The world is a scary place in the year 2020. With a novel coronavirus ripping through the world’s population and shelter-in-place measures keeping millions of people at home, there has never been a better time to be a reclusive shut-in. While gamers are uniquely predisposed for this type of extended isolation, there still need to be good games coming out to keep them entertained.
That’s where Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes in. In a word: it’s delightful. In more words, it seems to be just the game that everyone needs right now to comfort them during a downright scary time in history. Let’s take a deep dive into the wild world of Animal Crossing.
What Is Animal Crossing?
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is something of a non-game. It doesn’t have a “point,” so to speak, in that there aren’t levels to complete or challenges to overcome. That doesn’t mean, however, that there is nothing to do. You control a childlike human who moves to a deserted island with Tom Nook, a raccoon who owns a large company, and his two sons, Timmy and Tommy.
Two randomly selected animal villagers from the game’s impressively large pool of virtual pals will be assigned to your island. As the game goes on, more of these adorable friends will move to your picturesque island home. You befriend them, exchange gifts with them, and, in turn, make lasting friendships with virtual creatures.
The game also includes crafting, fishing, bug-hunting and other activities for completionist to obsess over. The player character can decorate their home, hunt for rare furniture and wallpapers, and just generally get lost in all of the low-stress, relaxing activities to be found on the island.
Everything You Love, but Better
If you’ve ever played a main series Animal Crossing game, then you know what to expect from New Horizons. Well, sort of. This game is a marked improvement over its predecessor, New Leaf, finally bringing HD graphics to a series that we didn’t realize sorely needed them. While graphical fidelity is the last thing you’d think of when considering a quiet, meditative game like Animal Crossing, the bump to 1080p does wonders for the presentation here.
Everything from the water textures in the river to the surprisingly detailed bugs and fish just gives your home island such a great sense of place. On top of that, everything about the social gameplay has been streamlined. You now pick where your house goes, where the museum and shop go, and even where your villagers plant their housing plots. Eventually, players unlock the ability to make their own roads and even terraform their island into whatever configuration they like.
The Zen Garden
Animal Crossing is a game defined by its methodical, day-by-day approach to content. When you initiate an upgrade, it won’t show up until the next day. When you’ve picked the fruits from your trees, or harvested the supplies from your island, they’re gone for the day. Certain events are tied to the real-world time of day. Others are even tied to the season.
During a crisis that has people stuck indoors, bored and longing for social contact, a cute game about animal villagers giving you gifts and gossiping with you is just what we all needed. Nintendo has absolutely nailed it: the game is like a perfect little Zen garden where you can escape, tend to your island’s needs, and then just relax in a world much more ordered and adorable than our own.