Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is an unusual beast. On the one hand, it’s a very colorful world that isn’t too far from its console roots. On the other, there’s an uneasy dark cloud of microtransactions that might hinder the enjoyment level, at least at first.
If you’ve played any of the existing games in the series, the opening scenes of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp will seem familiar and even a little comforting, especially if you’re worried that the experience of playing on your phone will be vastly different than what you’re used to. K.K. Slider greets you with a very simple question, determining the kind of player you want to be, before your van pulls into view at your very own camp site.
From here it’s about choosing the kind of camp site you want to create. Travelling around the map to meet other camp goers (aka the many villagers of the Animal Crossing series) and completing various quests to unlock and build furnishings for your site. It’s not too far from the Mayor like qualities of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, though there’s a greater emphasis on travelling around to complete your tasks.
As mobile games go, Nintendo have done a fine job in translating the console experience to a smaller screen. It’s genuinely the same kind of game in terms of management, resource gathering and the befriending of various animals, but on a slightly smaller scale than what’s come before.
You can move around by simply tapping or sliding your finger around like a cursor, or tap once on certain objects like trees to shake them and drop their fruit. That level of simplicity carries over to the menus which, though there are plenty of icons to tap on, make perfect sense and are easy to navigate once you get into the routine. It feels more precise and user friendly when compared to Nintendo’s earlier mobile efforts, specifically Miitomo, and familiar musical tones and pastel colors will please long time fans of the series.
And then there’s the microtransactions. Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be a mobile game without some kind of pay to unlock system, but to be fair to Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, it isn’t obtrusive. From the outset you have the choice of collecting bells, the usual currency in the series, to purchase or craft new items as they become available. But if you prefer to have your items right then and there instead of waiting for them to be created, you can spend real money to purchase what’s known as Leaf Tickets. These tickets can be used to automatically complete crafting or purchase special items that can’t be bought by in-game means.
For example, the game currently has two special chairs available for players to purchase via Leaf Tickets that allow either K.K. Slider or everyone’s favorite character (no arguments) Tom Nook to always visit your camp site. It’s certainly not a pay to win element, more a collectible bonus if you really, really, want these familiar friends to be a part of your adventure, and that’s ultimately what Nintendo has devised. Whether any of these items can be unlocked or purchased by other means later on isn’t certain, however, so unfortunately the usual trappings of locking items behind a paywall will always linger.
Still, what’s here should keep fans appeased without the need to pay for anything if you so choose. There’s plenty of furniture to begin with, though other elements such as crafting clothes isn’t available just yet. Hopefully Nintendo will continually add new items to the shops over time to keep things fresh, or at least have something to work towards. It’s in its very early days still, but based solely on its presentation and its fun and unique narrative for the series, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp has plenty of potential.
Whether it can keep players interested in the long term is another question for another day, but with the promise of seasonal events and the use of time to determine when certain characters appear, there should be enough … at least until the franchise’s inevitable appearance on the Switch.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is currently available on iOS and Android devices in Australia, with other regions to follow.