Growing up, one game occupied more of my attention than any before it ever had. That game was “Animal Crossing” on the GameCube. I was a very proud of my “Animal Crossing” accomplishments: I had paid off my debts with Tom Nook, collected nearly everything possible in my museum, spent hours plucking every single weed in my neighborhood and collected nearly every K.K. Slider song. So when the “Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp” mobile game was announced, my heart skipped a beat.
Before beginning “Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp,” my expectations were fairly low. Most apps of major titles become very diluted and obsessed with making money. Around every corner is a new offer or deal where you need to give up your hard-earned cash to make any progress in a game. I was expecting an experience that would only be a dull semblance of the classic console game. Once I opened the app, most of those fears dissipated.
The premise of the game is simple: The player is a human who is now in charge of a camp for animals called villagers. Requests from villagers can be completed by fishing, bug-collecting, fruit-picking or seashell-scavenging. Once these objectives are completed, the villager or fellow players will give you money, in the form of ‘bells,’ and crafting supplies, and your friendship level with them will increase.
The player can then use these rewards to create furniture, clothing or amenities for their villagers. Each villager requires certain types of furniture and an acquired friendship level to be invited to your campsite. The goal of the game is to invite as many villagers to your campsite as you can, build and level up as many amenities as you can and upgrade your camping by paying off your debts.
While monotonous for some, the game almost identically achieves the overall feel of the original “Animal Crossing.” While you can’t design your own clothes, collect things for a museum or play classic Nintendo Entertainment System games, you can do pretty much everything else.
Each little campsite provides a different aspect that made us love the original game. Designing your own camper and campsite feels equivalent to decorating your own house. “Pocket Camp” even features 40 of the series animals from previous games. The soundtrack is made of the serene, pleasant lullabies that made the game fun to play at 3 a.m. The difference in this app is that it’s just a limited version of its predecessors.
This is good for some reasons. You can play with multiple friends and work together to find and sell crafting materials that you need. Visiting their campsites gives a new social feel that has been present in recent titles but not in the original.
“Pocket Camp” does have its issues. As an app, it does feature in-app purchases, constantly tempting you to spend ‘leaf tickets.’ It feels a little too gimmicky to feature the in-game aspects such as fertilizer, honey and throw nets which require leaf tickets to complete simple requests faster. This problem can be avoided by refreshing the map or shaking trees ahead of time, but it almost feels calculated when you need a specific fish to complete an objective and it is suddenly impossible to find.
While you do get leaf tickets every time you level up, it’s clear that the app wants you to actually spend money to get every single special feature. It’s disappointing, but still avoidable. Yet, the farther you progress in the game, the harder it is to avoid. Animals’ furniture begins to take longer to craft and gets more expensive. Friendship levels are harder to increase, and the speed and ease of the game quickly dissipate. Players can get a solid week out of the game during which they feel they are accomplishing a lot, but once they reach a certain point, the game slows down.
Despite this, the game is still one of the most entertaining game apps I’ve played in a while. The internet seems to agree, as a number of jokes have surfaced that make fun of the general shortcomings of most apps. If you treat it as a simple distraction and just do a little work from day-to-day while remaining entertained, then completing the game will be easy. You don’t need to spend any money, especially since free leaf tickets are around every corner if you motivate yourself to use the app frequently.
If you want every aspect of the original “Animal Crossing” packaged in this game, then you’re better off digging out your old GameCube. If you want a casual game that captures the essence of “Animal Crossing,” then “Pocket Camp” is just what you need. The app was made to be fun, so take it with the light-hearted, whimsical feeling it has given us for years. Waste your time and avoid studying for finals, your villagers are waiting!
Troy Kowalchuk can be reached at [email protected]