There are plenty of spin-offs in gaming, but just like film and television, not all are instant hits. For every “Daxter,” there’s an “Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer” on the Nintendo 3DS.
Although it does a solid job of recreating the cute and charming world of the original series, the gameplay is lather, rinse, repeat and does nothing to pull the gamer in and invest the real time needed in order to bring out the game’s finer qualities. Simply put, although there’s a bevy of creative tools at your disposal, it takes far too long and access them and as a result, you’ll find yourself giving up well before you get access to them.
The game’s strength is the interaction between characters. A new hire at Tom Nook’s interior and exterior home design company, you’re thrust into work from the get-go, working with a variety of customers, all with special needs and desires for their homes. Over time, you begin to build the town, creating, cafes, schools and hospitals, turning the small, cozy place into a much more vibrant community. While the investment has its moments (thanks especially to the fact that you can create custom designs) and it’s always cool to check out your finished product, there are several huge problems with the gameplay mechanics, making the game something much more childish than you’d expect.
Although moving furniture and other items on the screen with your stylus is fun and can be a creative way to spend a few minutes on the bus and the train, it’s never fun. And with no real way to see how you stack up with the rest of the world or even in the game, your creations essentially have zero validity.
While gamers can rate the designs of others using Nintendo’s Miiverse, there’s no real way your creations are graded in the single-player mode. All you really have to do is use the content given to you by the character at the start of every new level and you could call it a day. It makes all the time and energy fine-crafting each home a waste of time and eliminates any real reward.
In the end, there’s a ton of stuff to do in “Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer,” but it’s all too fetch and repetitive to be engaging. A huge misstep for the cult-favorite series, it’s not as happy an experience as you’d expect and is only for the most dedicated AC fans.
Amiibo Cards: Seeing new characters get into your game via the amiibo card system is one of the coolest things in the game. Trade ‘em with your friends and all of a sudden the game gets a lot beefier in terms of content.
Easy to Advance: All you have to do is use the required pieces on each level and you can advance. There’s little skill involved.
Too Much Investment, Not Enough Pay-Off: It takes hours to unlock the real creative versatility of “Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer” and most gamers won’t invest that much time in it.
Same Old Song: The gameplay doesn’t change much, even when you acquire new tools. As a result, you’ll get bored pretty fast.
Although there are a fun mix of characters and the writing is what you’d expect from an “Animal Crossing” game, “Happy Home Designer” requires entirely too much work and not enough satisfaction for even the most dedicated fans of the franchise. If you’re starving for some of the series’ classic gameplay, you won’t find it here.