Impressions: Don’t use this cheat in ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’

Tribune Content Agency

“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” moves at its own pace. It doesn’t care much about what’s going beyond the screen outside. The world could in the middle of an apocalypse but inside the island that players mold, they will find a slower flow of life.

The Nintendo Switch game moves in real time. If it’s morning and the sunrise casts its glow across a real-life table, players will see that same lighting pattern on the eastern side of their island. When it’s summer, they’ll have more sunny days. When it’s winter, they’ll see snow blanket the ground. “New Horizons” has its own holidays and events as the system reads the time and date.

Tom Nook, the fictional mogul and some say capitalist slave driver, initially announces the day and happenings about town before players go about the chores and activities to keep this experimental colony going.

During the first few play sessions, “New Horizons” players discover a natural endpoint to their day. They must wait for Blather’s museum to be built or the Nook’s Cranny to set up shop. With each stopping point, players have a chance to breathe and enjoy the game’s leisurely pace. “Animal Crossing” isn’t a title one can exactly binge.

Well that’s normally the case unless players “time travel.” That’s a method of cheating, in which players fiddle with the Nintendo Switch’s internal clock and jump backward in the past or ahead in the future. If they can’t wait a few hours, these awful people, whom I judge harshly, skip ahead. That’s how one sees objects and features that would normally take weeks appearing on social media a few days after the game’s release.

These players are Biff Tannen-type monsters, messing up the space-time continuum. Also, they’re probably minions of Tom Nook, stoking everyone’s Ikea nesting instinct and pushing them into more debt.

“New Horizons” shouldn’t feel like a consumerist race for the most stuff. It should be a place that players escape reality in order to relax. The natural breaks in the campaign let players put the game down and return to real life. It gives them something to look forward to the next day.

During an age when consumers binge TV shows, “New Horizons” is the exception. Every time I play, I savor the hours of exploration, resource gathering and decorating. I set up online sessions with friends. If I go beyond a few hours, the title feels more like work as I try to squeeze as many Bells — the in-game currency — out of every fish and insect I catch.

The worst part about this “Animal Crossing” cheating is that it further messes up our sense of time. While much of the world is on a lockdown and the daily rhythm of life is disrupted, it’s hard to get a footing. Days and even weeks have blended together. There are times it’s hard to judge what day it is exactly.

One of the ways that I have learned to mark time is by turning on “New Horizons” each day. The day is read aloud or at least in the little chirps that pass as language and players get a rundown of the major events on the island. Players see the progress they’ve made from tent towns to a bustling economy of residents.

I’m at the point where the Residential Building has been set up for two days. I have a project to build a red Zen bridge that will eventually lead to a bamboo garden with a pool at the center. I also have to pay off my home loan to Tom Nook, this is the third one so far. I have other projects planned for the future like an incline but taming this island is a gradual process, one I can measure by the day in the game and in the real world.


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