Opinion: Animal Crossing: New Horizons Local Co-op is Frustratingly Limited

Posted by | Opinion, Switch | No Comments

I was the first person to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons in my house. I didn’t realize the power that would be bestowed upon me as the island’s primary resident representative. Now that my spouse and kid are enjoying the game – and playing more than me – we’ve discovered New Horizons’ frustrating limits on local co-op, holding back an otherwise endlessly endearing family game.

The first and biggest limitation is that every local player using the same Switch must share an island. Each player can use their own Nintendo accounts and set up their own homes. But they end up on the same island that the original player, the resident rep, chose at the beginning.

To play local co-op, each player will need to start the game on their account, set up their starter tent, and unlock the Call Resident app. From there, a player can use Call Resident in the Nook Phone menu to add a local player to the session. The player who started first will be the Leader. Only the Leader can talk to islanders, craft objects, and access their inventory. Players can switch leaders by going back to the Call Resident screen, or by shaking their Joy Con.

Sharing an island automatically creates several problems that online players with rowdy friends may have discovered – other players chopping down trees, destroying rocks, and otherwise harvesting all of your resources and altering the island.

Any player can use a Nook Miles ticket to travel to other islands, possibly meeting new potential islanders for their own island. If you’re sharing your island with others, it’s easy to end up with new island residents that you’ve never even met before (thankfully my kid picked an awesome pink frog with great musical tastes). These issues can be solved with communication and some household ground rules, but resources can become annoyingly scarce with everyone competing.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons`

To make matters worse, only the resident rep can turn in quests and supplies to Tom Nook (or Isabelle), and receive the rewards in DIY Recipes and tools, as well as advance the story’s main events. The other players will have to purchase the recipes and tools they need after they’re unlocked.

This is particularly annoying during an early game quest that involves furnishing three new houses with indoor and outdoor objects. Not only is the resident rep given the only DIY recipes to make the dozen or so needed objects, but the other players can’t even see which objects are needed for each house – they’re simply told to ask their resident rep, as if they’re not real players themselves.

Thus my spouse was left harvesting wood and stone and mailing them to me, so I could craft the tables, chairs, and clotheslines needed for the houses, a needlessly annoying workaround.

Yet when it comes to the museum, my kid quickly donated the 15 initial bugs, fossils, and fish and unlocked the full museum before I barely had a chance to chat with Blathers. The museum keeps track of which player donated which item, which is admittedly a neat feature, but the rules of who can do what are oddly inconsistent.

animal crossing: New horizons

Simultaneous co-op is even more strictly regulated, to the point where we hardly ever bother with it. One player is designated as the Leader. The Leader is the only player who has full access to their own inventory. The camera is tied to the Leader, teleporting any other players if they stray too far.

Non-leaders can still access whatever tools they have on them by cycling through with a button press (another minor annoyance). They can still chop trees and fish, but everything they pick up will be transferred to a shared stash instead of their own inventory. Since you kind of need access to your inventory and crafting tables to do much of anything in Animal Crossing, playing simultaneous co-op is next to useless compared to just taking turns. Thankfully you can swap between Leaders without restarting the co-op session, though this too can quickly become tedious.

It’s a huge shame that we weren’t given full split-screen co-op for New Horizons, but the Switch’s handheld mode makes split-screen prohibitive. With a a never-ending stream of fun tasks, charming atmosphere, and engrossing customization, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has all the makings of the perfect family game. It’s a shame local co-op was treated as an afterthought.

The Ten Best Family Games of 2019

Posted by | Feature, Opinion, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One | No Comments

It’s the calm before the storm as we head into 2020, with with a pair of next-gen consoles looming on the horizon from Sony and Microsoft. This year was more than an afterthought for games, however, and Nintendo continues to release smash hits for the Switch.

Gaming families had plenty of excellent choices this year, though you’ll definitely want to own a Switch if you don’t already have one – nearly half the games on our list are exclusive to Nintendo’s excellent handheld hybrid. Here is the (alphabetical) list of our favorite family games of 2019.

Doraemon: Story of Seasons

You may not have heard of classic 1970s anime and manga series Doraemon, but chances are the words Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley will excite you. Doraemon: Story of Seasons infuses the enjoyable farming gameplay of Harvest Moon (now called Story of Seasons) with the youthful characters of Doraemon, including the titular time-traveling cat and his helpful gadgets.

Platforms: PC (Steam), Switch

Dragon Quest Builders 2

Dragon Quest Builders mashed up two great tastes that taste great together – the colorful enemies of venerable RPG series Dragon Quest, with the building, crafting, and blocky world of Minecraft. The result was an instant hit. Dragon Quest Builders 2 adds online (and local network) co-op multiplayer, and is available on Nintendo Switch.

Platforms: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Switch

Kingdom Hearts 3

Kingdom Hearts fans had to wait an eternity for the return of Sora, Donald, and Goofy with this beloved mash-up series of Disney and Final Fantasy. While the gameplay in Kingdom Hearts 3 is still firmly rooted in its original early 2000s PS2 era, there’s an undeniable joy playing within the Disney and Pixar worlds like Frozen, Toy Story, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Luigi’s Mansion 3

Nintendo knocked it out of the park with this excellent follow-up to the Luigi’s Mansion series, turning the haunted mansion into an entire ghost-filled hotel. Luigi is armed with more ghost-busting abilities, such as cloning himself as Gooigi, which can also serve as a family-friendly local co-op mode. On top of a fun campaign, up to eight players can play competitively or cooperatively in various multiplayer modes.

Platforms: Switch

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

It’s been ten years since we last enjoyed a Marvel Ultimate Alliance co-op brawler, and The Black Order more than satisfies our need to punch, blast, fry, and zap henchmen and villains. We love mixing and matching our team of different Marvel heroes from a roster of over 30, including Avengers, X-Men, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Platforms: Switch

Planet Zoo

As a full park sim Planet Zoo is geared more toward teens and adults, but thanks to the excellent animal AI, robust creation tools, and focus on animal conservation, it makes an excellent game for families to work together to learn about animals and their complex habitat needs. A lengthy campaign help introduces the park tools and management systems while offering a wonderful variety of biomes and locations, then you can try your hand at building your own zoo from the ground up in sandbox or franchise modes.

Platforms: PC (Steam)

Pokémon Sword and Shield

There’s little doubt that a Pokémon game will grace our list of best family games. Even with the somewhat mixed results of Pokémon Sword and Shield, there’s no denying that it provides hours and hours of catching hundreds of Pokémon and battling through the UK-inspired Galar region. The free-roaming Wild Area alone is worth the price of admission for Pokémon’s eighth generation.

Platforms: Switch

Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker was a phenomenal game when it released on Wii U in 2015, finally giving us the power to create our own 2D Mario levels. The Switch sequel is basically more of the same, plus tons of new features like new enemies, components, day/night and biome themes, and  the Super Mario 3D World tileset. All that along with a much improved single-player campaign and online and local multiplayer makes Super Mario Maker 2 a must-have for Mario fans.

Platforms: Switch

Untitled Goose Game

The official tagline nails this quirky indie game’s description: It’s a lovely morning in the village, and you are a horrible goose. Play as a goose in Untitled Goose Game with a checklist of hilariously mischievous tasks such as stealing from a store, knocking over vases, hiding in boxes, and causing light-hearted mayhem for these poor townsfolk.

Platforms: PC (Epic Games Store), PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a much improved spin-off of the 3D platformer series that combines 3D overworld travel with 2.5D level designs, starring the chameleon Yooka and his bat companion Laylee. The result is a satisfying spiritual successor to classic 2D platformers like Donkey Kong Country.

Platforms: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One