Vivid, cute and cartoon-like; Animal Crossing is one deceptively addictive game

Animal CrossinWELCOME to Animal Crossing, where the streets are paved with gumdrops- if you want them to be. For all you know, the human world may have crumbled into hell, but this happy little animal town seems to have survived some kind of apocalypse and exists in a perpetual state of kawaii bliss. Due to some bizarre mix-up you have been appointed mayor, securing your position at the top of the evolutionary scale as the only human citizen.  As the new leader, it’s your job to transform the town from the sparse wasteland that old Mayor Tortimer left it in into a thriving and prosperous location.

Despite its vivid style and cute characters being right up my street, the series had eluded me before New Leaf, so I can’t look at the latest instalment in comparison to the other games. With that awkwardness out the way, I can say that taking the game as it is, I love it (I can’t say loved Animal Crossing isn’t the kind of game you can really ‘complete’, and I don’t see myself getting bored of it any time soon). Behind those cartoon-like graphics and apparent lack of peril, New Leaf is deceptively addictive. It works on the same principle as a lot of online simulation games, just without the need to bug your Facebook friends for items in order to progress: you earn money, you build things and this process continues indefinitely. The game is played in real time and as the days pass new neighbours move in, shops are built and public works projects are completed. The seasons change to correspond with the date set on your 3DS, and different events are available to take part in depending on the time of year. Shops are also restocked daily and only sell a few items at a time instead of having a full catalogue to choose from whenever you like, so you feel impatient to see what new things have been added each day. The desire to see the world that you have designed and earned (mostly by finding things and selling them) is the driving force of the game.

New Leaf promises “total freedom” for its players, but I’m yet to discover the option that allows me to enslave the town’s adorable dwellers and make them work in my sweat shop. But why would you want to do that anyway? This game is just too nice– and I don’t mean that as a bad thing. It has an innocence that you don’t want to spoil- an innocence far removed from the stabbing, shooting and breaking into other people’s houses and smashing their vases of other games. It’s almost as though this game wants its players to grow up into respectable members of the community. I even feel guilty writing rude words when a towns-animal asks me what their new greeting should be, or changing the flag to a brazen phallic image. This is a more carefree world than reality. Imagine if David Cameron could secure the country’s flagging economy by catching and selling bugs and fish- wouldn’t that just be so nice?

Your town is home to some endearing, anthropomorphic characters. There’s Tom Nook, the stoned-looking estate agent racoon; K.K. Slider, the dog with Satanic eyebrows; Reese, the powder-puff pink alpaca who is able to fund the building of all the public works projects in return for fruit and flowers and that creepy axolotl- yes, axolotl, who runs the nightclub. In your new position as mayor, your job not only includes running the town, but interacting, running errands for and even playing hide-and-seek with these characters. Rather than being faceless drones that exist purely to show that your town is inhabitable, the characters have their own personalities, which really builds the community spirit. If you fancy taking some time off from your mayoral ‘duties’ you can take a boat (helmed by a singing tortoise that keeps hitting on you) to Tortimer’s tropical island where you can play mini games for prizes.

Despite (arguably) being a children’s game, a whole online community exists of fans of all ages  who use the game as a vehicle for their creativity. This community consists of quite obviously adult players who design patterns for you to download which can be applied to clothing, furniture, town paths and much more. If you pester Sable of the Able Sister’s clothes shop for ten days in a row she reveals to you her depressing life story AND enables you to use the QR Pattern reader, which uses the 3DS camera to read custom design codes from your computer screen. Monthly downloadable items can also be obtained by going to the Post Office and connecting to the internet. New Leaf also makes use of the the 3DS’ WIFI capabilities in the multiplayer mode, allowing you to visit the towns of friends from all over the world and travel to the island together to play co-operative mini games. On top of this, the StreetPass function is utilised to add the other players homes to the Happy Home Showcase for you to view.

All in all, New Leaf is a game I’d highly recommend unless, of course, you have a severe allergy to cuteness or have some pressing work to do in the real world, because you might find that this takes a backseat when you’re faced with the opportunity to decorate a town with flowers and build a campsite. This might all sound decidedly lame, but it’s not. Trust me, you’ll be hooked.