The last time I talked about Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival, I was pretty negative about the experience. To be fair, I had spent almost two hours playing it so I could unlock the one minigame I really wanted. Tedium weighs on people. It was worth it though, because those two hours were well spent. Now I can play Desert Island Escape whenever I want.
Why is Desert Island Escape so great? I’m glad you asked! For me, it’s because of its similarities to Betrayal at House on the Hill. Both games stress cooperation and exploration to successfully help a party of people escape from an unpleasant situation. Also, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter giant, malevolent insects in both adventures.
It isn’t a perfect comparison. Betrayal at House on the Hill is a dark, multiplayer game where one player is eventually revealed to be a traitor, allows people to build up the mansion as they play, and offers a different scenario and escape win conditions almost every time. Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival‘s Desert Island Escape is a more pleasant, solo adventure where characters are always attempting to gather enough food to survive their days on the island while scavenging for pieces of a raft to escape before time expires.
But the commonalities are enough to keep it compelling. For example, character choice matters in each game. Every Animal Crossing animal has a unique ability. Rosie can catch fish on specific, water-adjacent tiles without a fishing rod. Molly can sneak past enemies. Willow knows first aid, so she recovers from her own injuries immediately and can treat other party members’ infirmities at camp with food instead of medicine. Each also has their own movement range. It isn’t as detailed as Betrayal at House on the Hill, where each character has their own, shifting stats, but does encourage a player to think when forming a three character party on the higher difficulty levels.
Tool acquisition is also as important in Desert Island Escape as it is in Betrayal at House on the Hill. The Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival minigame actually encourages the crafting of tools like fishing poles and slingshots, which allow the party to fish on certain tiles to increase the number of rations or have a better chance at driving away a random enemy. These items are shared among the group so everyone benefits. They also prove critical to survival, as pitfall and enemy encounters can be quite hazardous without a shovel or slingshot to improve the odds.
There’s also the suspense that comes from wondering what each new area will bring. In both Desert Island Escape and Betrayal at House on the Hill, a player doesn’t know what will happen on a space until their turn. Characters can move a certain number of places each turn, uncovering points of interest along the way. Desert Island Escape is less limiting, as you acquire items from and experience events on each space you pass. Points are earned from exploration, and it’s actually thrilling to see if it’s possible to get through the whole map before finding all the map parts and time runs out.
The whole escape thing is another shared element that makes Desert Island Escape a highlight. Even though there isn’t a different story each time, as there is with Betrayal at House on the Hill, it can feel like each escape is different due to the number of possible party members and 10 different difficulty levels. Strategies can be formulated to make for more efficient adventures.
What it all comes down to is the intricacies. Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is a very simple game. It’s practically the Nintendo equivalent of Candyland. The inclusion of the more complicated Desert Island Escape is a highlight. It’s very much appreciated, and I suspect will prove to be the reason most people will return to this spin-off.