My first and only Animal Crossing game I played was on the GameCube. So, despite handheld gaming not fitting my lifestyle, nor life sims fitting my lifestyle, I’m back. But I barely have time for my own real life, so why in the hell would I spend so much time managing a digital one? The real question here is: after playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, did my mind change?
This light bulb is known as the “god complex”.
The saying many of you know is, “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” [Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying 1889]. The first thing you should know is that this game’s the latter. Prepare to grind, and you’ll find yourself creating a daily rhythm of activities. From simple gathering to fishing to swimming and everything in-between, you’re going to grind to pay off that crook Tom Nook. This grind is further made painful by a “one-by-one” user control design in all but a few things. But along the way, your toolset expands, and you begin to grasp the reality that this is your island. When you go from just a tent to a full on town, a sort of pride builds in you. As the island population grows and you spend more time, you get the kind of silly interactions you know you only get from a Nintendo game, and there’s a sort of warmth and charm to it all. As you begin getting serious about life on your own little island and how you now have total control over it, a light bulb switches on in your head. This light bulb is known as the “god complex”. And herein lies the most interesting thing about this whole ordeal: when you can terraform the island, when you can choose who stays and who leaves, the island begins to form who you are as a person. This makes New Horizons THE most wholesome god complex enabling game I’ve ever played. And therein lies why it is so addicting to such a large sum of people.
…your island may Never. Truly. Be. Finished.
Just how addicting is it? By the time you see these credits roll, you’re likely near the 50-hour mark. Well, I put in easily over 100 hours before I wrote this review, and my island still isn’t quite finished. Once that light bulb turns on and the addiction starts, you begin searching for ways to make things perfect, and in doing so you might find yourself turning to your friends. While the game’s online methods are actually rather disruptive and painful to sit through, the fact that items and resources can be openly shared creates a sort of community amongst real people. And then there’s the fact that there is such a massive variety of items that your island may Never. Truly. Be finished.
…THE best museum I’ve ever seen in a game.
This is the typical Nintendo method: less is more. The graphics don’t impress, but they’re clean albeit somewhat sterile. However, there are small touches that do keep the clean look and art style from feeling dated, and that’s particularly in the lighting engine and some of the textures. Where the game really shines in the presentation department is the way it embraces what it is: imitation. From sounds to names to silly lines from anthropomorphic animals, the game just oozes with undeniable charm about real life. But then! You’re bound to find yourself completely enamored by THE best museum I’ve ever seen in a game. The perfect combination of minimalist music, lighting, and the pitter-patter of your footsteps through the museum is almost awe-inspiring, and this is the first game where I felt compelled to donate to the museum for collection purposes. I hate collectathons, but the first thing I did with every new creature and fossil was donate it. That’s how good the museum is.
…who doesn’t want to work on their perceptions of the world?
This is the most wholesome god complex experience there is. It’s because of its clean art style, its undeniable charm, its embrace of its own silly imitation of real life, and the fact that you built everything yourself through the grind of hard work that you begin to form what your mind perceives. And in this lies the addiction: who doesn’t want to work on their perceptions of the world? I found myself addicted and engrossed in a digital life I thought I wouldn’t care about, and this is nearly the perfect life sim experience if it weren’t for poor quality of life (irony, right?) designs like the “one-by-one” user controls and the utterly disruptive online experience. But you know what? My island is Still. Not. Finished.