A lot has changed in real life since I first started playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons at the end of February, and even since I wrote my review in progress in the middle of March. Having such a wholesome game during an objectively bad time has been something of a blessing for a lot of people, myself included, and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t affected how I play New Horizons. I find myself turning to the game at night when I can’t sleep, or during the day when I’m stressed and I need a break. More often than not, an adorable villager or even just a sense of accomplishment from finishing my chores will cheer me up.
But that alone is not what defines New Horizons. The times I go to the game when I’m in a good mood are just as important as the times I’m seeking comfort. Even if I end the day anxious, I wake up excited to see what’s new on my island. I can’t wait to see who’s visiting for the day, to check out the bridge I just built or the new flowers that might be growing or how my new decor looks in the daytime. And I look forward to playing with my friends, trading items and design ideas and hitting each other with nets. New Horizons inspires creative self-expression and embraces kindness and friendship, and that is really what makes it such a joy.
Unlike in previous games, you’re not moving to a lived-in town in New Horizons; the island is completely deserted when you and two animals arrive as part of Tom Nook’s “getaway package,” save for the tiny airport. There’s no store or museum, all three of you live in tents, and Tom Nook himself operates out of a tent that he shares with his adorable nephews, Timmy and Tommy. Tom Nook clearly expected this whole thing to be a bit more glamorous (or at least popular), and in typical Tom Nook fashion, one of his first actions is to put you to work collecting tree branches and fruit to make a fire pit and drinks for a welcome party.