By David Martin

Game flies people to new horizons


It’s probably a wish a lot of us have right now: to fly away to some tiny island and away from everything that’s going on right now.

With that in mind, it’s almost tragic to say “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” released two weeks ago at what is likely the perfect time for its kind of video game. Exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, the game allows players to develop a desert-island community for a huge cast of animal residents.

While “Animal Crossing” doesn’t have the same name recognition as Super Mario or “The Legend of Zelda,” the series dates back to 2001. Mario may traverse perils to confront Bowser and will Link adventure to put an end to Ganon’s evil ambitions, the “Animal Crossing” villagers don’t concern themselves with such deeds. They fish, catch bugs, dig up fossils and pay back zero-interest home loans to expand their houses. They collect furniture to display in and around their homes and generally lead a peaceful existence with their animal friends. Needless to say, these games are not adrenaline-fueled rushes.

The game starts with the villager and two other animals moving to a deserted island as part of a venture spearheaded by Tom Nook, the business-minded raccoon of the series. After setting up their tents and spending their first night on the island, Nook and his sons give the villager tasks to slowly transform the island into a resort community.

This includes helping set up a general store, museum and homes for more animals as word spreads about the island.

While the presentation is made in a manner friendly to all ages, with bright colors and cute character designs, the game isn’t aimed solely at children -- the same way a Disney animated film may be marketed to children, but can be appreciated by almost anyone.

Some of the most visually appealing sections of the game can be seen in the museum. The museum’s aquarium, which houses the different aquatic species caught and donated by the villager, is especially eye-catching because the fish are housed in biome-specific mimicking their real-world environments.

One enormous tank allows villagers to walk through it -- one can only imagine what it would look like once the all fish the tank is reserved for are donated.

That last sentence brings me to one final and important point about “Animal Crossing” as a series.

These are games not meant for a marathon play through. “Animal Crossing” games are meant to be enjoyed for a long time and are designed to be rewarding regardless of if someone has half an hour or a few hours to play. The game follows a daytime schedule mimicking a real life cycle due to game time being synchronized with the Switch’s internal calender and clock and holidays coincide with their real-life dates.

The loans issued never have due dates attached to them and a session can be as simple as catching a few bugs and donating them to the museum or selling fruit and furniture to the local market before turning it off.

That’s what I find most appealing about these games. I don’t have the time to dedicate to marathon play sessions and something that feels relaxing regardless of the time I sink into it is a definite plus for me. With the novel coronavirus continuing to impact daily life worldwide, an escape is just what many of us need right now.

For those of us who enjoy playing video games, the island life in “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is worth checking out.


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