Castaway Paradise isn’t just inspired by Nintendo’s Animal Crossing game, it’s as close to a carbon copy as you can get. From the art-style to the jobs you do, to the manner of speech the islanders have and even the way your character moves, this is essentially Animal Crossing for the iPad and it’s actually superb and highly endearing.
You begin the game washed ashore onto a tropical island, inhabited by a cast of animal characters. There you’ll be welcomed into their town, set up with a tent as a starter home and begin taking on the islanders various tasks.
These introduce you to the skills of gardening, fishing and catching bugs or collecting rubbish strewn across the island. Other parts of the island can be unlocked by collecting puzzle pieces which repair bridges over the river. Your starter tent can be upgraded once you earn enough gems and you can even rebuild other structures on the island like a well or a bakery.
There’s a real sense of progression in the game and aside from levelling up your character after gaining experience and completing quests, the customisation options give you a real sense of ownership over your game.
Customising yourself and your home can be easily be done via the in-game catalog and most of these items can be purchasable with the in-game currency.
Castaway Paradise also offers in-app-purchases and a VIP programme – a monthly fee to unlock special items and rewards.
In the few hours I’ve played the in-app-purchases were kept a pleasant distance away from the main game experience and you can happily ignore them and play for a decent amount each day before you run up against the paywall. Facebook integration is more pushy but the leaderboard aspect of bug-collecting and fishing actually makes this more enticing than other free-to-play games.
Aside from the social integration, this is obviously aping Animal Crossing to an extreme extent and I’m curious to see if Nintendo take notice of this games incredible similarities.
That said, Castaway Paradise has a great sense of humour and some of the quests made me laugh out loud as they were so well written. Combine this with the suitable music and endearing nature of Castaway Paradise and my time playing this was always entertaining.
I don’t want to be a heretic when it comes to this but I think I enjoy playing Castaway Paradise more than Animal Crossing and it seemed like my kids did as well. Whether that’s because of the accessible nature of iPad or just how polished the experience is already, I’m not sure, but I do know that you should check it out and see for yourself.
Available on the iPad in New Zealand and Canada at the moment, this version of Castaway Paradise is in a work-in-progress game with a release in the US and Europe scheduled for later in the year. There will also be a version for the PC coming this year.