Charming, but pay walls highlight a lack of substance
Thanksgiving was two days ago and across the nation, millions of turkeys and pies were eaten. Hopefully you’ve spent the time between now and then celebrating the holiday with family and friends. In between visiting and stuffing my face with food, I’ve been experiencing the season with Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp.
We haven’t had a full Animal Crossing game since the release of New Leaf in 2012. Since then, we’ve only had an amiibo-style board game and the strange Happy Home Designer. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is hopefully the title to tide us over until Animal Crossing for the Switch. (Which has to happen… Right?) Because while it is nice and reminds us of the old days, it isn’t quite “Animal Crossing Mobile”.
Pocket Camp has the player act as the new manager for a fledgling campsite. Of course, the position doesn’t come with a lot of responsibility. As camp manager, all the player needs to do is get furniture and invite campers to the site.
In inviting campers, one needs to befriend them first. This takes up most of one’s time, and beyond obtaining materials, this was the main focus of my time. Befriending animals is as simple as talking to them and giving them stuff, though one will find the latter is the fastest way to do it.
Befriending an animal allows the player to invite them to their campsite, where they will stay as a permanent fixture. While leveling up one’s friendship with an animal is a big part of being able to do invite them, leveling up friendships is most important for obtaining crafting materials and increasing one’s character level. Each character level grants certain rewards and gains access to newer and more complicated furniture and amenities, along with the appearance of more animals to befriend.
It’s a simple system that sounds more complicated than it really is. One obtains items to befriend animals to get more items to befriend more animals. That’s the basic cycle of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. Nintendo tries to fluff it up a bit by including activities like fishing and catching bugs, but it’s mostly all the same.
Fishing and bug-catching are accomplished by tapping the screen at the right time, with little separating the two. Gathering fruit is as simple as it always has been, though now timers have been introduced to limit the fruit’s growth.
Though their simplicity makes them a little boring, the main problem with them is how they can be circumvented. Because despite how little they require, it’s better to achieve them by seeking to do even less—by using items. Tree timers can be ignored by using fertilizer. Fish and bugs can be caught en masse using nets and honey, respectively. If you want to get a lot of each thing fast, these are the best ways to do it. And how do you get nets, honey and fertilizer? Why, by using leaf tickets, of course.
Leaf tickets are the central problem I have with Pocket Camp. As a mobile game, it might have been expected that Pocket Camp would have microtransactions. But the extent of them is a little ridiculous. If you want nets and honey and such, you’ll be expected to use them. But the same goes for crafting furniture and amenities too.
Most items will require cotton, wood or steel and something else—like cool essence, for instance. Everything is pretty easy to craft at first, but eventually, rewards start to die down. Eventually, one runs out of cotton. And what does one do if they run out? They use leaf tickets to purchase materials.
I can’t tell you what the exchange rate of leaf tickets is. But I can tell you I’ve used over 250, and that my campsite still feels sparse. Pocket Camp isn’t a game you can grind for either, as it requires daily commitment with the completion of daily quests and the daily renewal of fruits, bugs and shells.
Meeting one’s favorite animals from the series is fun and I was happy to find Apollo after an absence of many years. But much of their individual personalities are gone (with some rare exceptions), and one will find themselves performing the same tasks over and over for all animals. If one had a nice time barbecuing with Butch, one needn’t worry because they can do the same thing with a dozen other animals as well, with the same scripted sequence for all.
Pocket Camp looks nice. I love the aesthetic; it feels perfect for the season, with orange leaves on the forest floor, wood piles and abundant fruit galore. Designing one’s campsite and camper can be fun too. But with its material focus and clear pay walls, I don’t know that I can love the game itself.
If one wants something purely aesthetic, then I might recommend Pocket Camp. But if one is looking for the next Animal Crossing, they shouldn’t look here.
Overall Score: 6.5 (65%)
Summary: Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is a cute mobile game with little beyond its cuteness. Like most characters it features, the facade hides a hollow interior. Animal Crossing fans will likely only miss the old games more.
- Looks nice; wonderful aesthetic
- Lots of animals featured
- Designing one’s campsite can be fun
- Furniture options are limited currently
- Play cycle is extremely repetitive
- Microtransactions are highly encouraged
- Progression is very time-consuming