Happy Home Paradise is the first (and last) paid DLC for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, whisking you away from your home to work on a hidden haven of small, idyllic islands. With a lot of clients to help and abandoned buildings to refurbish, the DLC gives you the freedom to create as much or as little as you want.
When I booted up the DLC for the first time, anticipation filled my body as I recalled cherished memories of playing Happy Home Designer for the DS. The moment that I got on the plane from Dodo Airlines and we flew over the archipelago of islands, I had a feeling I was entering something special. After meeting the Paradise Planning team, I got straight to work on creating dream vacation homes.
The base game of Animal Crossing New Horizons tends to feels very restrictive in a lot of areas due to how much everything costs. If you want a new piece of furniture or to insert a new style of ramp somewhere on your island, you will need to fork out thousands upon thousands of Bells which limits how creative you can be. I was pleasantly surprised that, apart from needing to put in the furniture a client required, there were little restrictions on what I could do in Happy Home Paradise and that there were no punishments for making mistakes.
Your job in Happy Home Paradise is to create a client’s dream vacation home, and you have a ton of furniture at your disposal. The best part of this is that it’s all free! I paid absolutely nothing to put furniture in the vacation homes/facilities and this meant my designs were as extravagant or as subdued as I wanted them to be. I could try out as many styles or design ideas as I wanted to find the perfect one. Having the freedom to head back to my first few clients to redesign their homes without fear of my choice being punished certainly made the game more enjoyable.
Speaking of creative freedom, you are not restricted to just decorating houses, as you can also develop abandoned buildings into facilities across the main island. I was allowed to create whatever I desired as long as I made the space functional for its purpose and I fulfilled the item requirements. Again, it was gratifying to be able to freely design a new space without many limitations. If I wanted to make a 50’s style diner café, which I did, I could do it because the furniture had already been provided. After developing the Café I went back to visit it and to my amazement, I could order food items from the staff. Ok, I couldn’t actually sit down at a table to eat it because I filled it with too many items but I could carry my smoothie around and feel like a part of the resort. I was free to enjoy the results of my hard work without needing to recoup my losses in some form like I do in the base game.
Please Tell Me How To Unlock Stuff!
The only downside to the game is the amount of time that it can take to get all of the features on offer and the lack of clarity in how to get them. There are a few points where the game teases you by referencing a cool feature or ability but will leave you confused on how to get it. Take the school facility for example, I found out about it but then I was left bewildered as to what I needed to do to be able to refurbish it. A similar thing happened with unlocking soundscapes. The internet was filled with chatter about them and I reached the estimated point that I was supposed to unlock it, but it wouldn't trigger. It wasn’t until I chose to do an optional task and complete another house that I finally unlocked this feature. Having a lot of options to find is fantastic as it gives you a little boost when you do get them, but there needs to be more clarity in-game about the process of unlocking them.
Meet and Greet New Characters
Happy Home Paradise also gave me the ability to meet a lot of the characters designed for the New Horizons franchise that I would probably not see any other way (unless I bought amiibo). The clients on the beach outside of the office rotate each day and a new one appears after you finish off a client’s home. I met a load of new characters that were quirky, cute and fun that I had no idea existed previously. They did make me hate my own island villagers but it was fun being able to freely interact with these characters that I’d never seen before.
If you choose to take new characters on as clients then you can create their dream vacation homes and stick around to have a photoshoot. As with many other aspects of the game, you can choose to stay for as long as you like or leave once the job has ended. If you do choose to do the photo shoot, you can dress up the client however you choose and place them where you want them in the room. Being able to control the contents and layout of a photograph may seem small but it’s the little things that add up to make this game a big success.
Happy Home Paradise gave me a lot of freedom to make choices then act on them without too many repercussions. Ultimately, I could do what I wanted and when I wanted (within reason). I like New Horizons, it’s a good game, but there is a limit on what I can do without needing to spend a lot of Bells or spend hours grinding for one simple change which could end up being a mistake. In contrast, The DLC thrives by offering players total control over their designs, and by setting the stakes low. From designing an entirely pink house for a fabulous Flamingo to remodelling the Cafe into a 50’s style Diner, there were few limits on my designs or on the potential to have fun.
Review Code provided by publisher.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.