Animal Crossing: New Horizons arrived at a slightly serendipitous time. Just as the world went into lockdown, players took their first steps into island life, and many of them, who might’ve played for a couple of hours a week, suddenly had all day to decorate, trade turnips, and catch every last pesky bug.
Despite interesting innovations like the crafting system, the ability to decorate your entire island, and some other significant changes, many Animal Crossing fans bemoaned a lack of content. Compared to previous entries, there were plenty of characters and elements that could have returned, but Nintendo decided to phase these in over time.
Now, some 18 months later, Nintendo has released the most significant update yet, adding many fan-requested elements, as well as the absolutely enormous DLC, Happy Home Paradise. Adding a pseudo-sequel to the 3DS title Happy Home Designer within New Horizons is genius, and capitalises on the near 40 million existing users instead of splitting the player base. In fact, it’s even available through Nintendo Switch Online so, hopefully, plenty of players are getting to experience this lovely little excursion.
Happy Home Paradise gives your villager a job. You’ll be whisked away to an archipelago where you will create homes on tiny little islands for a series of villagers. Different folks want different things, so you’ll be decorating for villagers that want somewhere to relax, a home that looks like a jungle, a house with a lot of toilets (don’t ask), and countless other demands. Importantly, you are not entirely beholden to their whims.
Each villager will have a select few essential items, different pieces of furniture that have to be placed for the decorating to be completed. But there are generally only about three of these, so it’s barely a bother. Then, they have a page of merely recommended items that will match the theme. The game carefully curates some great items, and I found myself gleefully digging into the huge selection, including a lot of brand new decorations, hoping to bring each villager’s dreams to reality.
One important element here is that you will get exactly as much out of this as you put in. Unlike Happy Home Designer, you are not scored on your performance. You simply get in, drop a few items, and get out. You’ll be paid the same amount each time, no matter how many items you place. Personally, I relished taking my time and stuffing every possible nook and cranny with different elements to truly bring the designs to life.
In theory, you could drop the three essential items, call it a day, and make exactly the same money, but that’s on your conscience. Do you want to lie awake at night thinking of a cute little bear living in the squat you deemed enough for them? If you have an eye for design and enjoy the decorating side of Animal Crossing, this is a fantastic way to let your imagination run wild.
What’s more, the expansion unleashes new ways to decorate rooms with additions like pillars, partitions, and new customisation options for both lighting and sounds in each house. For a title already known for its huge amount of customisation options, this expansion goes above and beyond and allows the creative ones amongst us to go truly wild with their designs. Even simple things like popping up a pillar can really bring a room together. These small touches make the square boxes we’ve become used to feel more like a lived-in space for our cuddly friends.
Progressing through the DLC, the aim is to fill 30 slots with a villager each. Along the way you’ll get to decorate a couple of special properties that take place on the island that holds the Happy Home Paradise centre. Building a cafe, a kitchen, and eventually planning a music festival, all add fun twists to the main concept, and I was really grateful to get to create something outside the regular formula to break things up.
You also get to earn a new currency called Poki, which you can spend on special furniture that becomes available in the Happy Home Paradise store. Lots of fun new items have been dropped in, and as soon as you have used certain furniture items with each customer, they can be ordered through the store using Poki. There are so many great new items, I found myself visiting the store every day to check them out. Well, that and to visit the island and pick up a brand new DIY recipe every day, many of which use the glowing moss and vines that surround the island the DLC takes place on.
Happy Home Paradise blew me away and reinvigorated a game I had lost interest in. Being able to decorate to my heart’s content, unlock a huge wealth of new items, and even decorate some different buildings for once, all reminded me of the strengths of Animal Crossing. At the end of the day, it’s just fun to decorate, not toil away trying to earn bells or craft DIY. This clean and satisfying add-on is a fantastic, heartwarming, and satisfying way to expand on the game people already know and love.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons — Happy Home Paradise £22.49
A substantial addition that expands on the best gameplay elements of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It’s a blast getting to just design for fun, and the addition of new customisation tools and brand new items open up the game even further.