Recent years have been a bit rough for Animal Crossing fans. The main series hasn’t gotten a new installment since 2012, and the spin-off games released since then have gotten mixed reviews. Now, the series has hit cellphone screens for the first time with Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. Does this app version deliver the usual charm, cute animals, customization options, and aesthetically pleasing cartoon graphics?
As far as the cute animals go, Pocket Camp delivers. The problem is, it doesn’t deliver enough. Naturally, the app includes far fewer recruitable characters than the series’ main entrees. This is expected given the format, and would likely feel more forgivable if Pocket Camp made up for quantity with quality, but it doesn’t. Are the villagers adorable? Absolutely. Will players find themselves crafting necessary items and completing fetch quests so their favorite animals will want to hang out with them? Absolutely. Will players become more endeared to the characters the more they interact with them? Probably not. Sure, the villagers look cute and have a few personality traits each, but once you’ve talked to them a couple of times you’ve seen all there is to see. Collecting camping friends in this game provides scarcely more narrative reward than collecting Pokemon.
“Cute, but shallow” is a phrase that applies not only to Pocket Camp’s characters, but also to its gameplay. The first couple hours are legitimately enjoyable, as one figures out the various mechanics. Fishing, bug-catching, fruit-picking, and mining provide a nice variety of activities to do in (virtual) nature. The game’s various environments are also campsites to the various animals, so as players explore they can meet up with potential furry friends. Players can meet up with their real-life friends as well–one of Pocket Camp’s greatest joys is meeting up with your friends and helping each other out by exchanging items and giving kudos.
So, those are the good aspects of Pocket Camp’s gameplay. The major downside? You can do everything I just mentioned within the first hour, and there’s nothing new introduced after that point. On first glance, the game’s simple fishing and bug-catching mechanics are likable. One doesn’t need to have super fast reflexes or convoluted strategies to succeed, which is good because the series is all about sustaining a no-stress “feel good” vibe. Unfortunately, the simplicity of the game’s mechanics leaves little room for skill development or any sense of growth on the player’s part. There are plenty of villagers to invite to your campsite, but recruiting the game’s final animals requires the same type of quests as the early recruits; the necessary tasks just take longer to complete, and are more annoying as a result.
When it comes to both characters and gameplay, Pocket Camp impresses at first but grows old quickly. Graphically, however, the game never disappoints. The various animals all look fantastic, and the environments are bright and fun, from a cute fruit orchard to a calm ocean shore. The various fashions available to customize characters with are also great. As a whole, the game is just really pleasing to look at; the strong visuals kept me playing longer than I would have otherwise.
So, how is Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp overall? Not bad. Good, even–just very flawed. Naturally, it doesn’t live up to the series’ main installments, but as far as app games go, this is about as good as it gets. Fun graphics, likable characters, and a pervasive “feel good” atmosphere make Pocket Camp a good time for the first several hours. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the item crafting and fetch quest grind to get old. Once you’ve recruited your favorite animals, there’s no incentive to keep playing. I personally quit once I had collected all my favorites just to realize that there was nothing worth doing with them. If you’re looking to have a decent time with an app game, you can’t go wrong with Pocket Camp. With that said, if the game wasn’t free, it wouldn’t be worth spending much time on.