Animal Crossing Pocket Camp has finally arrived on Android and IOS today. In what is a great move on Nintendo’s part, they have now brought the charming world full of cute animal characters to a wider audience. Fans of the Animal Crossing series will feel right at home in Pocket Camp, as the staple look, sound and feel of the series is in full effect on its mobile phone outing. The screen stays vertical in play mode, opposed to most mobile games’ horizontal display. This, however, doesn’t lose you as much off of what you see on the screen at any one time as you may think, giving the lack of width to the screen. Likewise, Pocket Camp isn’t hampered at all by mobile phone controls. Tap somewhere on the screen to move there, and tap on an item or character to interact with them, or if you prefer, you can drag your finger across the screen to move your character, too. Using either method, the controls are simple yet very effective to get around without being at all cumbersome. I was, however, plagued with connection errors for a while that kept booting me from the game – but they soon stopped and never seemed to crop up again, so I wouldn’t count on them being a regular problem.
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp does very well to feel more or less exactly like the proper games in the series for the Nintendo consoles and handhelds in terms of gameplay. There are the obligatory mobile phone game tropes; daily log in bonuses, timed goals, crafting timers, resource cooldowns and the dirty word itself: micro-transactions – but I will cover these in more depth later. Despite these points though, it doesn’t really feel at all like a gutted out mobile cash in, which I feel is a testament to how well done this mobile adaption has been handled.
Whereas normal Animal Crossing games give you a town to run and play around in, Pocket Camp gives you, as the title suggests, a campsite to manage. It also gives you some surrounding areas to explore; seven of them, in fact. You begin by being asked a question by series regular KK Slider, asking you where you would ideally go on holiday, a question I suspect determines what kind of scenery your camp is in, although i’m not a hundred percent sure on that one. Then, you turn up to the campsite in your wee camper van, which, as I will explain more about later, acts as your player home. When you arrive, you are greeted by one of the many characters, Isabelle, who quickly introduces you to the game through the usual rigmarole of obligatory tutorials. One of the first things you decide is the theme of your camp, choosing one of four from natural, cute, sporty and cool. After choosing your theme you get sent off to find campers to stay at your camp. To be eligible to invite characters to your camp you need to have at least a level two relationship with that character. Yes, there are relationship levels for the characters now, and you can increase these by doing requests and talking to them, you get rewards in the way of crafting materials and bells, the game’s version of money, for levelling up your relationship with a character. In addition to having the required relationship level, you also have to do a request or two, these usually come in the form of fetch quests of items that can be found in one of the surrounding areas, the resources do have a cool down time of about 3 hours after harvesting them. Sometimes, after doing a few favours for a character you will get a wee scene of you enjoying some food, or an activity, with them. Finally, the last requirement is to have some furniture in your camp that reflects that character’s interests, once unlocked though, you can swap the furniture around without losing that camper. When the new camper does join you get treated to a nice scene of them enjoying the amenities of your camp.
As with the main Animal Crossing games, in Pocket Camp customisation is the name of the game. Your modest camper van can be given a slick new paint job at OK Motors, your first paint job is even free! What a warm welcome indeed. But wait, there’s more! The fellas at OK can also expand the interior of your camper van, presumably with some kind of Dr Who Tardis-style magic, considering the outside remains exactly the same. Giovanni will even go right ahead and expand your camper van without asking you if you are sure or discussing payment with you until the job is done, at which point he informs you that you are now 10,000 bells in debt to him. Clearly, Giovanni has graduated from the Tom Nook School of Business…the git! As you might suspect, the van isn’t the only thing you can customise, your main campsite can also be customised in any way you see fit, placing items and furniture around the site to suit yourself and your guest campers. These items can also be put inside your van. Furniture can be acquired mostly through the game’s crafting system, furniture crafting is done through Cyrus & Reese’s Re-Tail on the Road, making use of the plentiful crafting resources you will find and be awarded through requests and the games timed and stretch goals. As mentioned above, there is a time limit on how long things take to craft and in typical mobile manner this crafting time can be sped up using leaf tickets, which are Pocket Camp’s micro-transaction currency. It is worth noting though, that so far I haven’t seen the crafting timer go beyond one minute, making the speed up feature completely unnecessary. It could very well be possible that the timer will go beyond a minute as you unlock higher tier items and furniture.
