Tuesday, April 02, 2013

We Game To Please: Animal Crossing

GENRE: Life simulator.

THE HOOK: You need do nothing at all.

THE WORLD: You've moved out of the home you shared with your unseen parents and into a village full of anthropomorphic animals.  As you do.  These animals come in many different shapes and sizes, with different personalities, likes and dislikes, and getting along with them day to day whilst feathering your own nest however you see fit is essentially the main thrust of your life there.

Colour/design of villagers may vary.  No refunds will be given.
Every village has a general store, a clothes shop, a pond, a beach and a town hall at least, with other stuff coming in and out on a game-ly basis.  You may have a desert island, you may have a police station, and the Wii version features a separate city that can be reached by bus, with extra businesses.  Once a week the wandering musician K.K. Slider comes and does a concert, and other weird and wonderful characters come and go at various times.

GAMEPLAY: You'll need to pay your way.  So you can collect shells on the beach, deliver items for other villagers, and catch fish and insects or dig up fossils to sell or donate to the museum.  None of those your bag?  Shake a tree - money does sometimes grow on them in this magical place!  There's also plenty of festivals, holidays and events to attend, with specific happenings and items to be collected.

Yet - and here's the tranquil pill at the core of this pastoral package - you actually need do nothing at all.  Nothing.  That raccoon's not going to break your legs for his mortgage money, Wendell the walrus isn't a stabby beggar and even Lyle the river otter has stopped going door to door with his shady insurance deals.  I can't quite believe I just typed that sentence, but there you go.  There's no impetus to do anything except exactly enough to get the items you want to expand and decorate your house - no more, no less.

SERIES: Recently found out this actually started on N64, with an expanded version of that game appearing on the GameCube and further iterations on DS, Wii and 3DS, each (not much) more complex and multi-layered than the last.

HIGHLIGHTS: Other than the odd seasonal event, the two best bits for me were firstly, getting an NES with a playable "Donkey Kong" game on it for my character's birthday on the GC version (these NES items were removed from all subsequent versions of the game) and getting given a photo by a villager who counted me as their best friend on the DS version (the collection of these photos was removed from all subsequent versions of the game).

LOWLIGHTS: It can be very, very hard to maintain your motivation when there is no fixed target to aim your gameplay towards.  This means that any targets you do set - the collection of a certain set of furniture, say - are so nebulous and randomly achieved that it's easy to get distracted by technically more limited thrills elsewhere.

IF YOU LIKE IT: Well, there's that other famous open world game, "Grand Theft Auto"...  But as that might be a bit of a leap, I think the closest comparable experience is "The Sims", and even that's more harrowing if your characters keep self-immolating upon attempting to cook.  Or maybe that was just me.

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