An­i­mal Cross­ing: Happy Home De­signer

3DS

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher/devel­oper Nintendo For­mat 3DS Re­lease Out now (Ja­pan), Septem­ber 25 (US), Oc­to­ber 2 (EU)

An­i­mal Cross­ing games of­fer a dig­i­tal life that has a nasty habit of im­ping­ing upon your real-world ex­is­tence. By con­trast, Happy Home De­signer is a vir­tual vo­ca­tion that slots neatly into your leisure time. An­nounced in spring and re­leased by au­tumn, this sur­prise off­shoot might look like a rush job, but that’s not the style of a se­ries ac­cus­tomed to tak­ing its own sweet time. Yes, it’s much nar­rower in fo­cus, and in­her­ently less ab­sorb­ing if you have no in­ter­est in in­te­rior de­sign, but it’s ev­ery bit as well-crafted and win­ningly scripted as its pre­de­ces­sors.

Af­ter be­ing wel­comed by sev­eral fa­mil­iar faces – and one new­comer, in the form of Lyle’s niece, Lot­tie – to the tit­u­lar role, you quickly set­tle into a rou­tine. Vil­lagers ap­proach you with ideas for their dream home, and you’re tasked with mak­ing those dreams come true. If An­i­mal Cross­ing was about set­ting per­sonal tar­gets, this gives you a clear goal, but to­tal cre­ative free­dom in how you achieve it. That can be paralysing, not least since you have such an em­bar­rass­ment of riches at your dis­posal. Where be­fore you re­lied upon pur­chases, trades and or­ders to steadily ex­pand your cat­a­logue of home-build­ing parts, you’re pre­sented with an ar­ray of op­tions with each new job that comes in. Hap­pily, if Com­plet­ing a task prompts a short vi­gnette in which you’ll see the an­i­mal en­joy­ing their home; if it’s a fa­cil­ity, you’ll see your work­mates chat­ting, eat­ing or shop­ping. You can take in-game snaps as me­men­tos of your work you’re stuck, a tab im­me­di­ately takes you to the latest ad­di­tions that co­in­cide with the cur­rent re­quest.

Most an­i­mals will give you a style (chic, ex­otic) or a theme (a su­per­hero den, a rock band re­hearsal room), while some are more spe­cific, such as the ham­ster who wants to celebrate his love of smoked food­stuffs. As your reper­toire ex­pands, so too will your rep­u­ta­tion. Is­abelle will pop in to ask you to de­sign cafés and class­rooms as the sparse town plaza ex­pands; later, you’ll be handed the re­spon­si­bil­ity of choos­ing be­tween floor plans and ex­te­ri­ors as you build ho­tels and con­cert halls. More sub­ver­sive de­signs aren’t frowned upon, ei­ther: so long as you’ve got in the few non-ne­go­tiables on your check­list, no one’s go­ing to com­plain if your school looks more like a de­ten­tion cen­tre.

There’s no chal­lenge in the tra­di­tional sense, then, though you might be sur­prised at how much time you spend on a re­quest, even with an in­tu­itive drag-and­drop in­ter­face speed­ing up the process. Is it the abil­ity to tai­lor so many specifics, such as cur­tain de­signs and the text on white­boards, that en­cour­ages fas­tid­i­ous­ness, or the ab­sence of tra­di­tional re­wards that spurs you to take pride in your work? Ei­ther way, with brow fur­rowed and sty­lus gnawed, we caught our­selves ag­o­nis­ing over whether or not to re­model a ro­coco chair in a dif­fer­ent shade – tes­ta­ment to a spinoff that works un­ex­pect­edly hard to win you over.

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