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Nintendo today announced it’s Animal Crossing mobile plans – which came in the form of Pocket Camp. The mobile game looks to recreate the experience of the much-loved Animal Crossing series – laid back goals and cute graphics to boot. Ideally, Nintendo wanted gamers to wait until the end of November before diving into the camping experience. Luckily for Android users, Nintendo placed the game up on the Australian App Store well ahead of schedule – allowing gamers to dive in at their leisure. We figured we’d get our hands dirty on the newest member of the popular Animal Crossing franchise.

For clarity sake, I ran the game on a Motorola G4 – a fairly midrange device. The game requires two ~80mb downloads to become fully functional and is presently in the 0.9 build.

What surprised me most about Pocket Camp is just how well the core experience translates to mobile platforms.  Running around, interacting with animals and collecting fruit are all still important – but they’ve been made to work so well in this tiny package. The changes made are mostly logical – allowing you to press on your phone screen and watching your character run to that spot. You can still interact with trees, items, and characters much like before – creating an easy path to relearning the core mechanics. Everything from the animal noises to the music screams Animal Crossing.

From the very beginning though, it’s clear that this game is looking to make things as easy as possible for everyone. No longer are you prompted to define your character’s appearance through vague questions, instead offered all the options up front. On top of this, you can make changes to that appearance at any time from the games menu – effectively allowing you to change your avatar on a whim. I’m not so against this change – if only because casual fans may not be so willing to reload an app several times to get the “look” they want. Hairstyle and color are also selected from these menus, cutting out the hair salon entirely.

This signals something of a shift in a number of long-running features within the game. The world is broken up into smaller “hubs” – each of which has a loading zone between them. They’re still fairly sizable to run around – but those who ache for a village to spread their wings in may be disappointed. Each of these has one character in them at any one time – who will be available to talk, interact or do fetch quests for. Completing these not only gains you rewards, they also level up your relationship with that character. Level them up enough and you’ll be able to tempt them into visiting your campsite.

Buildings also make a return but much simpler in function. Nooks Cranny and Able Sisters are in the market district – but offer serve as basic shop windows more than anything else.. The camper van upgrade station has its own spot in the world too. The Post Office, museum, and other series staples are out though, sadly (The post system remains somewhat, thanks to a menu option). Luckily the world still changes with the time of day and seasons – so the ambiance of the main games remains largely untouched.

Speaking of changes to buildings, the aim of Pocket Camp has shifted ever so slightly. Instead of furnishing your house, this time it’s split between your camper van and campsite. The former of these is very upgradable and allows you to build extra floors and bigger rooms. It’s an interesting twist and works well – in particular if you plan on taking your camper van to a number of friends campsites. You’ll find randomly other gamers characters throughout the different zones – where you’re able to visit their campsites and exchange items.

The game doesn’t allow you to make use of tools and items in the traditional sense. Instead of selecting them from the menu and getting to work, items are limited to specific regions of the campsite. The fishing rod, for example, can only be used down on the beach while the bug catching net can only be used up in the tropical zone. It’s an interesting design choice and keeps the game feeling more segmented than Animal Crossing veterans might otherwise feel. The reality though is that there’s very little need for these items outside of these zones. There aren’t any wild bugs roaming around or ponds to dip your rod into – which may harm the general appeal for some.

One of the areas (the mining area) is also notably locked off from general use – requiring 20 Tokens or 5 friend invites to gain access. You’ll be needing to visit here to get access to a number of items for the crafting system – the best way to get new items. It’s a touch frustrating and we hope that Nintendo balances this out before release – if only because it feels slightly awkward right now. It’s here where microtransactions rear their head.

Much in keeping with the series “patience” approach to developing your aims, you have the option of waiting for items to be built for you – or paying to rush them through. In any other series this would feel awkward (See The Sims 3 on mobile) but thanks to Animal Crossing behaving as it always has, it’s not that annoying. The game does throw up a prompt to tempt you into buying tickets, which can be earned through normal gameplay.

It’s not a huge dealbreaker and compared to the pressure tactics of other mobile games, is pleasantly hands off. Certainly, though, we’ll have to wait and see if Nintendo keeps this casual about the whole thing when the game releases. Right now, the games economy does a decent job of making you wait. Trees, for example, take three hours to generate more fruit.

Honestly, I was quite impressed with Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. It would have been easy to mess up the experience but this is a wonderfully portable slice of Animal Crossing gameplay. Thanks to a generous auto-save system and the ability to dive in and out, I suspect this will tempt in casual fans.

Is it enough to replace New Leaf? Not even close, but you could do a lot worse than check this out when it touches down. Animal Crossing Pocket Camp certainly feels like an Animal Crossing experience.

We’ll be sure to review the full game when it lands.

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  1. […] Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Nintendo’s hotly anticipated mobile rendition of the mega-popular game franchise, has finally soft launched on iOS. Pocket Camp is currently only available on the Australian App Store, but will release worldwide in “late November.” If you’re not lucky enough to live down under, you can find out more about the game — and make the wait for it feel longer — by visiting its (very snazzy) official site. There are also some very positive early hands-on impressions available here and here. […]

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