While the rest of the world waits until late November for the official release of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on iOS and Google Play devices, your humble scribe – who happens to be located in Australia – has now had a few more days to adapt to life in this new world. With the first steps already taken, it’s now time to investigate how exactly Pocket Camp operates under the conditions of a smartphone format. In this article we’ll look at the game functioning within these restraints and how they impact the overall quality of life at the campsite.

If you do want to join in our guide to getting it early is here, but patience can also be a virtue.

Setting the Scene 

Obviously mobile titles aren’t always warmly embraced by video game traditionalists. With any Nintendo franchise adapted to the smart device market in recent times, there have been initial fears and concerns – from both fans and critics alike – regarding quality control. Various game series during this sensitive transitional phase often undergo extensive changes. Depending on the company behind it, the final product can be very much hit and miss.

Nintendo has proven in the past it won’t resort to the same level of aggressive tactics certain other developers and publishers will to entice players to spend money in mobile games. So far, it’s been very generous; offering a one-time transaction to permanently acquire Super Mario Run, and other titles like the social app Miitomo as completely free-to-play, with micro-transactions on the side allowing the player to obtain non-essential bonuses and unlock in-game content quicker. In these existing releases there are no third-party advertisements or pesky pop-ups disrupting the fluency of game play – making each one feel like a more premium experience you wouldn’t normally find on a phone or tablet.  

Money Makes the World Go Round

So, how does Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp compare? The Leaf Tickets are the micro-transaction element of the game. During the big reveal of Pocket Camp, the misunderstood raccoon Tom Nook acted as the face of this new form of currency. Without Leaf Tickets, making progress at the campsite and in the surrounding areas is slower but not impossible.

In general, the world of Pocket Camp is predominantly fuelled by trading, Bells and also these tickets on the side. It’s one big supply chain. You collect basic items like fish and fruit in order to earn vital crafting materials and other rewards like in-game currency. With the crafting supplies and Bells obtained, you can then ask Cyrus the alpaca to create new furniture to further develop your campsite and ultimately attract even more animals to your location. At this point you should be levelling up your friendships with the animals as well as your own character’s level, unlocking more animals to befriend and furniture to craft at the same time. The result is even more rewards for your hard work. It’s very much a rinse and repeat process.

The Rundown on Leaf Tickets and Micro-Management

The Leaf Tickets are intended to assist the daily routine, making life at the campsite slightly easier; some can be earned by mingling with animals and completing various goals. If you’ve been levelling up at a reasonable rate, you may now have the option to craft more furniture and also replace your starter tent with a themed one. When you finally have enough Bells and crafting materials for this themed tent, Cyrus will begin construction, which takes place over a 12 hour time frame. The crafting space Cyrus has includes four slots to craft items. At the beginning, two of the slots are accessible. One is allocated to crafting amenities and the other dedicated to the construction of furniture.

You may come to a sudden halt if you decide to make an amenity that can take an entire day and also want to craft a drum kit that could take up to five hours. At this point you now have to wait for both of these items to be crafted. It’s advisable to start crafting furniture and amenities that require multiple hours to construct before you go to sleep in real life. That way, when you wake up the next day your order will be ready.

If you foolishly filled all your available item slots with furniture and amenities that will take a long time to construct, you have two options from here. You can either use Leaf Tickets to instantly build the item or amenity, or you could consider buying more crafting slots to craft items – so you can continue your speedy construction progress. Depending on the price and hours required to construct a certain item or amenity, the price to speed up construction can be a hefty sum. A fee of around 80 Leaf Tickets or above becomes a common sight. With furniture, some items will require a payment of one Leaf Ticket to be sped up if you’re too impatient to wait an entire minute. This fee slowly increases depending on the item. Users will have to consider if spending these precious tickets on basic crafting tasks is worthwhile when you can just sleep on it instead. Ultimately an additional crafting slot might be required – making the micro-management a lot easier in the long run.  

Leaf Tickets’ presence slowly become more noticeable as you play. After collecting items such as fruit, sea shells and bugs you’ll come to the realisation that you’re steadily using up space in your inventory. In this case you can use 20 Leaf Tickets to expand your inventory by five units at a time. The Market Box offers similar expansion options with Leaf Tickets, allowing players to add more slots to sell items. In other areas of the game, certain levels of customisation use tickets. At OK Motors, a small selection of camper van patterns can only be purchased with Leaf Tickets. Luckily login bonuses reward you with special patterns for free. It's also worth noting as you level in the game you'll be rewarded with free upgrades such as an additional Market Box slots. These types of rewards are definitely appreciated, but it is admittedly hard waiting for more space to be added here and in other storage locations, when it's really needed sooner rather than later. 

