Animal Crossing : Pocket Camp Review

Animal Crossing has always had the same appeal to me as the Harvest Moon series. It’s like good comfort food; it’s regular, consistent and expected. There are no surprises and satisfies a need that I have of getting lost for a few hours doing meaningful tasks in a world that is not my own. This need for getting the comfort food I’m so used to is the reason why I’m so conflicted about Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp.

camping experience 2

I started with the Animal Crossing series late, as I never had a Nintendo 64 or a GameCube growing up (my family was a Playstation household growing up – bar handhelds). So I missed the original Animal Crossing, and my first fling with the series was with Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the Nintendo DS and it was love at first play. I loved the character style, the size of the map, how you interacted with the characters and the overall flow of the game. It has a Sims or Harvest Moon effect – where you tell yourself you’re only going to play an hour max of it and suddenly it’s 4 am.

So I was equal parts thrilled and concerned when Nintendo announced that they would be releasing a mobile version of Animal Crossing. The one thing that I didn’t want was it to be completely overrun with prompts to hand over my money to get apples from a tree. (You can find more about my thoughts on microtransactions over at Noobist.com http://noobist.com/gaming/microtransactions-questioning-noise/) It turns out that those fears are only half realised.

camp and chill

When you first start out in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, you’re greeted by the regular faces. You’ll be first greeted by K.K. Slider, and then Isabelle, who’ll get you up and running in your campsite. From then on, everything goes mostly as expected; you’ll be befriending neighbourly animals, collecting fruit, hunting bugs, and customising your campsite & minivan. Most of these events are set up via timers, so you can only do a set amount of things in a certain amount of time. This means that there isn’t as much of a time commitment so its perfect for waiting for a bus or queuing for your shopping but it isn’t so suited for more extended play sessions.

There are things you can do to extend your time should you have extra time to kill. For instance, fishing can be completed in one of two ways. Firstly, is the traditional way where you go from area to area catching fish with a rod. Or you can skip the fishing for a net which catches multiple types of fish at once the catch is (ha!) that it costs leaf tickets. This is where the game begins to get a bit cash happy as this is the games premium currency.

So, for those who unwittingly spent their tickets early on in the game during setup – I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Leaf tickets are a strategy in themselves, a balance of what you want versus what you’re willing to wait for. You can acquire Leaf Tickets in-game at the beginning with relative ease given the stretch goal systems. They give you tickets readily and freely in the beginning just for getting simple tasks done. But the good times don’t last forever I’m afraid.

There become barriers to entry to specific areas like the ore mining camp without payment of some leaf tickets. Or having to pay for trees to regrow, fishing nets, upgrading your bays to purchase more than one piece of furniture at a time. The list gets long and endless, and as a result, loses its sweetness. It forgets that spark that made it go to comfort food, something that you can sit down and relax with to something that is more a convenience snack. Enough to keep you going, but not enough to fill the void.

That’s the best way of summing up what Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is something to play when you’re just casually waiting for a bus or a way to pass a little bit of time. However, trying to get the full-bodied experience of Animal Crossing game will not be found here, or at least not without serious investment.

A Dumb Phone in 2017 – LG B470

When I was planning on myself and Splinters honeymoon this year, there was something that I was adamant about, and that was that I was going to be as tech-free as possible. I was not going to take my smartphone with me (at least, not my daily driver) and I was going to take a hiatus from all forms of social media and internet dependency.

This leads to a couple of issues while travelling; firstly how were you going to get from place to place if you couldn’t book a Lyft to the airport, and when you get to the airport how were you going to get through security without your boarding pass? These were all challenges I was going to have to face without having a handset on hand to do all of these tasks for me that I would have just taken for granted. What I learned is that I certainly do take these things for granted, my iPad served as a grading surrogate for a lot of these unusual tasks. However, it all got done, and our honeymoon went relatively unhindered as a result.

For the honeymoon, myself and Splintor went travelling a fair bit of it. We went to New York to see some of the Pocketnow crew for a few days, then we went to Orlando for five days to go and look at the parks and finally a week in Cancun to rest from all of the running around of the week prior. It leads to a fundamental problem – how am I going to call people or arrange to meet people while I’m over there? If myself and Mark are going to book a reservation for a restaurant, how are we meant to do that completely phone free? Turns out that bit, we can’t.

medium03So, we had to come to some arrangement. How could we remain connected and disconnected at the same time? The solution to that question came in the form of the LG B470, a dumb phone surviving in 2017.

As an AT&T exclusive, it’s not got the highest specs in the world, nor does it have the best camera.

Summary
Screen Size 2.2 inches
Screen Resolution 220 x 176 pixels
Battery Capacity 950 mAh
Camera Resolution 1.3 MP
Processor
Memory
Storage
Carrier AT&T
Other Features Text & Multimedia Messaging, Mobile Web, Text to Speech
Series B470

Though, as laughable as the concept may be for $25 per handset including the prepaid credit that was already on the phone it served our needs perfectly. We could make calls, tell the time, (an unexpected hindrance of continually being attached to a smartwatch. When you don’t bring the smartphone, you tend not to bring the smartwatch either!) and text people were required.

medium01

I remember trying to walk out of Best Buy to text Jules to see which Starbucks near Central Park we were meant to meet and struggling tremendously with the concept of T9. Stopping in the middle of the shop, swearing under my breath as this was something I hadn’t done since my early teens and it had escaped me. I felt like I’d blasted to some point in the future when technology will at some stage get away from my grasp, and I had the confusion I see in my elders. It hit me with the full force of that knowledge, and I was angry that I’d lost that part of my ability. I remember being able to text without looking under my desk in class (Sorry, Mam) and being able to write perfect messages because I had everything down to muscle memory.

It slowly came back, like riding a bike, and over those few days, I discussed with my tech Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 03.15.18friends the concept of reverting to something like this for the two-week process. People were curious how were we going to document our experiences without something there always at hand for us to use. There was a sense of nostalgia looking at a flip phone like this and lamenting for a simpler time.

I don’t think that lamentation is misplaced, and it is a simpler place to be. A simpler place to sit. A simpler place to just exist. I found myself not wanting to be anywhere else except where I was. It gave me an opportunity to be present and with the people who were around me. That’s not something that I get to feel in everyday life; there is some much that is around us that calls for our attention regularly. So, for me at least it was a beautiful gift to give not just to myself but for the people around me. It was what I hoped to get from spending my time being disconnected from the digital world for a bit.

I would highly recommend it, even just for a little while. To force yourself to tune out and turn off. Give yourself and the people you love the time just to be. It just goes to show that sometimes, going a few steps back can push you a few steps forward.