Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp has taken iOS devices by storm since its release last week. Nintendo’s community simulation franchise with anthropomorphic animals has seen success in its launch on Nintendo consoles, but Pocket Camp is the first transition to another platform. Pocket Camp delivers a great iOS simulation game with a ton to do each time you open the app. You can fish, catch bugs, and simply chat to the animals that appear in the different locations of the in-game world. There are four locations to visit for goods plus three additional shop locations to give you plenty to potentially acquire. The anthropomorphic animals are the highlight of Animal Crossing, and the camping set up in the iOS version allows for an ever growing cast of animal characters each time you upgrade.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is a definite iOS stand out, but Nintendo is competing with themselves more than other iOS developers. Pocket Camp isn’t without its problems especially compared to its predecessors on Nintendo consoles. Animal Crossing first launched in the US on the Gamecube, and comparing Pocket Camp to the Gamecube original is where Pocket Camp struggles. The biggest difference between the two can be summed up with one word, variety.
The biggest difference between the two can be summed up with one word, variety.
The original Animal Crossing’s best attribute is the very distinct personalities of each animal character that you encountered. Pocket Camp on the other hand gives a lot less personality to the characters to the point that the first few conversations of each character offer tips on how to play the game. Not only that, but there is a specific set of characters in the game so that each friend you visit will likely have the same characters in their camp, as yours. Each village in the original Animal Crossing had a unique set of characters to build upon the personality variation of the in-game ecosystem. Speaking of village variation, the original Animal Crossing also had a ton of different items to unlock. When you visit a friend’s house, there are all new items to give you inspiration in decorating your own house. In Pocket Camp, there are so many fewer decor choices, so that each friend’s camp looks almost identical to each others and yours.
It’s not just the variety in customization options that’s missing in Pocket Camp. There’s also less diversity in the gameplay. Pocket Camp reduces the game down to simplistic fishing and bug catching in which it’s difficult not to catch what you want. The original game made fishing and bug catching more enjoyable since you really need good timing to capture the various creatures. There was also a lot more to catch with different creatures coming out based on the time of day and time of year. The Gamecube edition also offered fossil hunting, allowing you to dig up the world for the chance to get fossils for the town museum or fun little gyroids. There’s no digging in Pocket Camp, and there’s just one generic gyroid in a lottery based mineral section. Tom Nook is one of the best characters in Animal Crossing, and he has a huge store that grows with you to give a ton of potential items to buy. In Pocket Camp, Timmy Nook only offers three items per day to buy, and Tom is an in-game purchase to just sit at your camp. Even helping out your animal friends had more variety in the original to give you different things to look for, while Pocket Camp turns help into menial chores of gathering the same fruit, fish, and bugs.
You would think that iOS devices are powerful enough to be able to bring a complete Gamecube game environment. It seems Nintendo made deliberate design choices to purposefully create a watered down version. You could argue it’s easier to make a bigger game at a $50 price point rather than supported by micro transactions. I would argue it would probably be cheaper to remake their original game, or a very similar version, for iOS than design an all new watered down version. The more time you have with Pocket Camp, the more it feels like a playable ad to pick up Animal Crossing on one of Nintendo’s consoles. I find myself wanting to play the older versions to get a full simulation game. Nintendo could have probably done an even better job if they had a new Switch version of Animal Crossing ready to go.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp isn’t bad, far from it, and easily stands out among the crowded field of iOS simulation games. When compared to a game from 15 years ago though, it comes up far short.