If you told someone that you were a huge fan of gourmet homecooked meals, you'd be well within your rights to boot them off the nearest cliff if they came to your next party with a lasagne dish full of wet cat food. Likewise, if a game bills itself with the actual tagline "It's Like Animal Crossing!" and then attempts to meet your lofty expectations with a Facebook game from 2014 retooled as a $20 eShop purchase that combines the joys of 'Doing Chores' with the excitement of 'Doing More Chores', we wouldn't blame you for throwing it so deeply into the bin that it re-emerges somewhere on the other side of the planet.
Castaway Paradise is that game. Once an in-app-purchase-riddled browser game, it migrated over to smartphones in 2015, consoles in 2018, and now (presumably because it's performed well enough on other platforms) it's on Switch, too.
The island upon which Castaway Paradise takes place is far from the paradise it claims to be. Littered with trash, broken-down buildings, and gigantic-headed villagers that seem to do little in life other than waving at you every single time you break their eyeline, the island is in desperate need of a facelift. It's up to you to restore it to its former glory, although the villagers seem pretty content to live in this trashpile, continuing to assert that it is, in fact, a utopia, even as broken umbrellas keep washing up on the shores.
On the island, you'll find a museum, a bank, a shop, and a house that belongs to you, all of which need a fix-up. There's a distinct lack of narrative reasoning given for these buildings existing but not being in use — to use Castaway Paradise's own comparison, Animal Crossing: New Horizons at least explains that the island was deserted before you got there, and you have to install a museum and shops yourself. In Castaway Paradise, apparently the villagers are fine with an empty museum, and a bank that they never use.
It may seem like low-hanging fruit to criticise the narrative flimsiness of a gentle life simulator, but Castaway Paradise is full of design decisions that beg the question "but why?". An early example is the house that your character can build for themselves, and decorate if they see fit. In Animal Crossing, your tiny starter house can be added to, with new rooms, a basement, and a second story. In Castaway Paradise, your house is huge from the start, but most of the rooms have been literally roped off, and you have to earn access to the rooms that you already own.
Likewise, the island itself is partitioned by gateways that have been placed very deliberately in the way, and you have to remove the obstacles before you can gain access into new areas. It feels less like progress, and more like someone snatching away new content for you so you don't eat it too quickly and realise how little substance there is to the game. Indeed, when the entire island is unlocked, you'll notice that it's very, very small, and you'll hardly earn anything new for your efforts beyond a couple of new characters and buildings, which don't do much anyway.
Speaking of characters, Castaway Paradise is full of wide-eyed anthropomorphic townsfolk who dole out chores and fetch quests with the gusto of a parent trying to make their hyper toddler leave them alone for a few hours. They have little to say, but they'll take five minutes to say it all the same, and they'll wave at you every time you walk past, even if you literally just spoke to them. There's an unnerving feeling that you're living in a simulation, accompanied by robots who've accidentally had their Perkiness Meter turned all the way up to eleven.
Outside of decorating your house and avoiding the cheery villagers, you can tend to plants in Castaway Paradise, which is one of the areas where its freemium origins are still poking out like leg hair through tights. Every plant, from trees to flowers, is on a timer — sometimes an hour, sometimes longer — which limits your play significantly. You'll have to water the plants (even the trees) to ensure that they keep growing, and although it rains roughly every 15 minutes, the rain apparently doesn't water the plants for you. What's more, there's not much to do with the plants beyond selling them, and using the money to buy outfits for your cube-headed character, who lumbers around the world like a drunken teen wearing treacle-filled trousers.
The other freemium hangover is the shop system, which is disorganised in the way a bomb site is disorganised. Categories for furniture and clothing range from "Equipment" and "Seats" to "Stripy Stuff" and "Your Style?", which is just a load of fruits, for some reason. The category "VIP Only!" implies that there's some kind of ranking system in this single-player game, but it's clearly just been left in from a version of the game that has real currency, which you would use to buy these items. There is both a 'physical' shop with daily items, and a full in-menu shop of all the items in the game, the latter of which almost completely defeats the point of the former.
There's also a daily reward system, which will give you a special type of currency that you can only spend on badges — which are a nearly-useless item that can be displayed in another part of the museum, showing off your ability to, erm... buy badges.
And that's... sort of it. You spend your days talking to villagers, watering plants, and catching fish and bugs. While that sounds a lot like Animal Crossing, it's like if you described a painting to someone and then they tried to recreate it with a bunch of chunky, dried-out felt-tips. There's just not a lot of joy to be had in Castaway Paradise's budget version of a classic.
If all of that wasn't damning enough, then perhaps the fact that we spent around five hours playing this game, and in that time, unlocked the entire island and almost all of the in-game achievements should be enough to tell you that you'd be better off spending your cash on a printed-off screenshot of Animal Crossing, because at least then it would look nice.
Castaway Paradise is hardly the first game to take inspiration from Animal Crossing, and it certainly won't be the last — but its unoriginal adherence to the Animal Crossing formula is bad enough, without the added veneer of in-app purchases, hastily reskinned and demonetised for a full-price release. It began life as a Facebook game back in 2014, and it still feels like one seven years later.
