One of my favorite Nintendo franchises is the Animal Crossing series due to just how fun it is to live in that world with all those crazy animals. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a proper console Animal Crossing game but if you’re a PlayStation or Xbox gamer it’s something you haven’t gotten to experience on your console pretty much ever. Castaway Paradise from Stolen Couch Games pretty much is the Animal Crossing game on those platforms that you have always wanted. It is heavily inspired by that Nintendo game as well as the Harvest Moon franchise but did that inspiration lead to a worthy outcome?
The game opens with your character getting caught in a storm out somewhere in the ocean. The game then cuts to you having washed up on an island covered in seaweed where you then meet the mayor named Viktoria who happens to also be a pig. You’re the only human on this island and you’re given a choice of playing a boy or a girl. The game then puts you through a brief tutorial teaching you a few basics like how to pick up trash around the island and how to plant and water crops. You’re also given a home which at the start is simply a tent but can be upgraded later. Don’t worry, this home is free of charge and there is no conniving character here that you are forced into debt to.
You’ll wander around the island meeting all of your neighbors which are also all animals. There’s the Baker, Gustave, who happens to be a Moose and Angus who’s a Baboon. As far as the looks of the characters they feature more of a block style like something you’d see out of Minecraft then Animal Crossing but the overall art style is colorful and charming making it appeal to gamers of all ages. All of the characters are interesting to go and talk to just to listen to what they have to say or what things they might reference. They all also offer you the quests that you will spend a lot of your time in this paradise doing. Every character will constantly have new quests to give you and you can take on up to three at a time. The objectives vary but they can be things such as grow a certain amount of a crops, catch fish, or buying certain things. Over time they do repeat themselves a lot so in that sense the game can get quite repetitive and I would’ve liked to see a bigger variety of things to do.
Another issue I have with the quest system is that if you get stuck on one there is no way to get rid of it. Upon looking into this I found that on PC there is the option to cancel a quest for a small price so I found it odd how this isn’t a thing already implemented on the console version. Regardless doing quests is important to other systems in the game. For one when you complete quests you will be given puzzle pieces that you then use to build bridges to open up more of the island. Quests also reward XP which is important for leveling up your character. For every quest you complete you earn some XP which helps you level up which then unlocks more and more things for you to buy and in Castaway Paradise there is no shortage of new and interesting things to buy.
Pearls are the in game currency here and you can use them to upgrade your house as well as buy new things to decorate with or customize your looks with. Shops on the island have new stock every day so it’s always worth going around and checking them out in case there is a cool new item you may want. There is also an in-game catalogue that you can browse divided up into different categories. While it’s fun to flip through it can also be a little confusing and cumbersome to find specific things you may be looking for. Between tons of furniture and clothes and accessories there is plenty here to satiate the appetite for the decorating aficionado.
Outside of doing quests and decorating there there is quite a bit more to do on the island. You can spend your time catching bugs or fish for instance using the in game net and fishing rods. For bugs you’ll need to slowly creep up on them before swinging your net. When fishing you’ll cast your rod near a fish and then wait for it to approach. When it bites you’ll have to tap Square in the green section of a bar that pops up to catch it. There is also certain kind of bait you can use to attach to your rod to catch other types of fish. One pretty cool little social feature the game has is when you catch a fish an online scoreboard pops up comparing the size of your fish to others. It’s a neat little addition and I wish the game had more features to either let you play with other people or compare more things. Another thing you can do in the game is use your money to fix the houses of the other characters to make the island look better.
Since so much of the game revolves around money you’ll need to earn lots and lots of it. This is of course done by doing those quests but you can also earn it by selling lots of stuff too such as the crops you grow, the fish you catch or the fruit you pick off trees. You can earn money by storing gems in the bank and generating interest or by buying and selling stock. Yep there is quite a lot here to keep you busy if this is your thing. I haven’t mentioned it yet but when it comes to growing crops there is an in game timer associated with that. Whenever you water something for instance a timer will pop up over the plant telling you that you now have to wait a few minutes and sometimes even a couple hours.
One final element similar to Animal Crossing I want to touch on are the in game events. While there is no day/night cycle in the game which I feel is a letdown there are seasonal events that happen in real time. For instance when Halloween or Christmas time comes around there will be decorations related to them to buy and the island will even be coated in snow. Of course if you don’t want to wait for the actual time of year you can always mess around with your system clock to experience them when you want. In terms of Trophies/Achievements there are 41 in total with most of them being more time consuming than challenging. Some will ask you to rebuild certain structures where others have you donating so many fish or shells. Suffice to say there is plenty to do in Castaway Paradise and you can easily lose track of time doing it all.
While we don’t know when a new Animal Crossing game will be coming Stolen Couch Games has crafted a fine replica that is fun and worth playing in the meantime. The animal inhabitants here have great personalities and the art style is quite charming. The game is simple to play so that anyone can enjoy it and there are lots of things to do whether you’re at the market shopping for that one item to put the finishing touch on your house interior or out by the water trying to catch that one elusive fish. A few minor issues aside, this is one paradise worth getting shipwrecked on.