Animal Crossing New Horizons Review: The Perfect Escape

We’ve waited seven long years for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and now it’s finally here. This installment of the popular social simulation game sees players starting a new life on a deserted island. Tom Nook is ready as always to help you on your way and provide a line of credit, so you are, as expected, in debt to him throughout the game.

New Horizons provides a perfect mixture of familiarity, new features and pure escapism, which is just what we need right now.

Starting A New Life

If you’ve played a regular Animal Crossing title before, then you’ll soon find yourself in familiar territory. The game begins with you taking a flight to your very own deserted island where you will set up home overseen by Tom Nook and his nephews Timmy and Tommy.

You’ll be able to choose from four different island layouts and will also gain a native fruit and two villager neighbors. If you find that you don’t like the hand you’ve been dealt, then you can restart the game and try again, as there appear to be a reasonable number of combinations.

From here, it’s a case of collecting, crafting, and building up your island, its inhabitants, and its functionality. Some aspects of this task will open through completing assignments such as paying off your debts, and others take real-time to progress, such as building shops.

A New Pace Of Life

As is common with the franchise, New Horizons has a very laid back pace. At first, it can feel a little frustrating in places if you’d like a really long run of gameplay, but within just a few days this will be far more possible. Also, thanks to the miracle of time travel, you can make those first few days go in the blink of an eye, should you so desire.

The vibe is chill and so is the soundtrack. Everything about the game is designed to make you feel like you have all the time in the world and you’d like to spend it here.

You can explore, visit new islands, and hunt for collectibles. Each day brings new rewards in new places and there’s just so much to do. There’s a museum to populate, recipes to collect, islands to explore and neighbors to chat with. You can always find something to occupy your time, especially once the entire island is accessible.

A Thriving Community

Your first few days will be spent unlocking the basics. In order to make sure everything is unlocked, talking to others is important. Tom Nook will offer tasks in exchange for collectibles, and his knowledge will help you get on. Your neighbors will also pitch in with advice and sometimes even supplies.

Regular tasks like collecting, chatting, and selling will ensure you can pay off the miles balance for relocation fairly quickly, and then the game steps up. From here you go into debt again, this time in bells to build a house.

Then, you can gather extra tool recipes, open a museum (well, a tent when it first appears), build a shop, and start to navigate those rivers and cliffs. The starter quests interlink and you can follow the trail easily by chatting to Tom Nook.

Friendly For all

The game strikes a great balance in difficulty, being newcomer-friendly without being patronizing. Tom Nook is key to this. While he announces major events at the beginning of each day, assuming there are some. He will otherwise largely leave you alone unless you need him.

If you are lost and wondering what quest is next, you can head over to guest services and ask Tom Nook, “What shall I do?” He will tell you the task to prioritize in order to unlock the next items for your island.

This is very helpful as a non-intrusive reference to keep you on track. He will also explain different things if you select the option for him to do so. This enables you to tailor his help to a certain extent. For newcomers, the way the island unlocks also helps keep things manageable. You can catch bugs, fish, chop trees, and hit rocks before you even need to worry about the wider world.

Some aspects unlock in different ways, depending on the order you complete tasks in within the first few days, as well as the tasks above, you’ll also be able to navigate rivers, dig for fossils, bells, and shells. Shops and ladders are next, and at this point, the game becomes mostly exploring, collecting, upgrading, customizing, and socializing. All are done at your own pace in a way that suits you.

This makes it the perfect game to pick up and play for as long as you like. If you want to put in 15 minutes a day you can. Likewise, there is enough to do that you could soon put in five hours at a time.

Hi, Friend!

Another nice feature is a multiplayer option, allowing up to four players on one island, who can play simultaneously if you have enough joy-cons. You are linked together in a group with the leader playing normally while others having limited actions, but access to tools.

While certain people in my household were disappointed that they couldn’t steal things from someone else’s house, we could go exploring together, which was nice. You can also trade things, as the group leader has access to their inventory. This means they can throw things down for others to pick up. The leader can be easily swapped to facilitate accessing them.

The Game We Need Right Now

Overall, playing New Horizons was well worth the wait. The game is relaxing, enjoyable, well thought out, and fantastic chilled out fun for all ages. Right now, we really need a distraction from the chaos around us, and this game has come at the perfect time. So relax, hop on that plane, and enjoy your new life on the beach, in the woods, or even by the river. The choice is yours.

A Switch copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons was provided to TheGamer for this review. New Horizons is available now on Nintendo Switch.

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