Feels like a mobile game? Because it is a mobile game ported for switch.
That's a shame. Really should wait for reviews before i preload these things >.<
will I ever learn?
Oh my word this looks like garbage. Can they just stop porting these shovelware mobile games?
Oof, yeah this game doesn't seem like it is worth your time, honestly I haven't been particularly into life sim games lately other than Stardew, too many of them feel like they have tasks that just exist for busy work instead of being actual fun gameplay.
@nessisonett but then we wouldn’t get to read the reviews!
I remember picking this game up a few months ago on Steam at a discounted price...let's just say, Steam's biggest advantage is it's refund policy
You know a game is bad when even Nintendo Life, one of the gentlest reviewers I've seen, is being kinda savage in their review.
@TryToBeHopeful This is a very good point. I do love a savage review, ONM used to bring them out once in a while.
I would say this ripped off ACNH but how could they have when this was released what, 7years ago?! This wouldn't have even looked good then...
Ugh, more shovelware, this time a blatant ripoff. When will devs learn they can't shove a mobile game onto Switch, remove freemium BS, slap a 20 dollar price tag on it, and call it done? The one game I can think of that did that well was Voez, and that's because Voez is a really solid rhythm game in the first place.
This was much cooler when it first came out on iOS.
I'm not here to truly disagree, after all, I bought and refunded this game on Steam years ago myself. (There was no controller support then I think...)
But I feel the Switch crowd is going to be a little overly harsh on this game due to Animal Crossing. It does have a score of mostly positive on Steam, likely because on PC there isn't anything remotely close to Animal Crossing.
As someone who has gotten a few hours of so-so joy even out of the likes of Harvest Life, I think die-hard fans of the genre could still enjoy this. But the price is too high, I'm waiting for at least half off to give this another shot.
"Steamy Stools?" What in-game reason could they have for the name of that category? Did you change the screenshot after noticing it?
@AussieMcBucket I guess I have never realized that your screenshots change every page visit. 😯
Had this on my radar but yeah think I will pass xx
"Another one slips through the quality control net"
It doesn't sound like an improvement over the PC version on steam. so, i'll be skipping it.
@Wordbonder Ah, but there is something akin to Animal Crossing . . . maybe a bit more like Harvest Moon I suppose, but it kinda still fits the bill: Stardew Valley.
"It feels less like progress, and more like someone snatching away new content for you so you don't eat it too quickly and realise how little substance there is to the game."
Yeah, that's very much like mobile games. When you strip away all of the monetization, the vast majority of mobile games are a grindy mess and have very little substance. They're mostly casinos disguised as games.
@JokerCK i remember trying to this out on my tablet quite some time back.
After Animal Crossing Pocket Camp turned out to be crap, I started looking for an alternative.
This game certainly looked promising! But after about 10 minutes I realized it was going to be a waste of time.
@CobraA1 Well I guess you could say that. I just always viewed Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon/Stardew as being rather different.
This game, which reviewed as utter garbage: 4/10.
Summer in Mara, which reviewed as not as good as Stardew Valley, even though to think that it was trying to be Stardew Valley is to completely miss what it was trying to do: 3/10.
Players who want intelligent analysis to help them decide how to spend their money: going elsewhere.
This is precisely why nintendo needs a quality control team for the eShop. So many of these garbage mobile quality games keep appearing on there lately. And not to mention ones like game of life and spongebob crusty cook-off that are FREE on cell phones but somehow THIRTY DOLLARS on switch. Nintendo needs to boot all these developers.
@JimmySpades Yeah sadly the life/farming sim genre was both blessed and cursed by Stardew. Yes, it was a great game, but not everyone is trying to be Stardew just because they're in the genre.
The constant Stardew comparisons tire me out honestly...
Mom, can we have Animal Crossing?
We have Animal Crossing at home!
Animal Crossing at home:
With the success of Animal Crossing, this only makes sense. I would think this is not the last of sim games comparing themselves to AC, or publishers looking around to find something to put out in the genre.
But I continue to keep my eyes open for new things. I was afraid that Spiritfarer would be a poor imitation of AC--wow, was I blown away by that great game. So, I am sure there will be good sim games in the future, but there will also be games like this.
I was curious about it when I saw the listing on the eShop but I didn't want to purchase it until some reviews were posted. Thank goodness that I chose to wait.
@JokerCK Nope. It was first a PC game. Plays just fine here, on PC anyway.
@TenEighty its a mobile game and do you know what's the bad side? A $20 mobile game port. Also it is played very badly.
It's been a buggy, unfinished mess for every platform it was released too.
Agreed Rhythm games always work wonderfully in this format and actually end up being way better value then their mobile counterpart because you pay a one time fee for all content and any content that they will add in the future.
😊This will be a DAY ONE purchase for me.
On EVERY (Handheld) Console I've ever had, I ALWAYS buy the 💩ty games to make it look like sell which is why they keep appearing on future Consoles.
I got this on a very good sale price, and it's not that bad a game. Perfect for those who like task-focused games, like myself.
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