Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer Review

Designed on a Dime: Animal Crossing Edition

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer Review

The Verdict

If you ever felt intrigued by the Animal Crossing games, but found their open-ended nature to be more daunting than relaxing, then Happy Home Designer might just be the answer. It seems like this game was also made to satisfy Sims players, who did nothing more but customize and furnished various homes to no end.

It's still extremely accessible, and not difficult by any means, but instead of relying on the player to make up their own day-to-day routine, they're presented with various residents that simply want their home to look a certain way. It's up to you whether you want them to be satisfied or not. In that way, Happy Home Designer still retains that freedom of expression, you're just not doing it to your personal home anymore, which is certainly a bummer.

While I certainly wouldn't run out to buy the amiibo Animal Crossing cards, due to their rather lackluster functionality, something tells me those things are going to sell either way.

Happy Home Designer certainly gets a hearty recommendation, based on its solid and accessible gameplay foundation.

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer Review

The Positives

  • Structured gameplay is the name of the game. Your main goal in HHD is to provide a nice living space for your customers based on their taste and preference, and it's up to you entirely to design the home with those specifications in mind.

  • Each home is a separate challenge. One customer might like all his furniture in black and white, while another might have an affinity for fruit. You're always given a few of their personal favorite items to get started, and you can then build off of those to complete their house.

  • The interface has been completely reworked. Gone are the days of manually taking furniture out of your inventory, walking up to it, holding to rotate, pushing it one space at a time. This time, all of that is left up to your stylus. You simply drag a piece of furniture out of the catalog, place it wherever you want, tap to change its orientation, and even place smaller items on top of bigger ones. It's a completely intuitive interface that takes what was once a hellish system, and makes it entirely user friendly.

  • Thanks to the new interface, experimenting is a breeze, and you can place a bunch of items down quickly to see how they all mesh together. Don't like that black table you just pulled out? Drag it to the trash and try another one. Want to re-arrange the kitchen space you plopped down? Easy, just drag and drop to new locations. You're no longer wasting time experimenting with layouts, and instead encouraged to be inventive.

  • All the necessary furniture is always accessible. You won't have to worry about not having a particular theme of furniture that your client wants. While this makes designing the houses much easier, it allows you to be fully creative without feeling limited.

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer Review

  • There is a slight sense of progression, without really having one. While you no longer unlock various furniture anymore, you do accumulate a book of your happy customers, which can be fun to browse through to check out your previous redecorating efforts, or to show off to your friends.

  • The town hub will also expand, unlocking a school, restaurant, etc. Once Isabelle pops in to tell you about their re-opening, it's up to you to decide what the interior will look like. For the classroom, I decided to give it a very Japanese look, particularly with the Tanto flooring and walls. It's also neat to see various residents start using these facilities once they finally open.

  • You can also directly upload your home designs to the Happy Home Designer network, which will let others check out your designs, and vice versa. It's a neat feature and works flawlessly.

  • Nintendo finally put in the option to change your skin color. Congrats Nintendo!

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer Review

The Negatives

  • No home to call your own. Animal Crossing, if anything, always allows some pretty great self expression and freedom through your very own house. This time, you don't have that. Instead, you're constantly moving from other resident houses, to your office, and the occasional stop by some of the town facilities. If anything, it would have been nice to have a furniture unlock system that would carry over to your own ever expanding house.

  • Not really unlocking any new furniture can seem offputting for those that want a more tangible sense of progression. That simply isn't here.

  • Amiibo card functionality is pretty lame. From what I could experience with the one amiibo card that came with the game, it simply makes that animal visit a house you just remodeled. The animals didn't even interact with one another. It seemed like a rather cheap way to get more amiibo sales, though this time in no-guarantee blind packs.

Animal Crossing has always been this strange, zen-like series of games that provided you with endless free-form gameplay. It's a title that didn't give you tasks or checklists, but instead tasked you with making your own each day. Would you focus on collecting bugs? Dig up fossils? Perhaps plant a bunch of apple trees? Or maybe make some spare change by selling off your shell collection that washed up on the beach? The point is, you lived your day-to-day life how you wanted, never governed by the game.

Now, I loved New Leaf and its new gameplay innovations. After all, being mayor certainly has its perks. However, it was a game that after a couple of months, I just couldn't force myself to keep checking up on. The fact that I'm always limited by what time of day I'm playing, as well as what season I'm playing in was a slight downside. After all, I am the type that thrives on checklists. It's primarily one of the reasons why I'm OK with Ubisoft titles and their extremely filled up open-world maps brimming with icons. I like being led while still retaining the freedom of how I get there.

For that very reason, I actually ended up enjoying Happy Home Designer a bit more. In this title, you're no longer the wide-eyed new resident of your very own village. This time, you're living on the business side of things. That's right, you're one of Tom Nook's underlings. Sure, you might not as money grubbing as he is, but you're certainly working for his company. The change in gameplay presented here is something I was always craving in an Animal Crossing game. I now have a checklist of sorts, and I'm also not limited nor constrained by a real-life clock system.

The Positives / The Negatives

The Verdict