While at first I fell in love with New Horizons’ visuals, its beautifully serene music and the trademark Animal Crossing style of complete freedom, life on the isle of Emeraldmar soon began to sour. No, it’s not because my villagers were ugly, but rather there are some glaring issues with New Horizons that fans of the franchise, including myself, seem all too happy to ignore as they keep themselves busy by imprisoning Barold in barbed wire for daring to rear his repugnant bear face on their idyllic tropical paradise.
Nothing makes you ponder what you do for entertainment more than New Horizons’ crafting system. Heaven forbid you need to craft fish bait (which you absolutely do need to do if you want even the slimmest chance of catching one of the game’s rare fish) because you’re going to need an entire hour, and the thumb muscles of a Grecian God. Harvesting the required amount of Manilla Clams already takes an age but you better prepare to have to open the crafting menu, select the fish bait, click confirm, click to speed up the crafting cutscene, close the dialogue box that confirms the fish bait has been finished, ponder the choices you’ve made in life that led up to this moment, and then open the crafting menu all over again.
If you can deal with the general clunkiness of the menus then there really is a lot to do in New Horizons… for the first week or so. Assuming you aren’t messing with the game clock and skipping days, the first week of New Horizons is hands-down the most exciting. Each day offers new milestones to reach and a pleasant sense of progression. You get to watch your island take shape and start to get a feel for who your adorable little residents are. However, once your main goal shifts to hosting the KK Slider concert, there’s just hardly any reason to keep playing. I know the game is meant to be played in short bursts, checked in on for an hour or so a day, but it rapidly begins to resemble a chore and not even one that felt rewarding upon completion. “Oh, how exciting, the Nooklings are selling a Newton’s cradle today… Wow! The fruit has regrown on my trees, better sell that so I can buy more Newton’s cradles.”
If you are looking for a calm game to just sit down and devour your time, other games in the genre do what Animal Crossing tries to do much better, and for a fraction of the price. Tired of the farming mechanic in Stardew Valley? Go explore the dungeon-crawler system of the mines, or try your hand on the dating scene. Finished your house in Minecraft? Go find the Ender portal, or amass an army of loyal dog followers. In New Horizons, once you’ve spent an hour harvesting all the natural resources on your island, you can thankfully do it all again by paying for Nook Miles tickets, and committing mass deforestation and fracking on a new, uninhabited island in gameplay that is at its best repetitive, and at its worst morally reprehensible and environmentally irresponsible.
There are certainly worse ways to spend your time, but if you’re a fan of the Animal Crossing style of game and can find yourself easily bored, I would definitely consider picking up Stardew Valley or keeping your eyes peeled for the upcoming release of Summer in Mara, at least there you don’t owe your soul to a greedy, yet admittedly friendly racoon.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is available now on Nintendo Switch