Some other areas of the game encouraging the use of tickets are linked to bug catching and fishing – with players able to catch giant hauls of bugs or fish with honey and nets. It should be noted that these items – like other areas of expansion in the game – are not entirely locked off, and can be obtained for free on an irregular basis with the assistance of goals, log-in-bonuses and other methods. One particular location in the game – Shovel Strike Quarry – where you go to find precious minerals is a bit more extreme with its entry requirements. Pay upfront with Leaf Tickets, or else you’ll need five friends to help you gain free entry. In this area you can redeem minerals that can be sold at a good price. An array of crafting materials and Bells can also be gathered up. Restricting access to this part of the game obviously acts as an incentive to spend real money. In terms of the harsh realities of monetary transactions, Leaf Tickets start out at AU$1.49 for a pile of 20 and go right up to 800 (plus a 400 ticket bonus) for AU$62.99. Just like Miitomo and other Nintendo smart device games, the higher the amount spent, the more bonus tickets included in the transaction.

Limited-Time Exclusive Content

Arguably the most absurd Leaf Ticket pricing so far is tied to the limited-time special promotion. Cyrus can craft you K.K.Slider’s chair or Tom Nook’s chair for the insanely large sum of 250 Leaf Tickets if you would like to see them show up at your campsite and hang out. Fortunately, within the opening days of the game you should be rewarded enough Leaf Tickets to buy at least one of these characters immediately. The promotion itself also lasts 45 days (these rewards and period of availability may vary depending on region), so you should have plenty of time to obtain both characters. The only downside is that these iconic characters of the Animal Crossing series are essentially locked behind tickets that can be obtained using real money. If they required a bag of Bells, this concept might have been perceived in a better light. At the very least, if you make the effort, you can acquire enough tickets for free.

So far the overall implementation of Leaf Tickets and micro-transactions in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is neither intrusive nor compulsory. Bells and trading still fuel the economy, so it’s better to just accept whatever amount of Leaf Tickets you can obtain on the side.  

My Nintendo Rewards Make Life in Camp Easier

In the earlier stages of the game, My Nintendo Rewards can be of great assistance. This might sound like a ridiculous statement given the website’s limited use (at this point in time) when it comes to the Nintendo Switch, but in the case of Pocket Camp on mobile it allows you to rapidly accelerate the opening phases of the game.

You can earn Animal Crossing points by completing tasks within and outside of Pocket Camp. Linking a Nintendo, Twitter or Facebook account will give you 300 points each time. Currently, there are also three weekly missions – complete 10, 50 and 100 camper requests per week. It’s similar to the My Nintendo tasks and rewards in the likes of Miitomo, Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes. Completing these missions will give you coins on My Nintendo to spend alongside your regular points on rewards. Currently there is an OK Motors cap and jacket for 300 points each, and also the option to buy crafting materials in clumps of 20 for 50 points each. These materials include wood, steel, cotton, paper and preserves. Additionally, there is a onetime 50 Leaf Tickets deal, redeemable for free. There is also a bag of 5,000 Bells for 100 coins. This item can be redeemed multiple times. It’s worth noting rewards and tasks may be different depending on your region.

It is advisable when first logging in to claim the Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp rewards to also redeem Leaf Tickets and at least a few Bells bags – provided you can spare the My Nintendo points. On top of all the rewards you’ll get for first time goals in-game, the My Nintendo rewards will give your bank account a bit of padding. With the Bells, you can immediately use them to pay-off your first camper van upgrade. Additionally, you can craft more furniture for a prolonged period and have the freedom to buy items and clothing from the Market Place whenever you please. The Leaf tickets aren’t all that fantastic, but may prevent the temptation of paying actual money to obtain more during the early stages of the game. Ideally, you want to put these towards slot upgrades, crafting space or maybe make them go towards a more serious priority like an amenity including the previously mentioned tent upgrade, or the limited-time Tom Nook and K.K.Slider chairs.

If My Nintendo is refreshed with new Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp rewards and missions on a regular basis, combined with existing Nintendo points obtained using other methods or playing other games, this could become a great alternative to paying real money for Leaf Tickets or trying to earn a large sum of Bells.

Is Pocket Camp Actually the Real Deal?

