A new Animal Crossing: first steps

Being one of the many previous players of Animal Crossing games, it’s been a distracting autumn following the rumours, news, and then releases of the new iteration: Animal Crossing Pocket Camp (ACPC). I’ve been playing it on my Amazon Tablet – a decent sized screen – every day since the non-Australian launch nearly a week ago and, with one significant caveat, have hugely enjoyed it. Initially there were high hopes of carefully proceeding, making academic-quality notes along the way through a diligent exploration of all aspects of the environment. However, this went out of the window within about 30 seconds as I was enticed, with glee, to metaphorically run around the world and remember a place that was – is – new and yet so reassuringly familiar.

It looks like Animal Crossing. The colours are vivid and bright. The sounds are familiar from previous games. Run across different surfaces – sand, wooden boards, autumn leaves, and they change. And footsteps are sometimes left behind, quickly fading away. The background music is pleasant, and it’s one of the few games where there isn’t a rapid urge to find the menu option to mute this quickly and permanently.

And, so far, many of the characters are familiar from previous iterations. The grumpy eagle. The administrator who is really the boss in disguise through the games. The sisters who makes and sell clothing. One of the Nook family, the most explicitly capitalist aspect of this (for Animal Crossing and Nintendo) financially and ethically complicated game; but more of that in a future post.

And the relentless positive aspects. It’s true, the animals are sometimes grumpy, or in a mood, or a strop, about something. But “they” are usually genuinely happy when you drop by, want to listen to what they say (it’s a good franchise for teaching people that listening can be both polite and rewarding in some way), and especially when you give them something they want, even if it is usually a fruit, fish or butterfly the could have easily obtained themselves. It’s that last aspect that forms part of the central progression mechanic of the game, but again more of that some future time. For now, it’s just good to enjoy something that is, well, far more enjoyable than certain aspects of social media.

The significant caveat? The overall aesthetic is jarred somewhat by small but garish rolling rectangular banner, advertising guides to get you started and ways of paying money to get shortcut items (“Special Offer!”). It disappears when you move, but when you stop for a few seconds it reappears. I loathe the constant background distraction that is this banner. While it’s understood that this is a freemium game, and in some ways is a belated experiment by Nintendo to see if or how it can recoup investment on such a free-to-play game, this banner feels very un-Nintendo like. The game contains other paths for the company to extract (real) money from players, making this an arguable over-reach.

But for now I’m just ignoring that banner as best I can and playing on, while enjoying a few of the better social media asides and putting a few screenshots on Flickr for anyone to view or use. This looks like being my winter game of choice, unless I reach a point where it is too difficult to progress without paying (real) money, in which case I’ll bail. We will see.