Available On: Switch

After designing our characters we’re flown to a tropical island, armed with little more than a tent and some basic tools. We’re already in dept to benevolent landlord Tom Nook, but thankfully everything we do, from catching bugs and fishing to chopping wood and crafting furniture, earns Nook Miles that can be redeemed to upgrade our tent into a house and unlock bigger storage, better tools, and more juicy upgrades to transform our island into a personal paradise.

For our Animal Crossing: New Horizons review, I decided to try something a bit different. The sim life game is particularly kid-friendly, and my daughter happens to be at the perfect age to fall in love with it. After a week, she’s played more than I have. I sat down with her and we talked about what she liked, and didn’t like, about the game.

Island in the Sun

What did you think Animal Crossing: New Horizons was about?

Before you showed me the trailer, I thought the game was about trying to get animals to cross a lake for safety. Because it’s called “Animal Crossing.”

What’s your favorite part about New Horizons?

I like that you can explore the whole island with the vulching pole. Did I say that right?

Vaulting Pole.

Vaulting Pole. My favorite thing is to go to the airport and go to a different island. The island I went to had palm trees, and I found coconuts! I thought they were all brown but these were green.

Do you like playing by yourself or co-op with us?

Kind of both. Playing by myself lets me look through my inventory and my stuff, and visit my house and change my outfit. I can’t pull out my slingshot when I’m not the leader, to get the flying presents. I want to get a bigger house for all my stuff, including my giant [stuffed] panda!

How’d you get a giant panda?

I used my slingshot on a balloon carrying a present, and it was inside the present. I put it in my house and it was a huge panda!

What do you not like about Animal Crossing?

Wasps and bugs! The only bugs I like are the butterflies. And the roly poly [pill bug] that crawled out of the rock was cute.

Did you find any part of the game difficult to understand or control?

Remember when I accidentally dropped the controller when inside my house, and it rotated the camera? I didn’t know you could rotate the view!

Ha, that’s right, I didn’t realize that either. We discovered that together – on accident!

Yeah but you can only rotate it inside the house, not on the island. You can go up and down but not side-to-side. But inside the house you can move in all directions.

That’s a good point, it would be nice to be able to freely rotate the camera while exploring the island. What about fishing?

Fishing is okay, but you only get one chance to catch them. If you time it wrong, the fish goes away. But you can use the fish bait to get bigger fish. Mommy got the reward for catching fish ten times in a row  – she’s pretty lucky!

Yeah she is! What did you think of the museum when it was finally built?

I was very happy all my hard work from fishing, catching bugs, and finding fossils was worth it to open this glorious museum. I love it!

You did all the work for it! What are you most looking forward to next?

Getting all my Nook Miles achievements done, to earn lots and lots of miles and unlock more stuff! My next goal is to make a nice island to live on and have parties.

Animal Crossing

The Rating

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is rated E for Everyone with Comic Mischief. Tonally it’s a wonderful game for kids, with no violence and very little danger (the occasional wasp and spider notwithstanding). Reading skills are required (or a patient parent) as the game doesn’t have any voice acting, however.

The Takeaway

I’ve never played an Animal Crossing game before, and only in the last few years have I begun paying attention to the sim life genre thanks to Stardew Valley. While New Horizons lacks the farming depth and time constraints of Stardew, it does contain that wonderful “just one more thing” quality that keeps me (and especially my kid) hooked, whether it’s earning more upgrades, filling out the museum with fish and fossils, or exploring new islands.

The limitations on local co-op, like being forced to share an island, are more than a little annoying, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons is easily one of the best family games of the year.

This article was written by

Eric has been writing for over nine years with bylines at Dicebreaker, Pixelkin, Polygon, PC Gamer, Tabletop Gaming magazine, and more covering movies, TV shows, video games, tabletop games, and tech. He reviews and live streams D&D adventures every week on his YouTube channel. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla.