You don’t hear about mobile games disrupting the landscape of gaming quite as much as you used to. That’s probably because the disruption is over and the landscape has changed; it’s largely a given that you’ll see people playing Candy Crush or Pokémon Go out on the street these days. That’s not stopping the release of more games intended to get that sweet, sweet in-app purchase revenue, though. Some of them are even pretty decent – case in point: Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, a mobile take on the popular life sim series from Nintendo.
Pocket Camp is…well, it’s mobile Animal Crossing, with most of what that entails. You’ve got a camp of your own to customize, other animal campers to interact with and befriend and an ominous hint of capitalistic greed looming over it all. progress is made by making more friends, fishing, catching bugs and that sort of thing. It’s all very cute and wholesome, making this a pretty good game for younger players or those who aren’t into the more action-focused sort of game.
The camp you inhabit here is smaller than a typical Animal Crossing village, as you might expect, but that suits the smaller scale of the game just fine. Once you get the lay of the land it’s easy to get everything you’re trying to finish done in a flash. The Animal Crossing formula also lends itself to the little daily tasks that Pocket Camp offers for rewards. As with other games in the series, this one wants to encourage consistency – you come back to meet new animals, do your dailies, make money and keep the camp running smoothly, and in doing so you establish a connection with the camp that will make you want to come back more often in the future.
Pocket Camp is Animal Crossing, in other words. It doesn’t have as much going on as the main series games, but it looks about the same, it plays about the same and it scratches many of the same routine-flavored itches. It’s a fairly accurate representation of what Animal Crossing titles are like; the most significant changes lie in the establishment of goals for players, like the aforementioned dailies and the ability to construct furniture to have specific villagers show up to your camp, and to me all of this felt like a step in the right direction.
That’s not the real question on your mind, though, is it? No, you’re thinking about your bank account and what’s about to happen to it. Pocket Camp hearkens back to an era of mobile gaming that’s been gone for a few years: the timer era. Before everything was all about loot boxes, everything was all about making things take forever. We can probably thank Farmville, the classic Facebook time-waster, for that one; the idea is that ingame tasks take inordinate amounts of time to complete, encouraging you to pay to skip those tasks. Here, those timers are primarily attached to crafting new items for your camp, turning a 12-hour wait into a no-hour wait thanks to your stash of Leaf Tickets, this game’s premium currency that’s available via a slow trickle ingame or via cash money grip.
Your response to this is likely to vary based on your thoughts on monetization, but I generally found Pocket Camp to be a little less…desperate than many mobile games. This mirrors some of Nintendo’s efforts in the mobile space, though not all of them, as Fire Emblem Heroes remains hungry for your bucks. Note that some character cameos are locked behind Leaf Ticket-only items like a chair for Tom Nook, so if you’re really hoping to see your favorites then you might need to consider shelling out.
Is this the death of gaming as we know it? Nah, probably not. As mentioned, if you’re patient than the whole thing is fairly inoffensive. This is a great game for short sessions anyway – much like the real Animal Crossing, a little visit to your town in the morning or at the end of the day is all that’s really asked of you. Coming back after work to find that an item has finished crafting is certainly nice.
I’m not going to pretend that Pocket Camp is going to stay on my phone forever. No, my camp’s probably going to get savaged by bears before too much longer. At the same time, it’s easy to recognize the ways in which this game will hook the right kind of player, and with that said it’s easy to appreciate that while monetization is necessary it could have been much worse than it is. All in all, Pocket Camp ends up being just enough Animal Crossing on the go to sate the rabid AC-ers out there, but when the inevitable Switch version hits the market, it’s likely this campsite’s going to be empty.