Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is a brand new take on the series that manages to make moving furniture fun, but fails to innovate in a meaningful way.
As one of the more popular games currently available for the Nintendo 3DS, Animal Crossing: New Leaf has managed to capture a core audience that has become hooked on the very simple premises it puts forth. Whether players were catching fish or adding on to their houses, there was always something to do – with one of the major draws being the ability to customize the interior of one’s home. Nintendo has now opted to take this one aspect to a whole new level, with Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer.
With the major focus from collecting items now shifted to placing them, it’s never been easier to put together some worthwhile digital digs. While the initial appeal of this is immediate for anyone that’s played the cutesy series before, it’s not a lasting one. Players are exposed to the premise of repeating the same task over and over again, and while well-placed breaks in between building custom houses is necessary, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer really doesn’t change as users progress through it.
The game starts off a little differently than traditional entries in the franchise, with players creating the look of their villager before getting a job at the Happy Home Academy. Once there, users are reintroduced to some of their favorite mascots from Animal Crossing, and they’ll be given their first task of decorating a resident’s home with items of their choice.
Catering to each resident’s desired theme, players quickly become interior decorators striving to fit in furniture and simultaneously satisfy their client. There’s no denying the initial appeal and ease that accompanies putting together a home, but it does gradually become a little tedious. That said, Happy Home Designer does a good job at changing things up through different venues outside of traditional homes.
Users will find themselves building schools, shops, restaurants, offices, and more thanks to a returning Isabelle. All the while, the surrounding town will grow, which will in turn bring about even more clients. There are an almost unfathomable number of residents in need of a well-made home, and the game grows to allow players more freedom to create the houses of their cutesy villagers’ dreams.
One major way designers can change things up is by utilizing the Nintendo 3DS’ PlayCoin feature to add new items, change window designs, and even customize floor plans. This, of course, is an immediate drawback for anyone that doesn’t like taking their handheld console with them while they go for a stroll (which is the only way to gather these pieces of fictitious pieces of currency), which makes these tools impractically implemented. Those that have access to an accumulated number of PlayCoins, though, now have a more impactful way of spending them.
These options help to make designs feel more distinct and original, giving the game more depth than the initial premise of placing furniture and changing wallpaper. After gaining access to these tools and items, however, the feeling of monotony begins to creep back in. While demands from clients change, the end-game relies on the same approach for each renovated domicile or community-centric building, which is tiresome.
Happy Home Designer tries to capture the appeal of the mainstream series by providing fans the chance to unlock, earn, and collect various in-game items as well. Whether that pertains to furniture, decorating abilities, or emotes (which are purely cosmetic reactions from the player’s on-screen avatar), there’s plenty to gather, but little reason to appreciate it. Having a larger catalogue offers more options, but the end result doesn’t change much. Villagers are never upset with what’s been done, and the game continues on with no obvious consequence.
The title also supports the new line of Animal Crossing amiibo cards, and they have a fairly basic function. Players can scan their cards and turn them into clients within their game, all possible through a special amiibo-branded telephone that appears in-game. These don’t add to the game, although they do let players to design houses for beloved characters like KK Slider and Tom Nook, and act as an optional feature rather than a necessary one.
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer feels like a rushed spin-off, rather than a worthwhile investment for fans of the existing franchise. There’s fun to be had from the get-go, but that quickly fades as the game tediously has players repeat the same tasks over and over again. The ability to upload layout and designs online for others to rate is a neat feature for those hoping to excel in interior decorating, but there’s very little that’ll keep fans playing the portable title for too long.
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is now available exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS. Game Rant was provided a 3DS code for this review.