When you first arrive on the deserted island there isn’t a whole lot to do other than clean up branches and weeds on the small patch of land you have access to, catch fish and chill out. But every day that argyle-vest-wearing business racoon Tom Nook will introduce new elements — a museum to house your fossils and fish, a store to barter in — and eventually your island will become a village.
A new ‘Nook Miles’ system that rewards you with points for achieving certain goals is an excellent guide if you’re looking for something to do, but for the most part you’re free to follow your heart here. Work towards expanding your house and filling it with all your favourite things, propagate flowers and fruit trees, or spend time hanging out with the bizarre animal villagers your little town attracts.
Brand new touches like the ability to learn crafting recipes and make items from collected resources makes for a much more satisfying and less capitalist vibe than previous games, while the late-game ability to totally terraform your island will be thrilling for perfectionists.
Creative types will find endless opportunities to customise and build on their town — from designing your own garments or zen gardens to completely overhauling what your main strip’s cobblestones look like — while social players will find it easier than ever (though still not seamless) to visit each other’s towns over the internet and compare turnip prices.
Like other games in the series, the content in New Horizons is tied to the real world clock and calendar. If it’s 4pm in the real world it’s 4pm on your island. If it’s April your village will be visited by a frankly disturbing rabbit who’s hidden eggs all over the place. For the first time this all lines up nicely with the southern hemisphere too, with seasonally appropriate weather, bugs and fish.
As a result you may find there’s a limit to what you can do in a single day, with resources like wood needing time to regenerate. But then this is a game designed to play for a few hours a day, not in marathon sessions, and the many deep sub systems and seasonal approach to content and challenges means you could be dipping in for years to come.
Animal Crossing New Horizons is out now for Switch.