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Animal Crossing Pocket Camp: Critical Consensus

A faithful yet divisive pocket-sized recreation of the beloved series, plagued by microtransaction

Animal Crossing has been crying out for a smartphone release for years but now that it's finally here, how does it hold up?

As a franchise, Animal Crossing is almost universally revered. Not only does it provide ample fuel for internet meme-culture, it's the gaming equivalent of a lovely warm bath. The sentiment towards Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is a little more divisive however.

Our colleagues over at Nintendo Life were quick to praise the game, with Liam Doolan giving it an eight out of ten.

"Even as a free-to-play title, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp goes above and beyond expectations; it's certainly a great introduction for first-time players thanks to the charming and accessible design," he said.

Unlike many of his counterparts, Doolan was more forgiving of the microtransactions, saying they simply offer the player a way of speeding things up, rather than forcing users to spend money in order to progress.

"It's almost startling just how easily this IP has been adapted to the mobile platform," he said. "While it does experiment with the classic formula to go where no existing releases have gone before, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp still manages to provide the same level of escapism that has been fundamental to the series over the years. For this reason alone, it's worth checking out."

Much more scathing was Ars Technica's Sam Machkovech who was unimpressed by the core experience and free-to-play mechanics.

"As a result, this isn't Animal Crossing," he wrote. "This is a scam. Nintendo should be ashamed for attaching such predatory practices to one of its most family-friendly properties, and nothing short of a full-scale redesign will fix the FarmVille-level rot within this shiny-looking game."

He was also very critical of the format, which departs from Animal Crossing's typical interconnected world in favour of standalone areas.

"Instead of free-flowing and emergent gameplay, where you happen to see a rare bug or a fish's shadow and make moves to switch out inventory and capitalize, you're instead just heading to specific locales and farming the crap out of them until their supplies are exhausted," he said.

Additionally, the newly-introduced crafting system was found to be a disappointment, saying it simply "dumped a soup of confusing currencies into the game."

"This isn't Animal Crossing. This is a scam"

Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica

Perhaps the most generous review comes from Touch Arcade's Eli Hodapp who gave the game 4.5 out of five.

"Pocket Camp is a shockingly well done mobile adaptation of Animal Crossing without ever replacing 'real' Animal Crossing games such as New Leaf on the 3DS," he said.

Even so, he was forced to concede that Pocket Camp offers a more stripped down experience and players expecting a fully realised entry into the series will find its limitations frustrating. The free-to-play-mechanics, however, he found less irksome than most, arguing that Animal Crossing has "always played like a freemium game - Nintendo just got you to pay $40 to $60 up front for it."

Another more generous score came from CJ Andriessen at Destructoid who has already spent nearly a month with the game.

Awarding it 7.5 out of ten, he said: "Pocket Camp looks, plays and charms just like a standard Animal Crossing game, only miniaturised."

This stripped-down format works well according to Andriessen, who said that "even with the slow grind of progress, Pocket Camp still manages to be something I enthusiastically return to several times throughout the day."

"Pocket Camp looks, plays and charms just like a standard Animal Crossing game, only miniaturised"

Eli Hodapp, Touch Arcade

Gita Jackson at Kotaku UK, disagreed, describing the game as "charming but sleazy".

She wrote: "Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is a perfectly serviceable entry into the series, until the game reminds you that you could be spending money on it."

According to Jackson, certain aspects of the game "strain against the relaxing, friendly vibe of the Animal Crossing series", and criticised how quickly it moves from building items in a matter of minutes to several hours.

"The option to just buy your way to shorter timers and more materials is everywhere in this game. In the mainline Animal Crossing games, waiting is often the point," she said.

"In Pocket Camp, where the timers are very visible, I feel like I'm being taunted. Sure, fruit re-grows more frequently, after only a three-hour wait, but knowing I have the option to spend money and instantly regrow it feels sleazy."

While Jackson said that Pocket Camp has the strong pull of nostalgia, it also "feels more like something Tom Nook would sell you," describing it as "predatory, dishonest, and trying to squeeze more money out of you."

"These two things butt heads against each other, and they make the world of Animal Crossing feel a little tainted," she wrote. "I would actually pay an embarrassing amount of money for Animal Crossing on the Switch, and even though I am enjoying Pocket Camp for now, at the end of the day it's leaving a sour taste in my mouth."

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Latest comments (1)

Ian Griffiths Game Director, Hutch20 days ago
I don't understand how any of this is 'dishonest' or 'sleazy' when it's put upfront. You don't have to pay for any of - that's why it's free.

There's a massive disconnect between reviewers and players of free-to-play games. Games journalism needs to get onboard with f2p and not be shocked by optional or even encouraged mtx or they're going to struggle to find purchase with the casual and f2p audience.
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