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Game Review

So you're one of those gamers who doesn't really enjoy shambling zombies, superpowered beat-downs or sizzling shoot-outs. One of the many who love treading the casual game route on Facebook or some other social site. You know, the kind of simple and fun distraction where you gather crops or build a city or frolic through virtual fields with your little anthropomorphic animal pals. Well, finally we're reviewing a game for you!

The 3DS-based Animal Crossing: New Leaf is as casual a title as you'll find. Only with this game you don't have to keep forking over cold cash for golden upgrades or inviting online friends to play in order to earn a bonus point or two. Young or old, you simply build your world as you like, at your own pace, and see what kind of fun comes of it.

Mr. Mayor, I Presume?
At game's beginning you find yourself on a train heading to a new town in search of a fresh start. Once you step onto the station platform of a pleasant little sunny burg, however, all the animal residents there give you a rousing cheer, welcoming you as their new mayor. Uh-oh, someone's made a mistake. But don't worry, the guy who was supposed to take the job got sidetracked, and he's pleased as punch that you can fill the position in his stead.

It's up to you, then, a youthful boy or girl, to start your new job by settling in and meeting all the residents. (And Isabel, your ever-helpful mayoral assistant, is ready to help.) These happy little talking bunnies, ducks, squirrels and owls all have their own homes and shops or local gathering places to reside in and run—such as the local dock or the town hall—and now you need a place of your own too.

That'll take some work though. This isn't a community built on taxes and government bonds. And you needn't be expecting a fat mayoral paycheck either. The economic system here entails a whole lot of you gathering fruit, flowers and seashells, digging up fossils, fishing and/or bug hunting. (You didn't think you'd be just sitting in a big chair giving orders did you?)

So once you fill your virtual pockets with gathered and dug items—up to sixteen items per load—you take them to a local exchange and receive golden bells for them. The rarer the item, the more bells earned. And when you earn enough bells you can build that house and maybe even get some furniture or a new suit of clothes.

Then it's on to governing.

Political Animals
The real goal of the game is to build your blissful borough of beasties into a merry metropolis menagerie. And it's up to you to not only dig up the cash to see this done, but also pass city ordinances to shape the behavior of your friendly animal neighbors.

Do you want to shift the hours that shops stay open or encourage your electorate to plant more greenery? Then you'll need enough I-love-the-mayor public support to get that bill passed. To make those needed friends in town you can talk to the residents and see what their interests might be. Write letters to earn some local pen pals. Even hand out a gift or two to demonstrate your generous side.

Do you want a new set of benches for tired townsfolk, a new store on Main Street or a second floor for the local museum? Then make the call and get the work going. Of course, you need to remember that most of the bells required for all of that will have to come out of your personal pockets. (The title of public servant takes on a whole new meaning in this lovely municipality.)

Oh, and by the way, the game's clock runs on real time. You set the day, month and year at the beginning of play and with each new dawn there are different items that can be found in the fields or on the local beaches, and new gear—from nets and shovels to cool suits of armor or deep-sea diving outfits—made available in the stores. The month you're playing in even influences the game's onscreen season.

Turning Over a … Well, You Know
Does all that gathering, exchanging, managing and building sound repetitive and mundane? Well, then you're not that sort of gamer I started things off talking about. To them it's the simple stuff and the comforting routine that makes a game engrossing and relaxing and fun. They're the ones who will find things worth mooing about in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. And I'll end by doing a little mooing myself: Beyond a few gaseous sound effects and the game allowing you to goofily bonk animals on the head, there's nary a negative thing I need to say here about content.

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June 9, 2013

On Video

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Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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