Video Game Review: Animal Crossing New Horizons

Maine officially closes down tomorrow, with the governor having issued a Stay at Home order that starts at midnight tonight. I saw the writing on the wall well in advance, and so I’ve been looking for ways for my family to not go insane while we’re in quarantine. We’ve got plenty of ways to distract ourselves, but I wanted to get in some different ways where we could do things together. If we came out of this quarantine, and everyone had just spent time doing things on their own, then that would be a failure.

That said, it’s been strange to navigate a new normal in this new environment. I’m at home each day, but I have a bunch of work to do. It’s not like I can put it all aside and just go play games with the kids. In fact, the kids all have homework they’re supposed to be doing as well. So we’re all at the house, but during the day there’s a lot of “all of us working on our own” time, and then we get back together in the late afternoon, almost as if we’re all coming back from work and school.

In any case, I’d heard a lot of good things about the new Animal Crossing game. It’s been so popular over the quarantine time that Nintendo Switches are selling out again, and have once more become hard to obtain. So if you already have a Switch, then this could be a great thing for you to check out for your family. If you don’t . . . it might be hard to play along.

The original Animal Crossing for the Gamecube is one of the few games Denisa ever really played extensively. If you’ve never encountered the game before, it’s pretty straightforward: you play a villager in a town. You do jobs around town to make money and pay for enhancements to your house. You can catch bugs, fish, interact with other villagers, and just generally play at your own speed. There’s no dying. No real competition. It’s just a laid back way to pass the time.

For the Switch version, you have couch co-op, meaning up to four players can play on the screen at the same time, as long as you have enough controllers. That was the detail that really made me decide to try it out. It’s easy to pass the main control from one player to another. (Only one player at a time can talk to villagers and buy and sell things.) It’s already been a smash hit. We’ve had hours of time when two, three, or four players are up playing at the same time. Denisa even came out of retirement last night to have a go at things again.

MC is the biggest fan of the game. She just keeps saying how it’s the “best game ever,” and loves taking as much time as we’ll give her to go around and fish and decorate her house. There’s been a bit of a to do around the game online, since for couch co-op, all progress of the town (making new buildings, for example) rests on the first person to play the game. This means only one person can have “control” over the island, potentially. For our situation, I actually think that works better. I made myself the main player, so there’s no arguing among the kids for what to do and what changes to make. Also, the whole point is to have us all play together, so I’m glad (for now, at least) that we’re not all in different save files in the game. It’s a cooperative thing, and that’s why I bought it.

Anyway. If you have a Switch and are looking for some sustained activities that can bring your family together, I definitely give the game my full endorsement. It sounds bizarre, perhaps, but it really is a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to escape from what’s a pretty grim reality facing us right now.

Give it a shot!


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