Thursday, October 26, 2017

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp Review

I had been wanting Nintendo to jump into the mobile market, like most people, for years. Super Mario Run was a decent enough game, but it just lacked something to me -- it didn't feel like a blockbuster mobile game, and that's showed. The second Nintendo-published mobile game, Pocket Camp, looks to really get the company started in the world of mobile gaming.

I have been playing Pocket Camp for about half a dozen hours now, and I can say pretty confidently that it fulfills most everything I had expected from a mobile Animal Crossing game -- it feels excessively simple for the most part, and the overall feel of the gameplay isn't what I love so much from core games, but it is what it is -- a free-to-play version of the game that still has quite a bit of the feel of a full Animal Crossing game.

Jumping in now, Pocket Camp's premise is that you're a campground manager and you are working to enhance your camp area for guests. The game initially introduces four villagers for you to befriend, but the game unlocks more as you level up through the game by completing tasks for your animal friends.

What really makes Pocket Camp feel different is its separate locales -- you travel in a camper (via a loading screen, nothing exciting) to different areas where you can be  automatically summoned a fishing pole or net. Each of the handful of areas have their own real purpose. Two areas allow you to primarily fish, another allows you to catch bugs, and there's also an area you can mine in, but that costs real money, be it earned in-game via goal completions, or from your own pocket. It's really very simplistic.

As you explore, you'll also find you can upgrade your camper, craft items with supplies you earn from completing quests (there is very little actual furniture purchases using Bells currency in this game), and get your character some new clothes.

Truthfully, getting down to it, Pocket Camp is an ideal freemium game. While you can most certainly use real money to speed up crafting or buy a couple exlusive furniture pieces, you can earn the real money currency in-game simply by, well, playing the game. At no point in my playing did I feel like this game forces your hand to make purchases... and that is of the utmost importance, I feel, when playing a free-to-play game.

An unsurprising but frustrating move by Nintendo in this game is also its decision to basically omit any social features. You can befriend players and visit their campgrounds, but truthfully, they may as well be NPC's, because they function the same way. This could be changed in the future, but I'm not counting on it.

My biggest concern in playing this game so far is its disjointed feel... the world doesn't flow together (as I said, there are designated areas separated by loading screens), your campers don't have their own places for you to visit, and a decent portion of the game feels spent at loading screens, as brief as they are, going to catch a villager three tiger butterflies or shake down a coconut. So, ultimately, while this is a fun little game, it absolutely does not replace my desire to play the core series of Animal Crossing titles. Animal Crossing in itself is a repetitive, grindy-yet-cashal game, but I always come back because I like the sense of community with my villagers... in this game, it primarily feels grindy and less rewarding. I'll be curious to see what changes as I level up and as Nintendo (most likely?) introduces themed events for the holidays, but, as is usually the case with freemium games, Pocket Camp, for one reason or another, feels somewhat empty.