Review Score: 5/5

Picture Credit: Nintendo
Picture Credit: Nintendo

Guys… we might have another contender for Game of the Year on our hands. Just days after posting our review for the excellent DOOM Eternal, we’re bringing to you another giant of the gaming world, after we were able to get hold of a review code for the Nintendo Switch’s next exclusive release, Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The latest instalment in the critically-acclaimed series has been on the wishlist of gamers ever since its announcement back in September 2018, and following a Nintendo Direct which delivered 30-minutes of exciting content reveals, we’ve been amongst those dying to check it out.

Launch day finally came last Friday (March 20th, 2020) following an initial delay, and the game has already broken records in the UK, becoming the most successful physical launch in the Nintendo Switch console’s history. For outsiders looking in, it’s an incredibly confusing prospect. What’s so attractive about a game packed full of talking animals that spend most of their time fishing and catching bugs? It’s not exactly a new prospect. It is that simplicity however, that draws millions from across the globe in with every release.

Let’s face it, the world’s in a bit of a rut (to say the least!). We’re now looking for ways to relax more than ever before, with many confused about what to do with so much time on their hands. New Horizons is the perfect answer. In previous Animal Crossing titles, we’ve taken the role of a villager moving into a new town, meeting the folk that live there and embedding ourselves into their way of life. This time round, we’re setting up shop on a formerly deserted island, as part of Nook Inc.’s new getaway package.

The process isn’t entirely unique, but it’s different enough to keep us interested from the jump. You’ll be given the choice of living in the Northern or Southern hemisphere (choose wisely, as the seasons change depending on where you live), as well as four different island maps to start your adventure. Once you’ve arrived at your new home, you’ll also be introduced to the two fellow Islanders that have decided to start life afresh. I got Cherry and Roald: try not to be too jealous.

Picture Credit: Nintendo
Picture Credit: Nintendo

What players will quickly come to realise in New Horizons, is that their island will only thrive if they’re willing to put in the work. You’re given tasks right away to help tidy up your living space, with Tom Nook naming you the island’s Resident Representative. It’s up to you to gather supplies, bugs, fish and fossils if you want the usual museum and shops to make an appearance. You’ll also be responsible for bringing new faces to live on the island, but more on that shortly…

There’s a brand new currency alongside the usual Bells, which you can earn by doing a number of different tasks. These are known as Nook Miles, and collecting 5,000 of them will help you pay off your very first loan. You’ll be able to keep track of your Nook Miles on your Nook Phone – given to you by the man himself at the start of your adventure – and claim a whole bunch of them after going about your day-to-day business.

Using Nook Miles is essential, especially when it comes to recruiting the aforementioned new faces to come and make your island their home. You can purchase special plane tickets for 2,000 miles each, that will whisk you off to another deserted island for a tour, where one potential new resident will be waiting. There’s also the chance to pick up some new species of bugs and fish on those islands, as well as different fruits so that you can bring some variety to the diets of those living alongside you.

The Nook Miles app isn’t the only one on your phone, with others including a Critterpedia to keep track of bugs and fish you’ve already caught, and a Custom Designs tool so you can create patterns for furniture and clothing. There’s also a Best Friends list once your airport opens to your friends list, a Map and a Rescue Service if you ever find yourself lost, amongst other things.

Picture Credit: Nintendo
Picture Credit: Nintendo

Island life makes one of these apps the most important: the DIY Recipes app. Here, you can keep track of all the objects and items you can craft, as well as the recipes telling you which ingredients you’ll need to make them. This is a brand new yet simple addition to Animal Crossing, and means that you’ll constantly be left with something to do. Crafting brings a brand new level of play to the game that many didn’t realise it needed. If you’ve ever played Minecraft, the simplicity will be familiar. No more will your trusty fishing rod provide you with years of service; instead, it’ll break apart after use and you’ll be forced to make a new one with materials from trees and rocks.

Those DIY recipes can make their way to your app in a number of ways, whether you’re buying them, being gifted them or even finding them washed up alongside a message in a bottle on the beach. Some will even be dreamed up by your character themselves, when they come across an item they think can be moulded into something more interesting.

Whether you’re a returning player who can’t wait to see all of the animal friends you’ve made in the past, or a complete newbie to the series, New Horizons is the perfect game to pick up in these surreal times. It’s a relaxing life sim with new challenges that don’t take away from the core of essential gameplay many of us have grown to love. With changing seasons, in-game events and holidays headed our way, I’m sure it’s one we’ll be playing for months – if not years – to come.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is available now exclusively to the Nintendo Switch family of consoles. A digital review code was given to Female First in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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