Animal Crossing’s Happy Home Paradise DLC Review: A Must Buy

A screenshot from the Nintendo Happy Home Paradise DLC for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Screenshot: Nintendo

As the first and only paid DLC, Animal Crossing: New Horizons‘s Happy Home Paradise expansion has a lot to live up to. And it does.

Happy Home Paradise focuses on the design aspect of Crossing animals, something there New Horizons did much better than any of its main game predecessors. It is both an asset and a constraint on DLC. That Crossing animals the community has certainly embraced the decorating features, as evidenced by the huge number of island tours or custom designs highlighted on social media. But it also means that it gives very little, if anything, to those who are not into decorating.

But it’s me, so I’m here to tell all of you other virtual designers Happy Home Paradise does the job. It is very well done and builds on the features and the overall tone New Horizons. You want to “go to work,” as the game literally puts it, and encourage customers who want to paint a picture of the vision they have for their dream vacation home. You can then select the location and can set the scene with the season and time of day of your choice. From there, you decorate inside and out, with only a few required items to check off, but are mostly left to your own imagination.

The best customers are very specific. Like Sprinkle, a penguin who wanted a “Castle of Cold”. Of course, I put her in an ice-cold place in the middle of winter, decorated her room with ice sculptures and plastered it to pieces to give the ice some extra sparkle. The polishing mechanic even gets an upgrade where you can add new effects to furniture like a cool breath of condensation. You can bet I’ll return to Sprinkle’s icy residence to add to that.

A screenshot of the character Sprinkle in her Castle of Cold, an assignment in Happy Home Paradise DLC.

Screenshot: Nintendo / Kotaku

It’s a slow burn, which means you, like the rest of the game, can’t unlock everything at once. Instead of feeling frustrated, the distribution of new material makes you feel like you’re growing in this new role or at least prevented from playing marathons with the new content until you lose interest. As you work your way up with promotions and raises (we love reasonable compensation), you will also start unlocking more features. You can shine furniture to add new effects, resize rooms, build partitions and even design facilities like a school in addition to cottages. Plus, the items you unlock with each new design are saved for future use, giving you more options.

Often, while playing in the main game, I was fascinated by certain objects, but knew I would never use them. I liked seeing other low themed rooms online or creating parts of their islands like gas stations or cityscapes. But it did not feel like me. And I did not want to change how I wanted my island or my home to look just because those things were there. But Happy Home Paradise forces you to look beyond your own aesthetics by giving your invitations unique to each villager. It was more exciting even to try something I would never do in my own home. And the challenges that suited my style were just as rewarding because I got to play with a host of items, whether they were in my catalog or not, and change their swatches to my liking. It sparked so much inspiration and told me what things I should bring to Cyrus on Harv’s Island for a makeover.

However, what I liked best about playing through Happy Home Paradise was that I never felt like I was set up to fail. Yes, I got more features to spice things up as I progressed, but that did not stop me from feeling like I was doing well on my first trip. You always get what you need to be successful and the opportunity to go back and change things later is free.

Although I was somewhat put off by the lack of a solid grading system, I increasingly realized how much more uninhibited I actually felt when playing the game. It seems like you should purposefully try to get a bad result where a villager does not like your design, so I was often left to wonder if I was actually doing a good job or if the game was just super easily. But when I actually played and designed and created, I was not afraid to dip into pieces that were not in the “order” section, which is basically a list of recommended items. I also did not feel pressured to use all the attached features if they did not feel suitable for the space I was making.

These features, partitions, soundscapes and polishing, also come into play, both when working on your home and in Photopia (a photo studio on Harv’s Island). And if you’re already the type of player who likes to be creative with their home, this is it Happy Home Paradise more than worth it. However, you cannot change room sizes in your own home or in Photopia. Yet the possibilities are in between Happy Home Paradise features and the 2.0 update breathes so much new life into the game.

A screenshot from the Nintendo Happy Home Paradise DLC for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Screenshot: Nintendo

There are also do-it-yourself recipes to be found along the coast of the island you visit to build a new home, as well as vines and glowing moss, which can be found on certain island tours that Kapp’n takes you included in the latest update. You will also be paid in Poki, a unique currency for Happy Home Paradise and its archipelago. With it, you can buy rare furniture in the office’s showroom, and the selection changes every day. I would always work enough jobs to buy up the stock, whether I actually wanted the goods or not. If I thought I could use the piece in my home, great. If not, it was easy to sell back to the hooks. You can also buy items on credit at the end if you are missing Poki due Crossing animals just loves to prune its players with debt for some reason.

I’m not trying to go into DLC games with high expectations so as not to shatter those hopes. And Happy home designer, the spiritual forerunner of this expansion, which also inspired many of the design mechanics that came with New Horizons at launch seemed well enough received. But the Nintendo 3DS side game seemed largely ignored. But Happy Home Paradise rose to the occasion, especially for a design-loving player like me.

If interior or even exterior design is not for you at all, it’s easy to skip. But for almost all other players I would easily recommend choosing Happy Home Paradise up.

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