Electric Retrospective- Review: ‘Animal Crossing Pocket Camp’ fumbles mobile transition

Sean Mullins
Technology Columnist

“Animal Crossing Pocket Camp” takes the player out of the franchise’s usual rural setting for a job running a campsite. Image from Nintendo

Nintendo’s foray into mobile gaming succeeded by scaling down beloved games for mobile while retaining the key elements of their predecessors. However, its latest mobile release, “Animal Crossing Pocket Camp,” is missing the wrong elements.

Animal Crossing games focus on doing everything at the player’s pace. As the player moves into a town of anthropomorphic villagers, they can fish, catch bugs, dig for fossils, decorate their home and talk to neighbors at their own leisure. Ingame events have a daily schedule, and certain events and store hours occur at different points in the day, making its fantasy world of adorable animals feel down to earth.

“Pocket Camp,” on the other hand, focuses on a loop of finding items to give to villagers, receiving furniture materials, and making furniture to attract villagers to one’s campsite. The daily cycle is cut to three hours, and it shifts which villagers the player can do chores for. While villager chores existed in earlier games, they were previously optional, as the player could make money through other means.

These changes make “Pocket Camp” less of a relaxing getaway and more of a typical feedback loop for a mobile game. The three-hour cycle and chore-based progression removes the aspect of going at one’s own pace. Additionally, customization is pointless, since the game only incentivizes getting furniture that other villagers want at the player’s campsite. Even if it didn’t, the furniture and clothing selection is limited.

The graphics are mostly taken from “Animal Crossing New Leaf,” with a few new models and characters. As long as assets were taken from “New Leaf,” its phenomenal soundtrack should have been taken as well, as the new music isn’t as memorable. Since “Pocket Camp” runs on a three-hour timer, its few music tracks become very repetitive, as songs alternate with ingame events.

Connectivity issues plague “Pocket Camp” long after launch. All of Nintendo’s mobile titles thus far require internet connection, “Pocket Camp” included. For some inexplicable reason, even in areas where wifi connection is stellar, the app often shows error messages and usually forces itself to restart. This doesn’t occur with Nintendo’s other apps, so it may be a server issue, but these issues should’ve been fixed by now, two months post-launch.

Like many mobile games, “Pocket Camp” is freemium, a free-to-play game with ingame currency purchased with real money- in this case, Leaf Tickets, which can speed up construction. However, the amount of Leaf Tickets required to do so is so astronomically high that they’re ineffective. The maximum ticket purchase- 1,200 tickets for $39.99- is the same price as two copies of “New Leaf,” a full Animal Crossing experience.

Recent Animal Crossing games have had excellent multiplayer, but player interaction in “Pocket Camp” is surprisingly limited. Players can only visit other campsites without truly interacting with other players, and most interaction is done through Market Boxes, which can be used to sell items to other players. While this can be helpful, it would be much more useful if players could sell rare materials, let alone interact directly with others.

Multiplayer aside, other major features from past games are missing. Custom clothing prints would’ve allowed players to express their artistic side and could’ve worked easily with a smartphone touch screen, given that was the control scheme in “New Leaf.” The museum, which allows players to track different fossils, bugs and fish they’ve found, is also absent. While updates will bring new content, nothing substantial appears to be imminent.

Ironically, an Animal Crossing game exists that would have worked well on mobile. “Happy Home Designer,” released in 2015 for 3DS, used “New Leaf” gameplay but focuses on customizing villagers’ houses however players see fit. While the game didn’t have enough content to warrant a $39.99 release, as a freemium game, it could have worked, while still retaining more of Animal Crossing’s key elements than “Pocket Camp” does.

“Pocket Camp” did as advertised, being a scaled-down Animal Crossing that focuses on the series’s key elements. However, unlike Nintendo’s other mobile titles, especially “Fire Emblem Heroes,” “Pocket Camp” disregards what makes Animal Crossing so fun. While the game is enjoyable for a bit, it quickly becomes a loop of chores with no good incentive. Hopefully Nintendo’s next mobile title better can see the forest for the trees.

“Animal Crossing Pocket Camp” is available on iOS and Android for free with optional in-app purchases.

Go to the Electric Retrospective blog at https://electricretrospective.wordpress.com for more game reviews and news. New posts release every Tuesday.

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