As I have mentioned many times on the show I am looking forward to Happy Home Designer hitting my 3DS much like Badger loves mashed potato. I knew it was going to be shown off by Nintendo at EGX but I didn’t expect to be met by an enthusiastic puppy of a demonstrator, nor did I expect GIANT AR Cards, nor did I expect HHD to be so damn charming. It’s adorable. It’s the gaming equivalent of Emma Watson. It’s a weird game for a thirty-five year old male who likes to growl at dogs to want to buy, but for the reasons I am about to list, I want to buy it.
You see Animal Crossing is a weird series of games. I’ve loved it since the Gamecube version made me feel like I was trying to recapture some youthful innocence while strolling around the ever scrolling world. The DS version made me obsess over visiting regularly to find balloons to shoot with my catapult, camels to help trade with and a museum of display stands to fill. It was the most relaxing gaming experience of my life and I loved every moment.
The Wii version (Let’s Go to the City) wasn’t as charming, mostly due to the fact that it added social aspects I didn’t need or want from Animal Crossing. The Wii Speak didn’t work well enough and it didn’t have the portability of Wild World on the DS. So I waited for a new version, eventually getting New Leaf on the 3DS that ticked EVERY box imaginable. The perfect blend of all the games in the series and a title that rarely ‘leaves’ my handheld device.
None of the games had any long-term, realistic chance for continued success, the point of the games was loose and varied and ultimately it was odd that living in a village full of anthropomorphic animals was so relaxing. Hell, it introduced debt and rage to many young gamers (thanks to Tom Nool and Mr Resetti). A life spent gathering fruit, insects and fossils while hoping that a style-concious giraffe may pop in to your town is a weird one, yet ultimately addictive.
Happy Home Designer strives to not move the series on, it doesn’t want to replace New Leaf, and it doesn’t need to. Instead you are working at Nook’s Homes (as there are no other wildly successful business folk in the Animal Crossing universe) tasked with meeting client briefs when it comes to home design, layout and furnishing.
Now obviously this does mean that the game will be somewhat limited when compared to the main series’ titles, but for me it is another creative-led title that seems to be Nintendo’s focus for 2015. The wildly popular Super Mario Maker is little more than a level design kit, and yet it is getting rave reviews. Does it have the depth of gameplay of Super Mario 64? Of course not. But that doesn’t matter.
So. My time with the game was held up by the most British of problems, a queue here sign.
The Nintendo stand was littered with these signs to clear up which queue you were in. I was the only person in the queue, the game in front of me was clear but I was not waved forward by the aforementioned puppy of a demonstrator. Mark (our American tech guy) was frustrated that I wouldn’t just step onto the play area, and was thrilled when puppy-girl asked why I was waiting. I mean there was a sign telling me to queue. That is evil. Nintendo wanted me to rebel. That’s not the Nintendo way. But I digress, I was shown to a 3DS (the New 3DSXL to be specific) and I was instructed on how to start decorating a shop. The process is fairly straight forward in that a client brief is provided – in this case I needed two merchandise units and a cash register – and you have to design a layout that contains the required elements. Beyond that you can let your creativity fly and later in the game the brief will be harder to meet in terms of themes and colours being part of the mix. It’s a very attractive prospect, but may be somewhat limited in terms of longevity.
Longevity may be helped along, however, by the addition of Amiibo support to the game. The new Amiibo Cards (all 100 of them) will add characters to the game. This will add more challenges, more items and obviously more gameplay to the game. Cards will be available in packs of three, with a RRP of £4.99 which is a little steep but when you consider that you are potentially getting three pieces of game expanding DLC AND a collectible it isn’t too bad. My only major concern is the risk of doubles sometimes resulting in wasted money, but no doubt a vibrant community will spring up around the game and provide opportunities to trade with folk. Which is awesome.
The gameplay felt like an Animal Crossing game (no big surprise there obviously) and the designer elements were simple to get to grips with. I used my stylus from my own 3DS to move items around the floorplan on the lower screen and soon enough I had completed the brief.
The game – as mentioned previously – is charming, and should certainly appeal to gaming families or folk who just want to inject a little whimsy into their gaming collection.