I honestly didn’t think I’d enjoy this game. I’ve played Animal Crossing titles in the past, but I’ve always spent only a few hours on them, and then not pick it up again for months. This is a strange direction for Nintendo to go in, but not an unwelcome one.
So as the name states, you design homes. Choosing what furniture and where to put it, changing the wallpaper and flooring, and even rolling out a rug, if that’s what you want to do. That’s what this game is all about; your own choices. In previous games, the extent of your creative influence in the town has been limited to gardening, your own abode, and the layout of which building goes where. Happy Home Designer sees your custom made avatar (with maybe a smidge of accessorising) become a part of Nook’s Homes, taking on clients and listening to their requests, which in some cases can be a big task.
Each client gives you some requirements, either having a set of furniture that MUST be in their home, or giving you a list. As well as this, you’ll also be given a style to do the room in (my personal favourite being “stylish”), and any furniture that perfectly fits into this scheme will garner a heart emoticon radiating from the client. After playing around a bit however, we decided to try out making the worst room we could. Again, it was for the “stylish” client, with his three most valued pieces of furniture, which we promptly placed into the bin, receiving gasps of shock from the customer. Of course the room couldn’t be finished without this requirement, as we found out, so we placed them in nonsensical places, wallpaper and flooring were changed to garish colours and patterns, and no other furnishings were fitted. The response was not at all what we expected, and the emotion we learned (curiosity) could only be loosely tied to what we did.
Emotions are used to interact with characters in the Animal Crossing world, and are usually learned when finishing a room. I’m not sure whether they correspond to what’s been done, or what furnishings have been put in, but thus far they seem randomly generated. Using them to get an emotion response from other characters, or just spouting them into thin air seem to really be the only use for them, though I think they’re intended for adding character to all your Nintendo Instagram Miiverse screenshots taken with L+R.
As well as dabbling in interior design, you also try your hand at gardening, home construction, and wardrobe selection. Usually, you’ll be pitching to prospective clients on the street, who then have their own requests and may even ask you to choose a plot of land for them to build a new house on, which have a range of styles in small, medium, and large. But sometimes, in walks Isabelle the project manager of your town, and you receive the job of choosing what to build next in the neighbourhood. Buildings like the school, shops, hospital, and the library all need some design flair from yours truly, with various exteriors available, and a brief detailing what and how many of an item, but not what style, is needed inside. Slowly, your little town will grow.
Happy Home Designer, as you can probably tell, is all about player choice; dialogue options that are two different wordings of the same meaning, choosing what client to help, and everything that goes on inside and outside the building, not that there’s a challenge to any of this. Eventually you’ll get an Amiibo Phone, letting you revisit previous customers, choose new ones with Amiibo cards, and with a 3DS NFC reader as well as a card included, there really is no excuse not to. It’s all about showing off your designs, either posting rooms for people to visit online, or sharing your snaps on the Instagram Miiverse. This is where a lot of the replayability comes from. You might see aspects of a design that you really like, and want to incorporate into your own, or maybe you just want to make it better.
As I said earlier, this is a strange (but not entirely unwelcome) direction to move the Animal Crossing franchise in. Ideally, I would like to see a main Animal Crossing game, and instead of becoming an indebted employee of Tom Nook’s store, a scavenging salesman, or the mayor, I would love if they incorporated various different professions in the style of Happy Home Designer, giving you a choice of how to earn money. They could even work like packs of DLC, a la Sims, though I’m not sure how the regular fan would feel about that.
Bryony, Clarke’s girlfriend, also had some thoughts:
Having never played an Animal Crossing game before (save Nintendoland’s Animal Crossing: Sweet Days) I didn’t really know what to expect. Though what I definitely didn’t was for the game to be so damn repetitive! A game based on home design really only works if it’s designed in one of two ways:
1. A serious load of different combinations, styles of furniture, and total free range to do whatever the hell you want (The Sims)
2. A strong design brief that you absolutely HAVE to stick to, or risk losing the game.
Unfortunately Happy Home Designer failed to deliver on both accounts, allowing you to do whatever you wanted (with your limited furniture styles unlocked along the way, and even more limited space) yet still letting you continue with the game as though you had just made your client’s dreams come true – even if you’d literally just unpacked their own belongings into the room and left. Happy Home Designer’s one redeeming feature is that it is a really easy and almost relaxing game – you don’t have to stop every couple of hours and double check online walk-throughs…or rage quit in frustration. There is no right or wrong way to play.
If you are looking for a casual boredom buster and don’t take the game (or yourself) too seriously you can have a lot of fun trying to design the perfect house for your little critters.