Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is an interesting idea. By far, the most beloved portion of any Animal Crossing game is the ability to obtain items, furniture, and decorations, and subsequently design your dream home. With his in mind, Nintendo trimmed the fat from the Animal Crossing series to deliver Happy Home Designer (HHD), in which the sole mission of the game is to do exactly what the title says: Design happy homes.
HHD is as colorful and cute as any Animal Crossing game, and initially, the promise of uninterrupted interior design is a promising one. HHD wastes no time in getting you right into the action, if you can call it action. You begin by creating your villager, which you do by choosing from a vast selection of hair styles, eye shape and color, and so forth. But in the end, I went with the classic Villager Amiibo look. Your villager is the newest employee at Nook’s Homes, the company that has a crushing monopoly over all real estate in the village.
As Nook’s Homes’ fresh hire, you must prove your eye for design is adequate by decorating a new home for a fellow co-worker. From that point on, your mission is to design beautiful homes and increase the clientele of the company by spreading the word that you are the ultimate happy home designer.
The actual furnishing of each home is a simple task, but allows you to be fairly creative. Each home is a perfect square, six spaces on all four sides, and each customer has a couple pieces of furniture that you must include in the home. These set pieces generally determine the theme of the room. For example, Roscoe, a monochromatic checkered horse, offered up three pieces of furniture for his home that were, quite fittingly, all black and white. And that’s what he wanted — a black and white home.
Aside from the few included items, the rest of the design is totally up to you. As you place items around the room using the 3DS touchscreen, you can watch your client’s reactions to judge how well they like your choices. But even when I purposely went against the grain in regards to a client’s desired decorative theme, as long as the pre-planned furniture is included, it’s difficult to not please each villager.
The integration of the touchscreen into HHD is fantastic, and the 3DS is the perfect system to play it on. The last Animal Crossing game to appear on the 3DS, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, utilized the handheld’s touchscreen a fair bit, but never to the degree that HHD does. The screen in an ideal medium to let players quickly place items and furniture, and then rearrange them on the fly. Gone are the days of having to walk across the room and slowly push your bed from one side of the house to the other. Now it’s as simple as pointing and dragging.
Eventually, once you’ve proved your mettle in home design, you’ll be tasked with bigger and more important jobs, like picking land for new village residents, designing exterior areas as well as interior ones, and even designing a new school and a bridge for the village.
The home designing, and eventually yard and building designing, is undoubtedly fun, and even addictive at times. But the size of the perfectly square homes never change, and after about ten or so houses, I started to just recreate the exact same design, just with different furniture.
Once each home is complete, you simply just move on to the next one. There is no exploring or socializing within the village. In fact, you can’t even really travel or wander anywhere at all. You can walk around outside Nook’s Homes and fast travel to houses that you’ve designed in the past, but aside from these few locations, HHD is very restrictive in terms of movement. And other than a new home to design and new items to use, there are no real rewards for successfully creating a beautiful and comfortable living space for your fellow villagers.
Sadly, HHD offers no real variety, and after just a few hours of playing the game I realized that I had already experienced everything it had to offer. I searched high and low for new content and new things to do. But aside from utilizing the overpriced and frankly useless Amiibo Cards to bring new villagers to town, there was simply nothing else to do. This is, by far, HHD’s greatest downfall, and unfortunately, it’s a big one. All the cuteness and decorative mastery in the world just can’t make up for a game that offers plenty of replay value, but not the kind you want.
The idea behind HHD, stripping an Animal Crossing game down to its most enjoyable aspects, is a good one. But it falls short because it has been stripped too much. There’s no foreplay. It’s just straight to the climax, and then you’re done. As fun as it sounded at the beginning, HHD would have been better off if it were a full-fledged Animal Crossing game. Instead, it just feels like a watered-down cash grab.
Fun and addictive, but repetitive and unrewarding
The home designing is brilliant and allows you to create wonderful things. But with no rewards or varied gameplay, Happy Home Designer falls short.