Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer improves upon the decorating mechanics found in the core series but doesn’t have enough compelling reasons to keep you playing. You will do nothing but interior design since every other Animal Crossing feature isn’t present. A lack of any real feedback makes your work seem worthless. This game is a task in creating your own fun the whole way through.
If you are familiar with the Animal Crossing series then you know that you can decorate your own home with furniture, wall paper, and basically any item you come in contact with. Happy Home Designer is entirely about this process. There is no village to explore or neighbors to interact with, you will briefly chat with new characters each day and then design their home for them.
Compared to the main entries, this spin off has greatly improved the mechanics of piecing together your interior design choices. You can now move objects around with the stylus as opposed to having to push everything manually. The copy and paste feature greatly helps streamline some of this tedium as well. A good search feature allows you easy access to the huge library of furniture to use. Along with this you can even choose which home/room layouts you want to work with, design the yard outside, and select how you want the exterior of the house to look. These improved controls and streamlined options are great to see and will hopefully be in any future Animal Crossing titles.
Unfortunately this is where the improvements start and end since Happy Home Designer gets really repetitive. You can’t do anything else in the game besides the interior designing. Every now and then you can decorate a business (such as a school, a cafe, etc.) but even those don’t actually affect the game and are just different themes of building to work with. You can assign past clients to these new jobs (teacher, barista, etc.) but they don’t actually do anything besides stand there. The characters walking around only wish to discuss the fact that they just bought a house and need a designer. It feels like a shell of a game and quite lifeless.
The biggest problem is there is no grading system whatsoever. No matter what you do, you will always succeed. As long as you unbox the two or three required items per room you will have passed and can move on. Have a room that requires a boombox and a shelf? Simply placing them in the middle of the room and - literally - doing nothing else will satisfy the client tremendously. This causes your work to feel useless. Since you have nothing to work towards, what’s the point in working? The act of designing needs to be so strong in you that you don’t even require any progression for doing so. There is no reward for using any effort. The extreme openness ends up forcing you to make your own fun, create your own goals, and ultimately left me bored of the game real quick.
Every room you design can be uploaded online for others to explore. You can’t interact with the people seeing your work, it is more of a gallery for the viewer. The rooms don’t even have any function apart from looking nice so there isn’t anything to do in someone else’s room. You can rate other people's designs but only in a positive manner so you still don’t get much of a real critique of your work. The online is nice if you designed something interesting but will only capture your attention for a very short time.
The game also features the use of Amiibo Cards. These allow you to design rooms for more noteworthy characters in the Animal Crossing universe. I didn't have access to these when reviewing the game.
Unless you are a die-hard fan of the interior design component in Animal Crossing proper, Happy Home Designer is no fun. Without a scale to rank your work or any sort of real feedback to your efforts the game feels shallow and dull. Even the ancillary stores you can unlock don’t do anything. The world (or lack thereof) feels lifeless whether playing offline or on. You have to make your own fun here because the game doesn’t.