There are plenty of other sights to see and activities to take partake of in Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. The usual suspects of fishing and bug catching are there, although during my time playing I didn’t find any trace of fossils in the game, but hopefully they might be included later. These activities are handled in exactly the same way as their main series counterparts; with a simple click to initiate and another well timed click to catch your chosen beastie. In addition, there are also specific catching spots where you can use nets and honey to catch more fish, and bugs, respectively. Now, this is where Pocket Camp’s micro-transactions come into play a bit more as you will have regular nets and honey you can use, but these will give you random results in what you catch. If you want more specific prey, say you are after a specific fish for example, you can buy better quality nets and honey for leaf tickets, which will give you better chances at getting those particular goodies. Again though it’s worth noting that this only seems to be a bit of a time saver more than content locking as you can usually find what you are looking for by just leaving and reentering the same area to refresh the types of fish and bugs around.
I mentioned timed and stretch goals earlier, these are little objectives you can tackle and earn rewards while doing so, these rewards can be anything from bells, crafting materials, furniture and even leaf tickets. The timed goals as the name suggests are goals limited to a time frame, fourteen hours I think, and usually consist of objectives like, ‘collect 3 beetles’, and the like. Stretch goals seem to be the ongoing objectives that give you your flow through the game, they’ll start off with things such as, ‘Speak to another camper’ and ‘Place a piece of furniture’ and carry on through the game. Both of these deposit rewards into your mailbox which stay there for 29 days and can be accessed in the menu on the top right of the screen. You can also bump into other players in the game in the form of their stationary avatars in the various locations. When you interact with them you can see what they are selling in their market box, send them a friend request or visit their camp. At their camp you can take a look around at how they have decorated their own place, interactions I found were rather limited though, you can’t go around chopping down all their trees and digging lots of holes, like in the main games…not that I ever behaved as such a miscreant! In their camps you can also give them some kudos, which is like a digital pat on the back to say you like the look of their camp, it’s also one of your stretch goals. You can also have your own market box and put your unwanted items up for sale for other players to buy, a good way to find that sought after item you need to fulfil a request.
Another activity on offer is the quarry but to enter said quarry you will need to either have at least 5 friends, or pay 20 leaf tickets to get in. For your 20 leafy sheets, you will get 5 attempts at smashing rocks to uncover minerals; including sapphires, silver and gold. Whatever you find will be bought off you for bells and you will even earn some crafting materials for your trouble, too. Also, as a stretch goal reward for doing it for the first time I got awarded 10 leaf tickets so it only really cost me ten. As well as the other locations mentioned thus far is the market place, which has a rotating selection of vendors there offering a variety of items to purchase in exchange for bells – including Tom Nook and Mabel, one of the hedgehog sisters. Isabelle also has a stall there that lists the current timed and stretch goals. There is also a clock similar to the town clock in regular Animal Crossing which displays the real time, the day even gets darker in real time like in the main games.
Ok, now to explain exactly how Animal Crossing Pocket Camp’s micro-transactions fit into the game. Micro-transactions have indeed become a dirty word in video games and as much as you may be disheartened to hear that they have wormed their way into such an innocent game as Animal Crossing, I can assure you that so far, they seem to be completely unnecessary. Pictured above is the current list of prices for leaf tickets, these can be used to speed up crafting, purchase better quality items to catch specific creatures, buy your way into the quarry mini game and buy some limited camper van paints and furniture. Pretty much all of these things with perhaps the exception of the limited cosmetics can be worked around with time. As mentioned earlier, crafting has only lasted a minute so far which is nothing to wait, you can only craft one thing at a time initially, but you can buy extra crafting slots for 80 leaf tickets. Using the normal quality fishing nets and honey to catch fish/bugs will net you, excuse the pun, random results but a few tries will get you what you’re after usually and you can refresh which creatures are around by reentering the area. The quarry can also be accessed by having 5 friends although i’m not completely certain if the friend count goes up on every visit or not. To the game’s credit, the leaf tickets, at least initially, are quite easy to earn in game, too, through the stretch goals. I played for a couple hours and had amassed 185 tickets and 6,980 bells. I can see this rate drying up though as you burn through the stretch goals and will probably have to buy them from then on. In fact, about the biggest issue I have is that to get KK Slider and Tom Nook at your camp you have to buy their chairs and they cost 250 leaf tickets each and they are only on offer for 45 days after you begin playing the game, which is a bit shady, but it does say they may become available again in the future. Another dodgy practice is the amount of requests you can do for a single character in a day are limited and once you reach this limit you will need to use either request tickets or leaf tickets to do more for them, thus expediting the rate at which you befriend them. Beyond those though, the micro-transactions seem fairly optional.
As a last few words, I have so far really enjoyed my time with Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. It has all the charm and most of the features of the main games condensed into fun sized little bites to devour at your own leisure. Sure, it has the obligatory mobile micro-transaction but they seem so far for the most part unnecessary and not at all intrusive. Nintendo seem to have hit the nail on the head with this one and I can see me coming back to this for a good while yet. A must play for fans of the series and I would even recommend it to those who are not but enjoy these wee easy going games.