Also on: PC
Developer: Cosmo Gatto
I know I?m in a tiny minority when I say this ? and probably making my opinion suspect in the eyes of many ? but I?ve never been able to get into Animal Crossing. There?s just something about wide-open gameplay and focusing on day-to-day tasks that I?ve always had a hard time getting into.
You can imagine, then, how I reacted to Aka, which is basically a version of Animal Crossing (or any other farming/life sim) with even less focus and even more wide-open gameplay. I kept picking it up, playing for a little bit, and then finding my mind wander off to think about all the other things I could?ve been doing instead.
Admittedly, this is probably more my problem than Aka?s. After all, the whole point of the game is slowing down and just being. Aka is a red panda/retired soldier who?s left the battlefield (which is literally the first scene in the game, in fact) in search of a quiet life, so the whole focus here is wandering around the small archipelago that?s your new home, tending to crops, cleaning up debris, and doing tasks for your neighbours.
And there?s no reward or point to any of it. You?re just doing those tasks for the heck of it. Your neighbour needs help tearing down a fence? You?ll tear it down for them, they?ll thank you, and that?s that. Rocks and metal traps and tree stumps interfering with the scenery? You?ll gather them up and throw them out. Feel like farming? Then sow and water some seeds, and harvest them for yourself when the time is right.
While it?s certainly admirable and good to do nice things just for the sake of doing them, it also makes Aka feel a little aimless. There?s only so much wandering around and existing you can do before you start to wish for a point to it all.
The bigger issue with Aka is that it?s a little finicky and fiddly and buggy. You?ll spend a lot of time in this game trying to manoeuvre Aka into just the right position to pick up logs and bundles of grass and everything else, and it almost always takes a few approaches to get the right angle. You?ll also spend a lot of time trying to sort through menus, since, again, they?re not as intuitive as you?d expect them to be in a game that features quite a few menus. There are a few tutorial?moments, for lack of a better descriptor, but they don?t really explain much. And, to top it all off, you have to deal with the occasional bug ? nothing game-breaking, to be sure, but things like loading screens taking too long, or landscapes that take a little too long to pop in, or other annoyances that don?t seem terrible in isolation, but that add up to be a little grating.
And it?s really unfortunate that Aka feels so aimless and annoying, since it?s a cute game that wears its heart on its sleeve. Everything here ? from our red panda hero to the capybaras and dragons and yaks he has to befriend ? looks adorable. The music is relaxing. The landscapes are dreamlike. Aka does everything it can to get you into its sleepy mindset.
But that doesn?t make for a compelling game. Aka clearly has its heart in the right place, but it doesn?t have anything that goes a little deeper or that asks anything of its players, and without that it just feels like a cut-rate version of Animal Crossing.
Neowiz provided us with an AKA Switch code for review purposes.