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Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp review

I’m convinced much of Animal Crossing’s magic happens in my head. When I’m away from my town, I mean, and wondering what’s happening back in the game. If Portia is still angry at me for nudging her into that trap. If my gorilla neighbour has replied to my letter about his awful wallpaper. Whether anyone new has popped into town today, or something strange has washed up on the beach.

I’m talking, of course, about the other games in the Animal Crossing series – not Nintendo’s new mobile spin-off Pocket Camp. Because, in Pocket Camp, almost every opportunity to luxuriate in Animal Crossing’s famously slow, methodical pace has been eroded.

I don’t need to wonder what’s going on in Pocket Camp when I’m away from the game because, if a neighbour is not there when I return, for example, I can just use an item to conjure them. If a fruit harvest hasn’t yet bloomed, I can speed up the process. Animal Crossing has always run on a hidden clock of days, weeks, seasons. But it has never had a problem ushering me away and inviting me to come back and play another day. Now, there are visible timers to refresh resources, ways to instantly complete construction projects and all sorts of other ways for your simple, pastoral life to be jerked into fast forward.

There’s simplification for the sake of ease – for the sake of allowing you to load up the app for two minutes between sending a tweet and browsing reddit so you can accomplish something quickly. And then there’s simplification to make the game easier to monetise. In Pocket Camp, everything from the rotation of animals visiting your town to the paint job slapped on your camper van can be shortcutted by paying up. And while Animal Crossing has always been a series dominated by the idea of capitalism, of paying back Tom Nook so he can sit in his bathtub full of money, it has never been this intrusive. You can ignore the microtransactions, but Pocket Camp is a pretty miserable experience otherwise.