you can trade with other players by visiting their islands and seeing what they offer. To do so you need their Dodo Code, which you can get directly from your friends or by searching Reddit and Twitter for them. It’s frustrating that there’s no easier way to matchmake and visit someone else’s island. Also, islands fill up quite quickly, and each time you need to redo the entire conversation, which gets tedious.

Local play is much simpler. Up to four people can all play locally on one screen, which my wife and kids and I did, until you realize you can only gather and do whatever the leader wants to do. There’s not much to it and we don’t do it quite often. Instead, we all take turns playing by ourselves. Whoever started Animal Crossing: New Horizons first is the island representative and will be the de facto leader. Everyone’s profile on your Switch will then be residents on your island. They DO NOT get their own islands, so that means you all share resources. So when my 7-year-old eats fruit and then mines a rock to get stone and iron, but destroys the rock node, that’s one less source of stone for all of us.

While that can be frustrating for progression at first, it made us all communicate and come up with strategies. We now do our harvesting and drop off items needed in front of one of our cabins so that person can do the crafting. We did this as we worked together to build furniture so that new residents would inhabit our island, which requires fully furnished homes. Nook Miles were also a godsend here. Since we don’t do much trading online and visit other people’s islands, we are constantly completing Nook+ Miles tasks (those daily quests I mentioned) to earn more Nook Miles to visit those pre-generated islands full of resources. It’s yet another gameplay loop that hooks us in.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons E3_screen_08
Nintendo /

This game offers so much more. There’s a whole bartering system where you buy turnips from a vendor at one price and then try to sell it to the Nook family for a higher price. There are seasonal events. We haven’t even gotten to experience all Animal Crossing: New Horizons has to offer. We haven’t designed our own clothing or terraformed our island.

But that’s the beauty of New Horizons. You can tackle the game at your own pace. You can play all day and try to min-max your experience, or you can play as you want for 30 minutes a day, completing a single loop and calling it a day. There’s no wrong way to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I knew this game was something special when my wife got hooked and has really been the driving force behind our island’s progress. She doesn’t play video games. The only game she really plays is Disney Emoji Blitz on her phone. It’s an escape and time killer for her. The routine disruption in our daily lives has us scrambling to fill time. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has provided a routine for her. The gameplay loop, though simple and repetitive, gives you a sense of purpose and progression. Every action will better your way of life on your island. As I mentioned, it has us all working together and playing the same game, having a blast doing it.

9. While Animal Crossing: New Horizons has some design annoyance, like conversation menus and online play, there’s so much that’s good that it heavily outweighs the bad. With an addictive gameplay loop and the ability to play however you want, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a system seller — a great game for veterans of the series, newcomers, gamers and non-gamers. And one that the whole family can enjoy.. Nintendo. . Nintendo

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.