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Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review - Think big

Published: 11:53, 23 March 2020
Nintendo
A shot of my home in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Not all Starfleet officers wear trousers.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a totally immersing, and beautifully timed, island life simulator that places fun and exploration at the forefront of the experience. Expressing your creativity is at the core of every choice, with ample opportunity provided to make this space your own.

It speaks volumes that New Horizon's is having such a widespread impact; a quick glance at your chosen social media feed will reveal a never ending parade of gleeful declarations pitching this latest Animal Crossing as a bright light at an uncertain time. 

On the one hand, it's hardly an evolutionary leap over previous entries, but on the other, it doesn't have to be. The brilliance of Nintendo's latest effort is that an iterative approach was absolutely the right call. This is every bit the series you remember from its GameCube debut, but expanded in scope, with a multiplayer suite that works because it's optional. Burying presents for a friend, or bartering for unique fruit, is more exciting than you think. 

Infact, that's where New Horizon's "drop anything anywhere" and crafting systems coalesce so effectively; you'll always have direction from the infamous Mr. Nook about what to gather and where to go, but you also have complete freedom to be left to your own devices. By tying progression, key events, mail order deliveries, etc... to a daily cycle, there's always a reason to jump back in. 

Each new, real world day brings with it unexpected discoveries and pleasant surprises that make this a game about sharing your story.

Anecdotal recollection is the best way to talk about Animal Crossing, with so many of our own personal best moments occurring because things didn't go according to plan. For example, the second tree we shook upon arriving at our destination contained a wasps nest. Naturally, all hell broke loose and panic took over, and since we were unaware that running inside would save our bacon, a sting was inevitable. 

Consider the gravity of this scenario; we had next to nothing in our pockets, and certainly no recipes to remedy the swelling. Our poor villager put on a brave face, but this was not a strong start to island life. 

Nintendo Chilling in the garden in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Pumpkin and Pomegranate have been immortalised forever.

We bumped into Canberra who, along with our other neighbour Tybalt, were among the first faces we encountered. He immediately took pity, passing along a DIY crafting recipe for medicine, and sent me on my way. Now, this interaction was fairly rudimentary, and didn't reshape the boundaries of what is possible with artificial intelligence, and yet, we haven't stopped thinking about it. 

A random act of kindness, sharing resources, and making sure you're OK; themes that feel more topical than ever. 

Your attachment to your characters, and your island, is forged so strongly, and so fast, because New Horizons makes your story important. The countless quality of life improvements, rewarded patience, and malleable play space are icing on the cake at this point, because the screenshots and stories about your own adventure are the real win. 

Custom pixel artwork (either through an in game designer, or google-able fan created software) lends further individuality to your ideal getaway, and the dynamic, seasonal nature of creature capture, floating presents, and exploration guarantees a good time whenever you decide to dip back in. 

With Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Nintendo have created a really special video game, released at just the right moment, that caters to solo players, multiplayer enthusiasts, and anyone looking for a nuanced, jolly good time.

Nintendo Another home selfie in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I also went full holodeck.

10/10

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is available now, exclusively for Nintendo Switch.

We reviewed the game using a retail copy. 

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