If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you might not know I’m a pretty huge Animal Crossing fan. Being able to design my home is pretty much the main driving force behind most of my actions in Animal Crossing, so I was quite excited to see them break out a whole game around designing homes.
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer has gotten a lot of “who asked for this” replies from the peanut gallery but I’ve always been pretty excited and I was very relieved to find out that yes, it’s pretty darn fun!
First things first, mainline Animal Crossing’s UI is something between delightful and ungodly. See, a main tenant in their design is to keep everything feeling like a manual action, menus act like dialog systems, and so of course you have to manually drag about furniture to decorate your home just like in real life.
Happy Home Designer blissfully strips away all of that crap and just lets you drag and drop furniture directly with the stylus and presents you with nice big menus with everything you’ve unlocked accessible at all times. There is no money, no inventory slot system, almost nothing gets in your way as you design.
The UI isn’t perfect–often you’ll want to drop multiple items at once, then arrange them all at once. The UI will make you re-open the inventory each time, which is an annoyance. But other than that there’s lots of nice features to keep things snappy-moving multiple objects at once, “cloning” items to place more, rotating and dragging just with a quick touch.
I really, really do hope the next mainline animal crossing basically steals this editor wholesale, it’s so enjoyable, and you can even change a ton more than you usually can–for each home you can change the furniture, the windows, shades, hang things from the ceiling, change the location of the home, the season the home is viewed in (including setting it to rain or snow), set the audio ambience (to things like blowing wins, rain, underwater, space, city). There’s a great deal more to do here than designing homes in Animal Crossing.
An interesting thing the game does is, somewhat like regular animal crossing, starts with very limited features and slowly grows out from there. By completing your first four or so homes you unlock major features, by making homes for villagers you unlock the furniture set to which they are attuned, by paying Play Coins (yuck) you unlock a new feature a “day” ingame.
Play Coins unlock a grabbag of silly to extremely useful features such as changing your hair, changing windows, letting you use fish and bugs as furniture (I love doing this in Animal Crossing proper) to even changing the layouts of homes. These are a pretty big deal, so the Play Coins requirement is pretty annoying if, like me, you don’t actually take your 3DS with you to work/etc. I had to shake my 3DS a few hundred times today to unlock stuff.
All in all the progression system lets you keep finding new surprises and (ideally) design one new home with your new toys each time to never get you overwhelmed. Even as a very impatient person I rather like the unlock system and it’s never too absurdly drawn out, unlike the 9 day unlock system a certain Nintendo title originally intended to ship with.
You may well know that I basically despise Amiibo. That’s not really changed by this game, but the best thing I can say is that it doesn’t really feel like features were cut for Amiibo in this title. I find the card pricing and randomness super gross, but after calling Harriet (my pack in card) and designing her house (which didn’t even have a theme) I’m pretty fine with missing out on the Amiibo cards.
I’d personally be fine with purchasing, say, a $10 pack with a complete set of cards, but $1 a card for a random stab at hundreds of cards, no.
For better or worse, the game is entirely unfailable and has no consumable resources. Residents seem to blissfully except whatever you give them, whether it’s truly amazing or spiteful crap. This is the sort of thing that often draws complaints from “core” gamers but honestly this game has no need for “difficulty”. The fun is in doing what you want, the game’s “themes” are much more fun as suggestions than hard requirements.
Less “difficulty” and more “complexity”, but you might be surprised to find not all requests ingame are for homes. There are also “facilities” to make including a school, hospital, and shop, and some villagers’ requests are actually not for standard homes. One straight up asked me to make a hat shop. These non-traditional requests help spice things uip.
I guess you should note that this also means your enjoyment is tied to your own creativity, and if you really require being told what to do, you might find yourself bored.
All in all, whether Happy Home Designer is worth it for you really depends on whether you enjoy the interior (and exterior!) design features in Animal Crossing. Personally it’s my favorite part, so I love the game. If you leave your home in squalor, you probably won’t care.
But note that, despite the complete lack of anything resembling difficulty, there’s quite a lot to do that you might not expect, so if you enjoy designing homes in Animal Crossing you’ll find you have a far greater degree of freedom in this game and will be able to create homes in hours that would have taken actual weeks or months of gameplay in Animal Crossing (those seasonal items, though)!
Also, while I do think the game is worth $40 personally, it’s rather weird that this game is $40 and the “mainline” ACNL was $35 at launch. Especially with the potentially wallet breaking Amiibo tax on top.