The only review I've ever done while folding laundry.
When Nintendo announced Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival, two separate but equally-viable thoughts crossed gamers' minds: Either it would be like the Mario Party series but with adorable animal pals, or it would simply serve as another cash grab on the part of Nintendo via their wildly-lucrative amiibo line. I can say with certainty that one of these statements is absolutely correct.
Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival bears passing resemblance to the Mario Party series, especially to older entries where traveling together wasn't an option, but the similarities kind of end there. amiibo Festival is, at its heart, more of a traditional board game. For those who, like me, lived through the NES days, think along the lines of Anticipation without the visual puzzles. Players grab an Animal Crossing amiibo (the starter bundle comes with Isabelle and Digby along with three amiibo cards), tap it to the Wii U Gamepad, and off the game goes.
The game itself, for any board game aficionados out there, plays like a mixture of The Game of Life and Pay Day. A game plays out the span of a month with each round representing a day. Various events can occur in the span of a month—other characters from Animal Crossing can make visits, prompting special events like Katie's card game, Katrina's tarot-card reading, or Dr. Shrunk's Comedy Schtick. Depending on the month played, very special events can also occur. October prompts a visit from Animal Crossing's resident spookster, Jack, who challenges players to pick up candy along their trek, and November features a two-day mini-challenge to pick up the ingredients for the Harvest Festival.
The goal of the game is to be the happiest, because of course it is. It's Animal Crossing. And the way to get happy in the game, unlike the real world where success, fame, beautiful people of the desired gender, large amounts of alcohol, and an endless taco bar can make you happy, is by collecting Happy Points. Happy Points are awarded on pink spaces, where good things happen to your amiibo, like getting a nice balloon, improving one's feng shui, or receiving a compliment by KK Slider; they're taken away on purple spaces where bad things happen, such as catching a cold, failing to make it on a game show, or suffering through Dr. Shrunk's routine. Of course, money can't buy happiness, but it can definitely get the ball rolling, so players will want to collect Bells along the way, also done via pink and purple spaces, along with playing the Stalk Market (get it?) by purchasing turnips from ol' Sow Joan and trying to sell them at a profit.
That's about it. That's the game. Lather, rinse, repeat. There are mini-games but not during the course of the main board game, which is where amiibo can bank their Happy Points for new clothes and in-game expressions. But to be fair, where Mario Party is about wildly laughing and mocking opponents who get royally shafted, Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is more of a traditional board game without the schadenfreude. And though it's simplistic for a video game, I can't deny that I didn't have fun. It's a game that can be enjoyed with the younger generation of gamers, who will love the cutesy Animal Crossing style and characters, and the older generation of gamer, the ones we convinced Wii Sports was fun and who are hopelessly addicted to Candy Crush Saga on their phones.
Unlike Mario Party 10, amiibo functionality simply serves as a token on the game board and a save state for any aesthetic bonuses picked up along the way, so unlike Mario Party where you need to switch back and forth between Gamepad and TV, amiibo Festival just wants you to tap the amiibo. And if the Gamepad needs your attention, it will ring a little bell. How polite. So polite, in fact—and I have never done this with any review—I literally folded laundry while playing. That's how little effort is required.
As mentioned, there are mini-games, but they're played outside the structure of the main board game, and these range from meh to decent to downright painful. Games like Balloon Island, where players drop an Animal Crossing character into a field of bouncy balloons to try to land on a floating island, are decent diversions for a few minutes. Quiz Show is painful, but only if you're not a die-hard Animal Crossing fan. Prior to this, all I had played was the original on Gamecube, but how hard could an Animal Crossing game show be? Answer: hard as hell, since the quiz has little to do with actual characters and more about things collected during the games such as fish, clothing, bugs, and actual pieces of art. I can smoke a tryout for Jeopardy! but my high score in Quiz Show is 30 (default is 20), and it will probably stay there for a while.
Desert Island Escape ranks as the best of the mini-games as there's actually a decent objective: using three amiibo cards, a team of three Animal Crossing characters are dropped onto an island and must scavenge for the goods needed to build a raft, all the while not running out of food. The small bit of strategy required at least held my attention for a little longer than the other mini-games, but that's as much as I can say about that.
I said at the top of this review that one of the statements concerning Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival was absolutely true, and since it's not the one linking this game to Mario Party, guess what my main gripe with this title is? I cannot emphasize this enough, I must italicize: You must own at least one Animal Crossing amiibo to play. Got a Wiimote? Nope. Gamepad? Sure, put an amiibo right on it. Villager doesn't count, by the way. If you were lucky enough to snag a Villager amiibo from the Super Smash Bros. series, good for you! You get a gold statue in the town plaza. Still can't play the game, though. How lucky that there are about eight Animal Crossing amiibo already in production! Go out and buy them all!
It gets better though… to play the mini-games that are mobile games at best, you need amiibo cards. Not amiibo, those suckers don't work. No, you need amiibo cards. Race out to stores and buy them all, kids! Just take the money right out of Mommy's purse. She'll never miss it. Better yet, take that magic plastic card! It's got like a million bazillion dollars on it. Mommy never leaves home without it, right?
Embarrassing blatant cash grab aside, Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is a serviceable game. It's not downright bad, but I can't see any rush for the title, unless little Johnny is getting pissed that he can't beat his older siblings at Mario Kart 8. Hardcore amiibo addicts and Animal Crossing die-hards may even pass up on this, but if you've got a wide range of gamers who want a family-style night, then you may get some enjoyment out of it.
Physical copy, amiibo, and amiibo cards all provided by publisher. Exclusive for Wii U.