Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is sort of like a bundle of games. The main portion is a very simple board game. After playing a couple rounds of that, you get the chance to unlock a handful of mini games.
Up front, I should mention that in order to play any part of the game, you’re going to need an Animal Crossing amiibo figure. Further, all of the mini games require at least one Animal Crossing amiibo card. Luckily, two figures and three cards are included in the $60 box set. Since amiibo figures usually run about $13, this actually brings down the cost of the game quite a bit (if amiibos are something you might have purchased anyway).
The Board Game
The AC board game is pretty straightforward. You roll dice, you move spaces. Each board is based on a month of the year, so each game is 28 to 31 turns long, depending on the month. To be honest, it’s kind of like Mario Party without the mini games between turns.
If “Mario Party without the mini games” doesn’t sound like any fun at all, well, you’re on to something. My first few plays through the board game were incredibly boring. Luckily, it does get a little better.
The goal of the board game is to collect the most Happy Points. You do this primarily by landing on pink spaces, which trigger short video events. In true Animal Crossing fashion, these videos are all of wonderfully pedestrian things like getting a haircut, picking up garbage off the beach, or performing well at work. Sometimes they also earn you Bells (money). If you don’t land on a pink space, you might land on a purple space, which loses you Happy Points and/or Bells. There are also special green spaces that change periodically, but usually involve collecting cards. Cards can be used for a few different things, like changing all of the spaces to pink for one turn.
At the end of the board game, all of your Bells (money) get translated into Happy Points. Yes, it’s true. Money = happiness.
Like many famous board games before it, AC: amiibo Festival is a game almost 100% based on chance. Sure, there is a touch of strategy in deciding your character’s route or when they should use a special card. But overall, every player’s chances of winning or losing are totally random. Even when you do strategize in this game, you’re really just opting for the best chance at winning. For this reason, it felt a lot like gambling. This might be fun for a very young kid, but I found it more frustrating than anything else. It was especially awful whenever someone triggered the Money Tree event, which essentially meant the game was over because it gave them such a huge advantage. (Seriously, why does that event exist?!)
The best part of the board game is probably the Stalk Market (get it?). Once a week, you can buy bunches of turnips and then re-sell them. It’s a bit of a risk to opt in, because you don’t know what the turnip value will be from day to day, and you only have six days before your turnips go bad. You can also only sell your turnips at the price listed on whatever space you land on. So, if you save them for too long, you might lose a lot of dough.
When I played the board game with my coworker Simone, she got really into this part of the game. She began to strategize her turnip sales with a fervor that I certainly hadn’t felt when I’d played the game alone. This is when I had the most fun: playing with someone else who got sucked in by the chancy nature of the whole thing.
You do not need any extra Wii remotes or controllers to play this game. Instead, players pass the GamePad back and forth, and tap their amiibos on the NFC reader in order to roll the dice. This got kind of annoying, but it wasn’t awful.
The Mini Games
Like I mentioned before, there are eight mini games and each one requires at least one amiibo card to play. A couple of them require that you have six amiibo cards, which means the box set of the game is not enough to unlock all of the content.
The best of these mini games is Desert Island Escape, which requires three cards. This one mini game is actually my favorite part of the entire game, probably because it involves the most strategy. It’s single-player, but I think it would be pretty easy to share with two other players. You control three characters who have been dropped off on a deserted island. You must explore the island and look for materials to construct a raft and escape. Each character has a special power. Rosie the cat, for instance, can fish without a fishing rod.
The other mini games are pretty bad. Many of them involve tapping amiibo cards to the GamePad while you play, which is a kind of fun idea that reminded me a lot of moving around my characters in LEGO Dimensions. Overall, though, these short games had the complexity of an arcade claw machine, and they left me wanting.
Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is cute. It’s really cute. It’s got great music and lovely animations. However, its gameplay couldn’t manage to hold my attention. It’s a little better if you’re playing with friends, and probably even better if you’re playing with small children. However, it lacks the engagement that I got from Mario Party titles or other Animal Crossing games (which could suck me in for hours). I might recommend this game to families with very young children, but adults shouldn’t get their hopes up for another classic installment in an otherwise addicting franchise.