I've been playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp more than I should for more than a week now, and the good news is that it's better than I expected. The bad news is that I have yet another Nintendo game that I'm going to be compelled to check daily!
Unlike the other mobile games that Nintendo has released thus far, Pocket Camp does feel like a stripped down version of the mainline games, although it has enough small differences to make it feel like a separate thing. Fishing, catching bugs, and collecting seashells and fruit has a simpler, touch-based interface that works perfectly well. You'll also be using the touchscreen for walking around, arranging your furniture (using the same intuitive interface that debuted in Happy Home Designer), and talking to your animal friends. The game is focused on building up relationships with animals via fulfilling their requests (e.g. give them three oranges) and crafting furniture. The two activities are intertwined as building relationships with animals will earn you more materials for crafting furniture, and crafting furniture will let you invite animals to your campsite. The flow of the game is also finely tuned. The animals visit four main areas (riverside, beach, orchard, and island). More often than not you need items from one area in order to fulfill a request from an animal in a different area, so there's a compelling loop of visiting and revisiting areas as you fulfill requests.
In Pocket Camp you have an RV to personalize instead of a house, and you also have a campsite, which is an outdoor area that you can decorate and invite animals to visit. The campsite has two spaces for "amenities", bigger structures much like the town amenities from New Leaf. You can also buy clothes (including socks and shoes from Kicks the skunk) and furniture, although you only have a few options to choose from compared to the main games' wide selection.
You gain levels as you build your relationships, and increasing your level lets you meet more and more animals. The main series has more than 450 animals, so it's going to be a good long while before all of them are added to the game. Currently it seems like animals appear at the same level for all players, and each unlocks specific pieces of furniture. The downside to this is that currently everyone's campsites look pretty similar with the same group of animals and a lot of the same furniture, but that shouldn't last long as people get to higher levels and have a much wider catalog of items to choose to craft.
Pocket Camp is free to play, and so far it seems pretty fair. You can pay real money to buy leaf tickets, which can be used to speed up the time it takes to craft a new item, take the place of materials you may be missing, or visit the quarry which nets you coins. Materials and coins can be earned by fulfilling animals' requests, so not spending real money will mean you'll be doing a lot more grinding fulfilling requests, but the series has always been about grinding routine tasks anyway. There are also a series of daily and long-term "goals" you can accomplish (such as catch 100 bugs) that will also earn you rewards, including leaf tickets.
Pocket Camp had a lot of server issues when it launched, and a week later I'm still seeing server communication problems fairly regularly. I'm sure those will get ironed out, though. Pocket Campis definitely not as addictive asNew Leaf, but it has the same charm and lovable animal characters and relaxing mindless gameplay. The developers have done a great job making it feel perfectly at home on smartphones, and it looks great and controls smoothly. Now that I've accomplished a lot of the short-term tasks (such as recruiting both of the limited-time characters, Tom Nook and K. K. Slider) I can see myself playing this a minimal amount each day, although they just released a special holiday set of furniture, which may eat up more time than I'd intended.Pocket Camp works perfectly well as an intro to the obsession-inducingAnimal Crossing series, but for longtime fans it's also an enjoyable game in its own right, helped in no small part by its convenience of being available on smartphones. It's unknown ifPocket Camp will tie into the next entry in the mainline series at all, but we're a bit overdue for a new properAnimal Crossing game, and this game certainly whets the appetite for something more innovative and substantial.