Sunday, September 27, 2015

My Review of Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer

Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer with Amiibo card reader

Like any good Animal Crossing addict, I picked up my copy of Happy Home Designer on Friday and got to work immediately. I, of course, fell in love with Lottie in an instant, and before I knew it, I had a handful of houses designed, as well as a school and a hospital. I was hooked.

However, while I'm having lots of fun so far, I don't think that this game will have the lasting power to keep me coming back for literally hundreds of hours like Animal Crossing New Leaf did. Why is that? There are a few reasons. I can't remember where I read it, but someone said it perfectly with "it's like a really great mini-game, but without a full game to go on around it." That's what it feels like to me.

Like many people have said, I wish I had my own house in the game. Some place where I can decorate it how I want, switch out items for new ones that come into stock, and expand as my progress continues. I've had a few clients ask me to do whatever I want to their house, as far as decoration themes go, but it's not the same.

Another thing that has struck me already is the lack of a rating system with completed designs. You can spend forever perfecting someone's balloon-themed abode, adding finishing touches and coming up with a creative, yet live-able floor plan, and your villager will love it and lavish you with praise. On the other hand, though, you could walk into their empty house, unbox the few pieces that they require for the design, and tell them you're done, and they'll be just as happy with your work.

I know it would be hard to judge creativity, and I know that Lyle from the Happy Home Academy in ACNL made me mad when he docked me points for straying from complete decoration collections, but there has to be a happy medium. It's clear that it's up to you to be proud of your work and that's the point of the game, but it kind of makes it feel like it's all for nothing when the townsperson doesn't really care what you do either way.

The last thing I would change would be to somehow make the collecting of furniture pieces a little more difficult. It felt so good to find the most awesome decoration to sit on an end table, spend your bells, and rush home to place it, after waiting for it to pop up in the shop or in someone's Street Pass house for weeks. In this, you get the full collection as soon as you take someone's request. It makes life easier, definitely, to have the full line of Rococo furniture for Muffy's gothic hideaway, but it doesn't feel like I'm doing much besides flipping through a catalog.

However, with all the points listed above, I do like the game a lot and there's plenty that I'm enjoying. While I said I wish for more of a hunt for prized pieces, it is pretty nice to be working on a room and not think "it would be perfect if I juuuuust had that Lovely end table." I know, a fickle review, but it's just the truth. (Wishing for more of a search for the perfect item would apply more to decorating my own home, though, not for Robbit or Goldie, necessarily.)

Another common praise of the game, that I completely agree with, is the revamped furniture placing system. It's. Amazing. You can flip, move, twist, and turn furniture pieces on a floor plan grid just with a touch of the stylus. No more pushing and pulling large couches, having to hide tables and chairs in your bag to make space to move the other stuff around the room. You can highlight a selection of furniture and move multiple pieces at once. It's pretty nifty and I hope that when there is an expansion of New Leaf or a full new game, that this mechanic is included.

Decorating outside of the houses is new and fun, too. It took me a few times to realize that I could place more than just flowers and trees in the villagers' yards, and after that, designing the exterior of the house got a lot more fun. I've created a little zen-like spa area for one client, a little flower stand, complete with greenhouse, product display, and cash tray, and a coffee patio, stocked with beans, an espresso machine, and a tiny little sink.

I'm really enjoying the jobs that Isabelle is giving me, too. When you're sick of building another big living room with a TV, bed, and sitting area, talk to the cutest little doggy in Animal Crossing and she'll assign you a different type of place to design, like a hospital, school, or shop. My favorite so far was creating a Noodle Cafe; I added tables, counters full of dishes, a barista corner next to the check-out counter, and a walled-off kitchen in the back, full of dirty plates and filled garbage bags. More assignments from Isabelle, please!

Last: Lottie. I love her. Oh, and ceiling decorations are fun, too!

I say, if you're 100% in love, borderline-obsessed with the Animal Crossing franchise, pick this game up. If your favorite part of New Leaf was designing homes, pick this game up. If you really liked the open-ended aspect of the previous game, though, running around and catching bugs, selling fruit, checking the stores daily for new items, and taking specific requests from your neighbors, maybe wait a bit to see if you can live without this entry in the series. It's not that you won't love it, but you'll find yourself getting bored and wanting more after not too long.


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