On September 25, 2015, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer was released for the Nintendo 3DS console in the United States. In Japan, the game has been out since July 2015. For fans of the Animal Crossing series, Happy Home Designer is an adorable addition to the franchise that provides another reason to waste a mind-numbing amount of time catering to the needs of your character’s animal friends. Happy Home Designer still has charming appeal of previous versions, but this version is more kid-friendly (meaning there are no dream codes to towns with complex, dark storylines like Aika Village from Animal Crossing: New Leaf) and repetitive.
The game is straightforward: You are an interior designer tasked with creating the perfect homes and gardens for the animal folk. You can meet the animals by talking to them in the town square or by using Amiibo cards that are currently not widely available in stores, but available for purchase online on Amazon. According to my local GameStop, the Amiibo cards won’t be widely available in the US until October 15, 2015. To use them, you may need to purchase an Amiibo reader unless you have the new Nintendo 3DS system.
Unlike past Animal Crossing games, floor plans and furniture placement are a little more customizable, but the game still follows the “blocking” system to where items can’t be right next to each other or turn diagonally. However, now there are rugs and more items you can use on your walls, and you can design rooves. Additionally, animals now have yards you can decorate!
After spending a week and half playing, the game has some nice pros but some cons as well.
You Have Control
As mentioned, players get to design every aspect of an animal’s home. The animal residents have specific requirements that need met, but players can choose to go with this or go on their own just as long as the animal’s special items are incorporated.
As players design different houses, more furniture and designs become available.
Players Can Redo Homes and Shops
When players visit characters and as items become more available, they can go back and redesign homes or add rooms. Players are not stuck with permanent designs.
You Can Create Your Own Shops
Isabelle has different projects available for players including building a hospital, school, and various shops. Whatever a player wants to include or build, it’s possible.
Two animals can live in a house at one time, which is different than past Animal Crossing games. Of course, creating mental storylines regarding how the characters could interact is a must, but nothing really changes, and there’s no complicated drama since it’s a kid’s game. Don’t look for any Big Brother antics here.
View Other Players’ Homes
There is a computer in the office that allows the player to see what others across the globe have designed, so there’s some design envy and competition going on. This is especially evident since players can rate different houses. It’s interesting to see what others have done, but it’s demoralizing too when someone halfway around the world has better design skills. I’ve tried to up my game several times only to be showed up by another player. The struggle is real here.
Poor Menu Design
The items menu is far from user-friendly. It is difficult to locate furniture and items. Every day home objects like chairs, tables, and beds are easy to locate, but it gets iffy with yard items and other various objects. For some players, this may be frustrating.
You Don’t Get a House
Players don’t have homes, so they can’t design their own unique space.
You Can’t Walk Around Town
Sadly, players are confined to visiting animals by clicking the client book. Players have a town map that suggests there is an actual town, but they’re not allowed to explore it.
You Can’t Visit Friends
Part of the fun of other Animal Crossing games is how players had the ability—through local Wi-Fi or friend codes—to visit friends and other towns. This isn’t possible with this game. The theory was so kids didn’t run into trouble through online play, which apparently was some sort of an issue with previous games. The creators could have had an option that was like Trading Spaces: Animal Crossing Edition where friends got to design each other’s homes. This was a missed opportunity.
No Fishing, Bells, Bug-Hunting, or Shopping
Players just design houses. That’s it. You don’t get paid to do it either. Players just slave at Nook’s Homes and have zero opportunity to fish, bug hunt, shop, visit the island, or any other easy-going activity that made Animal Crossing a simple, relaxing game. With previous games, it’s easy to stay engaged every day of the year or more because of all that was available to do.
Too Much Repetition
As mentioned, players just design houses. It’s fun to see what characters need homes and what they want; but when all a player can do is design houses, it’s gets old quick. Then again, it’s a clever ploy to teach kids that all adults do is work all day for little pay, collapse in bed, and get up to do it all again. I’ll go with that. Happy Home Designer is a true-to-life job simulator.
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer could have been the best game in the franchise if the work aspect along with the charms of the original games were included. The game isn’t a disappointment, but it is flawed. It earns a 2.75/5.