dankempster's Oide yo Doubutsu no Mori (Nintendo DS) review

Life sucks. Virtual life, on the other hand, is great

All too often these days, games are attempting to push the boundaries of the industry by either shocking their target audience or introducing some never-before-seen-but-actually-pretty-lame innovation. Most new releases will tend to fall into one of these two categories. Games like Grand Theft Auto and God Of War offer mutilation and other depravities in abundance, while serial updates (particularly EA sports sims) seem to find it necessary to bring in a gimmick with every annual instalment. And after all, why shouldn't they? Isn't this what gamers want?

Step forward Wild World, the most recent addition to Nintendo’s Animal Crossing franchise and about as far removed as you can get from convention. You won’t find any gore or gimmicks here, oh no. Animal Crossing is a real-time life simulation. From the outset, you’re plonked into a town where you plan to set up home. You take long walks in the countryside, fish, catch bugs, visit the local landmarks once in a while and chat with the other residents of your town (a rather odd bunch of animals), all with the eventual aim of paying off your mortgage. There’s no storyline, so to speak, nor any real ending. You just... live.

Wild World does nothing to mess with this formula, and converts it to the DS handheld extremely well. While the style of the gameplay will undoubtedly put people off, gamers searching for a relaxing change of place will certainly find that here. Yes, it is simple and twee, but never in an insulting way. The constantly evolving game world (which, as I’ve already said, plays out in real time thanks to your DS’ internal clock) keeps the game fresh and the ability to dive into and out of the game whenever you like keeps it from getting too repetitive.

In terms of how the actual playing of the game is handled, Nintendo have done a fantastic job of making Animal Crossing “touch-friendly”. Fans of both stylus and buttons will be satisfied, as Wild World caters for both styles by offering two methods of control and the opportunity to switch between them at any time. That being said, menu navigation feels faster with the stylus, which permits drop-and-dragging of items and faster scrolling. Wireless communication allows players to visit friends’ towns, and those of you who have Wi-Fi will be able to visit towns from all over the globe. It’s a nice touch that also opens up new items and features to you.

Graphically, Wild World is pretty impressive. The graphics are 3D and the cute, pleasant atmosphere they create fits in well with the game’s concept. The game’s characters and environments are not lavishly detailed, but the cohesiveness the visuals provide helps to create a sense of consistency and maintain the illusion of a living, breathing environment. The game’s sound is something of a mixed bag, though. A lot of the music is simple but fits in well with the game, and the ability to compose your own town tune is a nice touch, but the annoying animal voices feel intrusive. Thankfully, the option to turn them off is available.

Because Wild World is a life simulation, it never really ends. The real time aspect allows players to work through the game at their own pace, and as such it doesn’t have a lifespan. Some will play it every day, while others may only dive into Wild World once a week. It’s a game where your playing style determines the flow. You could easily while away hours by becoming addicted to the game’s myriad distractions (fishing and bug collecting to name but two). The length of Wild World is entirely dependent on how much time you’re willing to put in.

In conclusion, Wild World is the perfect on-the-go answer for anybody looking for a change of pace from the relentless flow of most games. The relaxed gameplay and cohesive world created within one little DS cartridge provide players with an experience unlike any other for the console. As I said, it won’t appeal to everybody. But if you want something different for your money, you can’t go wrong with starting a new life in the Wild World of Animal Crossing.

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