With New Horizons in particular, Animal Crossing has become a game about self expression. No longer are you limited to only meaningfully curating the look and style of your home interior and your character’s outfit, you are given the full freedom to transform your island to look however you damn well wanted it to. Now, with the release of the Happy Home Paradise DLC expansion, Nintendo are funnelling your creativity in a new direction.
This is an expansion that does pretty much exactly what you expect it to. It effectively transposes the theme and gameplay from 2015’s Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer into New Horizons, giving you a new job at Lottie’s new home designing venture to design the ideal little holiday getaway spots for all manner of Animal Crossing characters.
For each animal that walks through the office doors, you’re given a straightforward task of taking their desired theme and a few key items to feature. From there you pick a location and decorate their home and the surrounding area to spec.
You can really let your creativity flow through this, running with such basic prompts as wanting a book-reading getaway, wanting to be surrounded by bamboo while they sleep, or simply that they want it to be autumn all the time.
The expansion leans on the same decorating tools that you have through the rest of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, letting you switch to a grid-based view of the world to drop in, move and arrange various furniture items and decorations. You can easily switch from a floor view to placing wreaths and shelves on walls, and then up to popping a fancy chandelier or other lighting fixture on the ceiling – a feature added with the version 2.0 update.
That grid-based view now extends to the outdoors as well, so you can plonk down some fences, trees and plants, more furniture and paint some paths on the floor. It’s a real shame that this hasn’t been rolled back to the main game, kept in check by the more restricted scope of this expansion.
You really cannot go too far wrong with your creation. Literally. Just as with Happy Home Designer before it, the customer will love whatever you do. You’re handed a particular selection, a palette of recommended furnitures, wallpapers and other items to work with, and after each job all of those items are added to the library of what you can choose from. There are thousands of items in the game, so this can quickly become a bit overwhelming, but it’s easy to stick to a given theme with a few sprinkles of other elements. Sadly you aren’t able to draw from your main game furniture collection, so you won’t be able to torment everyone with Bunny Day decorations.
Once you’re done with someone’s home, you can move right on and never return, but you can also revisit them whenever you like and offer to update their home and the surroundings, or even suggest that they move to a different part of the archipelago.
Happy Home Paradise has its own arc of building up the community and facilities for this archipelago, but it’s also designed to tie back in to whatever it is you’re trying to do in New Horizons. For each successful job you complete you earn Poki, a new HHP-specific currency that can only be spent on the handful of daily furniture items that Wilbur has for sale in the main office.
This feels like more of an additive experience that’s intended to run alongside your continuing daily play of New Horizons, as it should do. There’s already several new things to get up to through the major version 2.0 upgrade, from building up Harv’s outdoor shopping co-op, to heading on Kapp’n’s boat trips, more of the game’s straightforward farming and cooking DIY, and Happy Home Paradise knowingly fits in alongside these. You can take jobs one after another, but it feels more natural to do one or two a day, especially as you’re often reminded not to work too hard and overdo it. Feel free to ignore that advice if you’re enjoying yourself!