Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp solid despite issues

A warm welcome on the title screen.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is the latest in Nintendo’s line of mobile games, following on the success of titles like Super Mario Run and Pokémon Go.

Both of those titles offered something new. Super Mario Run was a twist on the typical Mario formula in that Mario couldn’t stop running. Pokémon Go brought the thrill of being an actual factual Pokémon Trainer to life in spectacular fashion.

However, what does Pocket Camp offer? What more can be done with the wholesome Animal Crossing formula of a human moving into a town of cute animals and becoming best friends with everyone?

The answer is quite a bit, actually.

Pocket Camp is, at its heart, a people-pleasing game. Your goal is to construct a campsite and attract the game’s animal inhabitants to come and stay.

This is mostly achieved by crafting furniture, all of which has a theme that reflects your camp’s style. These are cute, cool, natural, and sporty. Different animals like different themes, and will give out “essences” of these themes as rewards.

However, here’s where things get a bit off-kilter. Theming of campsites seems to mostly be down to constructing the right couch to get someone to come visit. No, really.

Crafting is done by two alpacas, Reese and Cyrus, who previously appeared as the owners of Re-Tail in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Like most everyone in this game, they’re now in a camper to reflect the more mobile theming of the game. Crafting takes a little while, but you can expedite the process by using Leaf Tickets.

And therein lies one of the biggest problems with the game – the constant suggestion of “Hey! Use Leaf Tickets!”

You can’t even enter the mines without spending 20 Leaf Tickets (or hunting down five friends and adding them).

An example of the push to use Leaf Tickets.

Now, for those unaware, the primary currency in Animal Crossing games has always been called Bells. That still holds true here. You can get Bells as rewards or for selling things at market.

Leaf Tickets are not a replacement for Bells. They are merely this game’s attempt to get you to make microtransactions, that creeping evil that almost every mobile game has nowadays.

Admittedly, it’s not as egregious as some games, and not everyone’s reactions to this have been justified. Sam Machkovech of Arstechnica alleged in his article that “Nintendo should be ashamed.” Even supermodel Chrissy Teigen made waves on Twitter about it, informing everyone that she’d spent $120 on Leaf Tickets before deleting the app.

Personally, I don’t care. I won’t buy them as I have no money to do so and I don’t want to ask my grandmother to spend anything on something so trivial.

Besides, you do get Leaf Tickets in-game as an occasional reward for either helping out an animal or completing a timed or stretch goal. These can be anything from giving three other players kudos on their campsites to going down to the beach and hauling in three squid from a net. But the best way to get a lot of Leaf Tickets in a short time is to link your Nintendo account, which nets you an automatic 100 of them.

I never even did that and still ended up with over 120 of them after about three hours of play.

Overall, the Leaf Ticket business, to my mind at least, was an inevitability. It’s the way the platform works, and Nintendo probably felt it was the most economical action to take. They’d done something similar with Super Mario Run, after all.

There’s a lot more to the game than Leaf Tickets, anyway.

Pocket Camp is a solid installment in the Animal Crossing series and I particularly enjoy how it’s been translated to mobile.

Moving is as simple as dragging your finger where you want your character to go or tapping the object you want to interact with. Bug-catching and fishing are now timed mini-games. As someone who spent agonizing ages trying to catch bugs in New Leaf, I cannot help but appreciate this.

New ways to grab fish and bugs also delighted me – namely using a big net to grab fish or stuffing a hollowed-out stump with honey to attract bugs. These are how you grab these collectables in bulk, and I suspect we’ll be seeing them again if ever Animal Crossing makes its way to the Nintendo Switch.

I've never crobbled in my life, and I resent the accusation!

Interacting with the animals is as quirky and wonderful as ever. These things say the weirdest stuff, and it’s always so much fun talking to them and giving them presents. A lot of my favorites came back, too, such as the eagle, Apollo, and the Labrador, Goldie.

I also really enjoy the campers that are the new mode of transportation and housing. I understand that there are upgrades beyond the basic one-room model and can’t wait to get to them. Using the three new blackbird mechanics to re-style my camper was great, too. They’re charming and funny, as I’ve come to expect from this series.

The graphics are on-par with New Leaf, as is the music and overall aesthetic. I cannot complain about them.

There’s a lot more to discover in-game, so I won’t spoil it here. You’ll have to go get it yourself! It’s free in the App Store or Play Store.

So, while I wouldn’t give it a perfect score, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is easily a 7 out of 10 for me. I’d have preferred something more traditional, but this is good for what it is – Leaf Tickets and all.