The more you play Pocket Camp, the more you’ll come to realise it is not worried about the small stuff and finer details that make 'main' Animal Crossing games so unique in the first place. That’s not to say it’s less of an experience, or a completely different one for that matter, it’s just got a slight different approach. If anything, it is more like Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer on the 3DS, and takes some inspiration from the Welcome amiibo update that added the RV campground and other new content to Animal Crossing: New Leaf for free. No longer will you be worrying about weeding your garden or trying to shoot a balloon down before it floats out of sight, as there is less of an emphasis on random events or the upkeep of the surrounding environment. Instead the focus is on developing strong relations and friendships with animals so you can continue to develop the campsite and build more furniture and amenities to appeal to what is essentially your clientele (the animals).

There’s still a sense of freedom in Pocket Camp that has been so integral to the success of the series over the years. You can mostly do what you like and talk to whoever you want including visiting your friends, their campsites and camper vans. It is tasks like fruit picking, bug catching, mineral finding and fishing that no longer have the same level of importance. These are actions that are simply a means to an end, and admittedly discourage you from becoming the fishing pro or bug catching enthusiast you may have once been known as in the main series.

The fruit trees in Pocket Camp act as a reminder you’re in familiar but uncharted territory. Seeing a tree with a timer above it for the first time might be a tad startling but once you realise the fruit re-generates every three hours and you don’t have to plant trees and wait multiple days like existing releases, you’ll quickly adapt to the cycle. If you find yourself missing the classic Animal Crossing experience, don’t worry, the day and night and seasonal cycles have remained intact. Major events also have a role in this entry – as teased during the Direct announcement. Although there appears to be less random events included; at this point in time we’re yet to see a regular event occur. Hopefully these elements make the game feel even closer to the traditional mainline counterparts.

Device Performance and Compatibility 

The overall performance of this title seems to be better than some of the existing Nintendo IPs released on smart devices so far. You would think a fully-realised 3D game such as Animal Crossing would be more intensive than the likes of Super Mario Run, but that’s not the case. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is either better optimised or less intensive than previous Nintendo releases on mobile; it certainly runs better than Miitomo does. Surprisingly there are no graphical settings in the menu, either – only a power-saving option to conserve battery. The game should function on the majority of mobile devices released in the past few years with relative ease. Due to the nature of the series as well, fast paced response, actions or movements aren’t regularly required.

The loading times may vary from device to device but because they are relatively quick it doesn’t matter that you often must load between every separate area, or even to reveal new items or events. The framerate will depend on your handset, but even on older devices it performs well. Across iOS and Google Play devices, the overall experience is relatively similar. Overall, compared to existing Nintendo mobile titles this game runs pretty well. It still requires an internet connection, but you can take it on the go and use your mobile data, of course. 

What does the future hold?

Initially you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of content in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. During the early stages of the game you’re frequently socialising with animals, crafting furniture and gathering items and materials. It eventually gets to the point where you finally come to a standstill and are required to play the waiting game while a major amenity is constructed. Else it’ll be a briefer pause where you’ve run low on supplies and Bells, or you have completed all of the animal requests. This is where the known routine of Animal Crossing comes into play. You’ll do certain tasks on a daily basis, but if you want more you’ll either have to seriously commit to the game and level-up or resort to the use of Leaf Tickets and other tickets to accelerate progress. This is the key difference between the mobile game and the console & handheld counterparts. It’s an additional option to speed up the game’s cycles, although some players may view it as a drawback.

In existing entries, there wasn’t always an option tied to every aspect of the game that would decrease waiting times. You either had to work hard visiting shops and talking to villagers for 365 days a year, manipulate time or get a friend to help you out. In Pocket Camp you can take a shortcut and accelerate the development of your campsite provided you’re willing to make use of the Leaf Tickets on a regular basis, and perhaps even spend some real coin.

As Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp evolves over time, it will be interesting to see how Nintendo continues to tempt players into buying Leaf Tickets. If it’s anything like Miitomo, a lot of timed events and content with limited odds attached is a plausible scenario. If Pocket Camp was to follow this exact template, at this stage, it looks like users will still be able to freely enjoy the game provided the mindset isn’t to collect every item and befriend every animal in the game. Players will no doubt also need to remain engaged in order to be able to have enough materials and in-game currency to purchase items. If you can tolerate missing out on a few limited edition items and characters from time to time, it looks like it will be worth your while to continue developing your campsite.  

Stay tuned for our upcoming review of Pocket Camp!