I have to say, this is a really weird feeling for me. Full disclosure, I haven’t played an Animal Crossing game in years, but the thought of reviewing the latest installment in the franchise was too exciting to pass up! Although, not to criticize too much, but I’m not sure if I agree with the naming process the developers went with in calling the title Castaway Paradise. Sure, I can understand the appeal of wanting to try something Blue Harvest style to keep the project under wraps, but to release the game with the secret name itself maybe wasn’t the smartest move. Unless… unless it’s a different game than Animal Crossing… but that’s just silly, it plays and feels just like it! It has to be a sequel or a reboot of some sort, right?... Right?
All jokes aside and more straight to the point, Castaway Paradise is not a very original game. In terms of gameplay, it really doesn’t do anything different to separate itself from other life simulators out there on the market, like the aforementioned Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon. It more or less just focuses on being the same style of game which is adopting the classic “if it works for others, it’ll work for us” mentality. That being said, I do have to give praise where it’s due, there’s nothing actually wrong with Castaway Paradise, it’s just bland. As far as functionality goes, the title is pretty decent. As far as quality however, it doesn’t try to innovate or excite.
Moving past that and into the story, the plot itself is a pretty standard affair for this type of thing. Long story short, you’re sailing on the water when your boat crashes due to a huge wave and you become marooned on a tropical island which is inhabited by The Island of Dr. Moreau style animal people… still with me? Honestly, the story here is fine and it presents the player with a solid goal to strive towards. Long story short, the more objectives you manage to complete, the more the community grows as a result, which is as good a reason as any to help the island residents get back on their feet. Also, you can become filthy rich -and let’s face it, who isn’t motivated by money?
Next, let’s take a look at the visuals. This is, hands down, easily the strongest part of Castaway Paradise’s game (so to speak). The visuals are simple yet work well for what the title is offering and the cartoony nature takes away a lot of the humdrum work that you’ll have to do as the main character. So, if you were thinking of picking up this game, the visuals are definitely where it’s at.
Unfortunately, where the visuals earn praise, the replayability takes it away. Which, for a game about coming back and doing tasks, isn’t a great sign. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks so, but the chores you have to do in Castaway Paradise feel like… well they feel like a chore! Breaking rocks, catching bugs, planting flowers and trees, fishing, it’s all so mundane and time consuming, literally. The wait times on some of this tasks are a bit much even for a life simulator. That being said, the thing that really helped me get through it all was the fact that I could name my character something crude and childish, because I’m a grown adult like that.
So, all in all, is Castaway Paradise worth picking up? Short answer: No. At the end of the day, there are just better options out there. It’s not that the game fails to live up to life simulator standards, it’s just when you’re going up against old juggernauts of the genre, make sure to have something that sets yourself apart from them. Visuals are one thing, but everything else? That definitely needs some work.
Castaway Paradise (Reviewed on Xbox One)
Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.
Castaway Paradise is a title that tries to live up to other genre defining hits like Blue Harvest and Animal Crossing, but merely comes across as a cheap knock-off of the two. A life simulator that doesn't look very lively, your money is better spent else where.