Animal Crossing: New Horizons
by Mike Gilbert

Yes, Blathers, I would LOVE to hear more about the archaeopteryx. I LIVE for it.

It’s the little joys like hearing owly museum curator Blathers…well, blather… about fossils or his crippling fear of bugs that makes Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons a perfect game for the current pandemic hellscape. You know that a long, boring explanation is coming, but you crave it all the same. It represents normalcy, stability, and the joy of knowledge in a time where all we face is uncertainty over Covid-19, whether Billie Eilish tickets are refundable, and the economy. Blathers is your rock.

In addition to my delight in Blathers’ expertise, he’s just cute. It’s ALL cute in Animal Crossing. Your character is cute, the villagers are cute, and your outfits are cute. Every bit of it exudes cuteness, unironically. To coin a phrase from Spinal Tap, why have the cuteness top out at 10, when it can go to 11?

My son asked me what the point of Animal Crossing is. “There is no goal,” I responded. The point is to just…be. If you’d like to go into debt to usurer and island impresario Tom Nook in order to get a bigger house, you can do that. It’s not necessary, though. You can just fish all day, or pull up every weed on the island, or stage photo shoots on Harv’s weird hippie island. You can even ask Nook what you should be doing, and most of the time he just responds with a shrug. The only conflict you face is the wasps who want to sting you because you’re trying to chop down the tree they’re living in. Frankly, they’re justified.

All this talk of Animal Crossing and chill is not to say that the game isn’t packed full of action, though. Molding the island into your grand vision is a uniquely satisfying undertaking, and I’m desperate to one-up my friends in CJ’s fishing contests. I spent several hours catching bugs and agonizing over which one I should get art-punk Flick to turn into a statue. There is always something to do, and you never know when a new event will pop up.

To say that Animal Crossing is the official video game of the COVID-19 crisis might be selling it short. It’s the perfect game at the perfect time. Its blend of serenity and optimism lets you forget about the isolation and uncertainly of this weird pandemic crisis, and just melt away on your own tropical island. Blather on.

Grade: A+

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