App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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Ever since the first Animal Crossing released in 2002, the franchise has been all about checking in on a virtual world that would change over time, so why not have access to it wherever you go on your phone? In Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, you can do exactly that as you seek to build your ultimate campground. From a gameplay perspective, the things you do in Pocket Camp might not feel too different from a ton of other free-to-play crafting games, but being in thate world of Animal Crossing is so nice delightful in large part to a ton of great artwork and Nintendo charm.
The first day of camp
In Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, you are appointed the manager of a camp site, and what you do with it is really up to you. You start with a few basic items to place around your site, but you can expand your selection of items by crafting new things like jungle gyms, drum sets, sideboards, and more.
In order to craft all of these things though, you need a little help from your animal friends. Aside from your camp site, there are four locations for you to explore, each of which has a rotating Animal Crossing character for you to befriend in it. Making friends with each of them is as simple as walking up and talking to them, but to get even closer to them and invite them to your campsite, you'll need to wander these locations to gather items that they want, like fruit, fish, bugs, which you can then hand over to them to receive crafting materials to trick out your camp site.
The great outdoors
As you get further into Pocket Camp, you gain friendship levels, which makes more animal friends appear and allows you to craft more items. Other than that though, the basic formula of exchanging foraged items for crafting items pretty much stays the same.
This isn't too unlike a lot of other free-to-play crafting games, but Pocket Camp stands out because of its incredible art direction and attention to detail. Nintendo just knows how to make games look and feel great, even if their underlying mechanics feel a little rote.
When you first fire up Pocket Camp, a prompt appears noting that the game is “free-to-start,” which makes it sound like there is some hard paywall buried in the game. Unlike Super Mario Run, players can actually play as much Pocket Camp as they want without paying, but the game definitely has a set of free-to-play hooks that try to get you to shell out some cash for premium currency.
The main progress gates for the game come in the form of timers, which limit how often you can gather materials and craft items. At the start of the game, you can craft a lot of items pretty quickly, but the further you get into it, items can end up taking hours to craft and leveling up friendships to receive crafting materials requires more and more items for you to gather. There are a few things you can do as a free player to try and accelerate your progress, but if you really want to speed things up in Pocket Camp, you'll need to spend Leaf Tickets, the game's premium currency, which can basically let you buy your way to anything. These come in a slow but steady rate if you play without spending money, but they are (of course) also available for purchase.
The bottom line
There's not a whole lot about Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp that is surprising. It's a pretty run-of-the-mill, freemium crafting game, but it just so happens to be made by Nintendo, which means it has pretty amazing production values. You'd probably be pretty hard-pressed to find a more pleasant-looking game like this on the App Store, but it shouldn't be too hard to find something a bit more interesting.