“Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” the newest addition to the Animal Crossing video game series, is a much-needed escape from the uncertainties of everyday life that will satisfy old fans and attract new ones.
Animal Crossing is a life-simulation video game series in which the player completes mundane tasks such as catching bugs, fishing, and interacting with residents and the environment to build your ideal community. The newest addition for the Nintendo Switch introduces new features such as terraforming, high-definition graphics, outdoor furniture placement and the ability to visit deserted islands or friends’ islands.
Like previous games in the series, progress in New Horizons occurs in real-time. This can lead to frustration for some players as certain aspects require patience to progress. For example, at the beginning of the game, the player must follow the tasks set forth by Tom Nook – the village store operator – such as collecting fish and bugs. By bringing them back to him, the player will eventually be able to invite the character Blathers, a talkative owl, to the island to start a museum, but he will not arrive until the next day.
Once Blathers arrives, the player can speak to him to receive the recipe for a vaulting pole that will allow the player to cross rivers and explore the rest of their island.
After a few days of gameplay, the true potential of the game is unlocked. The player can build bridges and ramps to make the island easily accessible and move buildings around as they wish. With a new feature called terraforming, the player can craft hills, cliffs, land bridges, waterfalls, lakes, miniature islands and rivers.
The game does have a few frustrating aspects. First, the tools available early in the game break after only being used for a few minutes. Stronger tools must be earned by redeeming Nook Miles, which are earned by completing tasks around the island.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the game for players seeking an interactive experience is the inaccessibility of multiplayer functions. The first option allows local players to join using their own Joy-Con, the controller for the Nintendo Switch. However, any additional players are only allowed to be residents on the original player’s island. This is because there can only be one island per Nintendo Switch console.
Additionally, although an island can house up to eight residents, only four can play at a time using this method. The lack of a split-screen interface makes this form of multiplayer gameplay feel more chaotic than fun, as each participant must follow the leader.
New Horizons also offers local play in which friends with their own Nintendo Switch and copy of the game can visit each other’s islands without using an internet connection, so long as they are within about five feet of each other.
The best multiplayer option for New Horizons is the online method, which allows players to open their island’s gates to friends as long as both players have a Nintendo Switch online membership. Up to eight players are allowed to visit an island at a time using this method, but unless visitors are on the host’s best friends list, they will have limited access to tools to prevent unwanted damage to the host’s island.
Overall, Animal Crossing: New Horizons improves features from previous games and introduces new capabilities to keep the game relevant. Especially with the current state of the world, New Horizons provides a much-needed escape from reality.