Animal Crossing: New Horizons review — A paradise worth the wait

Animal Crossing New Horizons Title Screen
(Image: © iMore)

iMore Verdict

Bottom line: Animal Crossing: New Horizons is well worth the wait for fans of the series and those interested in a fun, casual gaming experience. With plenty of easy-going tasks, crafting, collecting, and a fun multiplayer addition, this game provides the perfect distraction from the outside world.


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    Adorable and polished graphics

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    Relaxing soundtrack

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    Simple and familiar gameplay

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    A few new elements

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    A lot of replay value

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    Multiplayer options


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    A bit slow starting out

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    Mystery tours aren't as random as they should be

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    Multiplayer can get boring after a bit

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    Time lapses can be frustrating

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    No emergency back-up

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    Local multiplayer issues

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Animal Crossing New Horizons Title Screen

Animal Crossing New Horizons Title Screen (Image credit: iMore)

March took forever to get here, but when it finally did, it wasn't at all what anyone was expecting. For the Animal Crossing fans, it was the finish line after a very long journey for the latest entry in the series: Animal Crossing: New Horizons. For the world, there was something much more troubling ahead. Still, New Horizons arrived, and at a time when people would need it most.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a charming, peaceful game that provides hours of entertainment, with maybe a little too much hand-holding to start. But with so many different ways to play, it really is a DIY experience. This game provides the perfect escape from the reality of today, and it was most definitely worth the wait.

You've arrived on your dream island

Animal Crossing: New Horizons What I like

Animal Crossing New Horizons Opening

Animal Crossing New Horizons Opening (Image credit: iMore)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons delivers on almost every front. It's a simple, easy-to-play life simulator that lets players do whatever they want with their deserted island package. Tom Nook is back with his next money-making scheme, but this time, he's starting from scratch, and he's bringing you and two other villagers along for the ride.

Players land on their island armed with nothing but a tent to sleep in and a Nook Phone provided by the raccoon in charge. From there, the world is your oyster. There's no set storyline or plot to follow, but to get certain items, you are going to have to spruce up the island and hit some goals. As you rough it, players get the ability to build their own tools and other items, name their town, and choose where the residents move. As a Residential Representative, this is your town to mold. So you can make it as developed or undeveloped as you like.

Beautiful sights and sounds The feel of nature

Animal Crossing New Horizons Top Mountain

Animal Crossing New Horizons Top Mountain (Image credit: iMore)

From the moment you boot up your Nintendo Switch, you can tell this going to be a sensory experience. While it may not have "realistic" graphics, the look of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is polished. When we last saw Tom Nook and friends, it was way back in 2013 on the Nintendo 3DS (ignoring all the spin-offs of course). This was a much-needed upgrade.

The world is so detailed; the plans and trees sway with the wind and drip with rainwater during a storm. Everything is so bright and defined, including every fish and bug (have you seen the tarantulas?), but it still has that cartoon-ish charm that we've come to love from the series.

The best example of improved graphics is displayed in the museum. The design and displays are gorgeous. It's fun walking through just to take it all in! There are so many colors and details that keep the classic Animal Crossing style, but with a nice coat of fresh, Hi-def paint.

A complementary addition to the beautiful island is the serene score the series is known for. K.K. Slider is at his best with the tracks you can purchase at the store, but the soundtrack is the perfect ambient noise to go about your tasks. It's not going to win any awards for "outstanding musical score," but it does a great job keeping the calm of your village.

Classic gameplay DIY improvements and upgrades

Much like any other Animal Crossing game, you start with next to nothing. You're even Bell-less. You're going to have to rough it. You come with only the clothes on your back, but you're given a tent, a Nook Phone, a few items, and a whole lot of debt. From there, you're on your own. It's essentially your job to earn bells, upgrade your home, and fix up this uncultivated land into something amazing. And Tom Nook? He's there to finance and reap the benefits.

New to the main series, but first introduced in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, you have to gather materials and craft your own items. You start with flimsy material like twigs, but as the game progresses, you can build stronger and better items. It can take a while if you are running short on materials. Equipment upgrades don't happen overnight. You can only pick up what your island provides each day. You can also go to mystery islands (more on this later) to find resources, but you're still limited to what is presented to you.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Nook Miles

Animal Crossing New Horizons Nook Miles (Image credit: iMore)

As you perform tasks and build items, you can earn "Nook Miles" to pay off your debt, or to get special items via the Residental tent. However, once you gather all the materials, help Tom Nook out, and pay off your debt.

Even beyond the core game, there is a lot to do. Your island is home to all kinds of creatures, so catch bugs, go fishing, and even dig up some fossils. You can spend an hour weeding or planting flowers, collecting shells, or helping out your neighbors, along with the other people that show up on your island.

Of course, if you get bored, you can use all the Nook Miles you've earned from doing all the other simple stuff and take Mystery Tours to explore new islands with different creatures, materials, and maybe some new animal friends. Plus, you can always join up with some friends and visit their islands too.

There's no shortage of things to do on your island, but keep in mind, Nintendo likes to keep things slow. You may not be able to do everything at once.

Multiplayer and updates Fun ways to keep playing

Animal Crossing: New Horizons embraces multiplayer. While previous entries had ways of connecting with others, this game makes it easier. With online multiplayer, you have to have a Nintendo Switch Online membership (opens in new tab). If you do, you can visit a friend's island and check things out. This is great, especially if you need the fruit or other material on their island. Plus, you can browse the shops, pick up things that might not be available in your town, and check out what they've done to the place. You can even send letters and gifts.

You can't do much else, but you can explore new places, which is still fun. However, if you only have a few friends, it can get boring fast. Luckily there are always new places to explore, and you actually don't have to leave home for something new. Fun events can occur in your town every day.

Nintendo promised frequent updates, and you can already experience some fun with celebrations as more shops and buildings get added to your town. Wandering individuals can randomly show up, like Gulliver, the shipwrecked seagull, or Daisy-Mae, the turnip salesperson. As the seasons change, new social events will pop up, new bugs and fish will appear, and as your town grows, so will your opportunities. There are always new ways to keep playing and fun stuff to explore.

Even sunny days can have a few clouds

Animal Crossing: New Horizons What I don't like

Animal Crossing New Horizons Make Money Fast

Animal Crossing New Horizons Make Money Fast (Image credit: iMore)

I love a lot about this game, and there's very little to dislike. It's a casual game, and anyone can pick it up, so it's perfect for just about anyone who just needs a break from the world. But there are a few things I wasn't a fan of. Let's cover the small problems first.

When you start, the game moves very slowly. Of course, it takes time to build a town, but you are limited to what you can do in a day. For instance, when I first started, I wanted to get to the museum ASAP. I got the specimens that Tom Nook needed, picked a spot for Blathers' tent, and then I had to play the waiting game. Not only did I have to wait a day for Blathers to arrive but I then had to gather specimens for him and then wait for the museum.

I had plenty of other things to do in the meantime, but I couldn't leave my island either. The airport wasn't running just yet. This slows players down so they can take their time to enjoy the start of the game, but after waiting so long to finally get this game, I wanted to hammer away as quickly as possible. I would have liked to move a little further along on my first day.