ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: NINTENDO / PLATFORM: SWITCH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Nintendo's chilled-out town-builder / social simulation Animal Crossing returns with New Horizons, which sees an unnamed youngster set sail to a deserted island in search of a new start. With the help of friendly raccoon Tom Nook and his boys, Timmy and Tommy, along with a couple of other new arrivals, your island will grow as your economy increases and more amenities become available, attracting more newcomers to the neighbourhood.
Intended to be played for half an hour or so each day over a period of weeks and months, AC:NH makes binge-playing impossible (unless you cheat) by locking many of its upgrades and missions until varying amounts of time have passed in the real world. If a character tells you something will be ready tomorrow, they really do mean tomorrow. It can be a tad frustrating when certain essential facilities suddenly become temporarily unavailable while they're being renovated, but there are plenty of things to keep you entertained in the meantime.
The bulk of your time will be spent fishing, chopping trees, breaking up rocks, catching bugs and digging for fossils. Anything and everything can be sold for bells (the game's currency), and many items are necessary for crafting furniture and generally tarting up your island. And, of course, you can donate any specimens you find to Blathers the owl in the local museum, who will put everything on display as a record of your efforts.
It might not sound like much, but there's always something to do whenever you decide to dip in for a little while. Shop inventories change every day, and there's a seemingly never-ending list of challenges that reward you with “Nook Miles,” a secondary currency that can be exchanged for some of the game's more desirable items. The most useful (and expensive) of these is plane tickets which allow you to fly to other islands (including those belonging to other players) where you can find rare plants and critters, bringing them back to your island to sell for megabucks.
It's rare that a game doesn't especially give you any objective other than “do what you want,” and AC:NH's ability to engage players with just a handful of tools is absolutely to be applauded. We've all got plenty of time on our hands at the moment, and this might be just what you're looking for to while away some of those extra hours.