For years, they have been watching in the shadows, judging when we weren’t looking. Now, for the first time, we finally get an inside look in the lives of the Happy Home Academy, sort of. That’s right, I’m talking about Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer for the Nintendo 3DS.
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group 2
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release: September 25, 2015
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is a spinoff game from, of course, the Animal Crossing series. Unlike in the main series, you are not a jobless villager. You are a new employee of Nook’s Homes as a home designer.
As it turns out, home design is pretty frickin’ easy. You have some sort of magical tablet device that lets you drop, pick up, and move around all sorts of heavy furniture hands free! No more pushing sofas around like a common pleb. You are one of the elites now, and damn does it feel great. Moving furniture (and, hehe, animals) around freely with your stylus feels so much better than the pushing and pulling you had to put up with in previous AC games. It’s fast and easy, which is perfect for a game in which you’ll find yourself moving tables back and forth like mad. I sincerely hope this control scheme gets implemented in every future Animal Crossing game.
Now, the main aim of this game is to meet with the various animal villagers and design a house for them according to their specification. For the most part, this simply means that you will have to use a certain theme or even just a few key items in each house. One villager may want an all blue room or a cabin-themed room or just a room with a basket of fruit in it. It is generally super easy to cater to what they want, leaving the rest up to you and your creative mind.
Eventually, you’ll even be asked to design city structures, such as the school and a restaurant. I found these projects to be a really fun way to break up the monotony of constantly decorating the same layouts each time. It’s kind of fun to try to decorate the school based off of your own high school.
That said, the game does get monotonous, so it’s relatively easy to play so much that you get sick of it. Aside from the few key pieces that each villager requests, each house ends up having roughly the same layout, and I found that I’d end up designing each house almost mechanically. It’s really a game that lends itself to being picked up only once in a blue moon or as a game you play on the toilet.
Probably the most frustrating drawback in this game is the lack of any real feedback. It doesn’t really seem to matter how you actually design each villager’s house, so long as you include the items they want. You could pretty much just unpack all the boxes and call it done, and they’d still love it. You can upload your favorite designs on the internet to get them rated by other players, but even that has no “dislike” feature.
In the end, Happy Home Designer lacks any real sense of progress. To be fair, progression isn’t really this game’s aim. It’s meant to be a simple creative game, like Mario Paint or something, and it’s excellent in that regard. Still, that lack of progression does make the game feel a bit flat after a few hours’ of play.
The “story” is just about the same as any other Animal Crossing game. You are new to the town and company, and you must now design homes for everyone. This is a sandbox-y creative game, so it really doesn’t need a narrative.
The graphics are about the same as in Animal Crossing: New Leaf with maybe a little bit of tightening up. Everything and everyone is cute with big heads and big eyes. Hilariously, the most visually impressive part of this game is its environments. Once you’ve finished building all of the city structures, the city overall looks lovely, so much so that it feels like a shame that you can’t really wander around anywhere else. With the sort of cute graphics that this game has, it would probably be a ton of fun to be able to actually wander around and walk to the houses that you’ve designed rather than teleporting to them with your notebook.
At first, the sound seems great. HHD has just about all of the record music that New Leaf has, and the background music for the city and the Nook’s Homes building are relaxing. The one issue is the song that plays after you’ve finished designing a home. Personally, I love watching each of the villagers interact with the things I’ve placed in their homes, but the music that plays is so mind-numbingly repetitive that I can’t help but want to skip those sequences. The worst part is that it stops and loops again for each room that you’ve decorated. No, wait. The worst part is that it’s so catchy that I find it playing in my head long after I’ve powered off my 3DS. It won’t stop. It just won’t stop.
I can’t say for sure whether this spinoff is worth the full 3DS price. On one hand, it feels like it’s just one aspect of Animal Crossing, but on the other hand, there’s so much content (albeit repetitive content) that there’s always something to do. I suppose in the end, it’s really only worth it if you love Animal Crossing as much as I do and are fine that you won’t be doing any fishing or bug-catching or loan-paying-offing.
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is an admittedly mediocre game that takes one specific aspect of a much better game and expands on it. It’s fun for what it is, at least for a little while, but it really doesn’t feel complete due to its lack of progression and direction. The graphics are fine but not phenomenal. The music is pretty good, except for that one song. It is fun in short bursts. Really, the best thing to come out of this game is the control scheme it employs for moving furniture around.
+Fun for a little while
+Good graphics and sound
-Lack of progression
-One really repetitive song
Score: 2 / 5