Readers, it probably won’t surprise you too much to learn that I adore the Nintendo series Animal Crossing. While I can hardly claim to be a veteran, since I’ve only played the DS versions of Wild World and New Leaf, these two games alone have been enough to develop a certain fondness for the series which can really only be described as ‘Peacefully Coexisting With Animals: The Video Game”. However, I just can’t bring myself to love the new mobile release of Pocket Camp as much as so many other people do, and I’ll try to explain exactly why this is.
My biggest problem is that there just isn’t the soul and the charm that radiates off the main series games. Sure, Pocket Camp has got the aesthetics down to a tee. Everything looks perfect, from the idyllic forest surroundings to the quirky and adorable animal characters. The sound is equally great, with the music and ‘voices’ being exactly what you’d expect from an Animal Crossing game. But for me this is where the similarity unfortunately ends. In the main series it genuinely feels like you can progress however you want – you can choose to donate everything you ever find to the museum, fish all day every day until you find that dorado, focus entirely on improving your own house while ignoring the town as a whole. Of course there’s overarching objectives, like how in New Leaf you’re meant to be developing the town you accidentally become mayor of, but these never put pressure on you – you’re free to do it completely at your own pace.
Pocket Camp doesn’t do this for me. All of the aspects you’d expect from Animal Crossing are there, technically, but there’s little point in doing them apart from enticing villagers to your camp. Perhaps it is the lack of museum that makes it lose that ‘collecting’ factor but there’s no joy in fishing and bug catching, it’s all purely practical. Plus the fact that you can lose villagers if you don’t recruit them in time puts a weird stress over the whole thing that’s just not present in any other Animal Crossing game. Perhaps the problem is that it’s not different enough from the main series to justify this stress. Pokémon Go (an inevitable comparison) justified the added stress of losing Pokémon by being a completely new experience. Pocket Camp feels like watered-down Animal Crossing, not something new or exciting.
Who knows, maybe I’m just disappointed that we’ve heard nothing about Animal Crossing on the Switch. When I discussed my problems with my brother (who loves the game), he said that it’s a reminiscing experience for older fans and a glimpse into the wonderful world for new ones. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that Pocket Camp succeeds in either regard. Feel free to ignore this post when I sink fifty hours into it, though.