Blind/Low-Vision Review – Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Image courtesy of ScreenRant. It’s finally here, y’all. Animal Crossing hardly needs an introduction. It’s a life simulation where you are the only human on a deserted island that is full of anthropomorphic animals. So, uh, it’s not really that deserted. But it is fun. So, can you play it if you’re visually impaired? About me and my play style: I have albinism. My visual acuity fluctuates between 20/100 and 20/500 depending on if I’m wearing contacts and how tired I am. I have color vision, but no depth perception. I also deal with eye strain if I have to…
Overall, I recommend this game. It doesn’t do anything groundbreaking in terms of accessibility, but it’s escapism at its finest. Even if you might not normally have picked it up, I’d recommend it now. With all of the accessibility issues with it, I probably won’t be dumping hundreds of hours into it, but it’s a relaxing way to decompress.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Blind/Low-Vision Accessibility

Visual Characteristics - 7
Accessibility Features - 2
Assist Modes - 7
Non-visual Cues - 4
Decent Fonts - 10
Necessity of Text - 3
Handheld Play - 10
Level of Precision Required - 9
Controls and Depth Perception - 6

6.4

Overall, I recommend this game. It doesn’t do anything groundbreaking in terms of accessibility, but it’s escapism at its finest. Even if you might not normally have picked it up, I’d recommend it now. With all of the accessibility issues with it, I probably won’t be dumping hundreds of hours into it, but it’s a relaxing way to decompress.

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ACNH character standing on beach with a shovel, water spurts from a small hole in the sand.
Image courtesy of ScreenRant.

It’s finally here, y’all. Animal Crossing hardly needs an introduction. It’s a life simulation where you are the only human on a deserted island that is full of anthropomorphic animals. So, uh, it’s not really that deserted. But it is fun. So, can you play it if you’re visually impaired?

About me and my play style: I have albinism. My visual acuity fluctuates between 20/100 and 20/500 depending on if I’m wearing contacts and how tired I am. I have color vision, but no depth perception. I also deal with eye strain if I have to focus too precisely for too long. I primarily play in handheld mode so I can hold the screen closer I am playing a lot more in docked mode because I am not commuting until such time as it’s safe to do that again. 

Visual Characteristics 7/10

(Contrast, Lighting, Tracking, Clutter)

The art style is wonderful. There are very few issues, which makes the few issues there are even more annoying. Before getting the game, I was worried that playing at night would be inaccessible because of poor lighting. It definitely doesn’t help, but I didn’t find it overly cumbersome. However, I would have to think twice about getting the game if I knew I could only play at night and lighting was an issue for me. It’s Animal Crossing. I knew I would enjoy the content, so it was definitely worth it for me.

The biggest issues for me with the visual features of the game are the fishing mechanics, knowing where to dig on beaches, and stuff being in the way of other stuff.

For fishing, you have to press A when the little tiny bobber dips below the surface of the water. Your first fishing pole has a yellow bobber, and the stronger fishing pole has a red bobber. But the bobbers are tiny, regardless of the color. Especially at night, fishing is an exercise in murkiness. Not to mention the bobber is tiny.

On most of your island, spots where you need to dig are indicated by little jagged holes in the ground. On the beach, all you get is an occasional spurt of water that goes away in a couple seconds. Very early on, you have to dig on the beach to progress one character’s story, but you have no way of knowing that. I finally had to Google the solution to realize I was supposed to be digging on the beach. And even once I knew I was supposed to be doing it, I couldn’t very well because I couldn’t see the water spurts.

There are lots of times where there might be resources or bugs or something behind a building or tree. In most games, the object in the way would just pop out for a minute. Not so, here. There is a workaround to hit ZL to open the NookPhone, which pops out the object in the foreground. However, this is not a solution for fishing or catching bugs. It will help you find resources, though.

Accessibility Features 2/10

I struggle with rating this category because there aren’t really any options at all. The game is immersive in that there is no options menu. You can’t control anything about the presentation of the game. If you get lost on your island, basically only when your ladder breaks and you’re stranded on a ledge, you can get rescued. I guess that’s something of an accessibility feature since you can use it whenever you want.

I’d have liked to see options around menu navigation and QTEs. Catching bugs can be difficult if you can’t judge the direction the bug is going, and you can’t catch fish if you can’t tell which end is the head. It would also be handy if there were a function to automatically equip the tool needed for a task. I dislike having to constantly switch between the vaulting pole and the ladder just to move around. There are a few ways to change tools quickly, but I can’t identify the tool visually fast enough for these methods to work. It’s better for me to use the menu because I can recognize the icon easier since it isn’t animated like the tools are when you use the quick switch method.

I also have some issues with vaulting over rivers. I wish there were a one-button control for this. I can never seem to get the sequence of button press and direction correct. Maybe I’m not positioning myself properly. No idea.

Assist Modes 7/10

I’m going to graciously call the tons of helpful guidance the game gives you an assist mode, even though you can’t turn it off. You don’t really get punished for doing things wrong because you can do whatever you want. It’s Animal Crossing. You can ignore any part of the game you want and still call it a success.

Non-visual Cues 4/10

There are nonvisual cues, but they’re not great. They could be so much better. When fishing, the rumble doesn’t give you any solid indication of when the fish has latched on. For bug catching, there are some really good sounds to indicate if you caught the bug or not, but fishing needs equal treatment.

They could also just be so much more creative with the nonvisual cues. Give me some rumble to indicate that a bug is close. Give me some rumble to indicate that I’m running over weeds. Something.

Decent Fonts 10/10

No complaints about the font. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s sans serif… Nothing more I could ask for really.

Necessity of Text 3/10

(The higher the rating, the less necessary the text is)

This is Animal Crossing. It’s a very text-based game. That said, you could ignore the text if you wanted to. You could totally just run around and decorate stuff, but you wouldn’t be able to access a lot of the game. There are no mandatory menus to navigate to the game, which is nice. The game just starts right up and tosses you in.

Handheld Play 10/10

There are no motion controls to mess up handheld play. I wouldn’t advise handheld play if you’ve got worse than 20/400 because the small screen exacerbates the problems I’ve mentioned, but the handheld play itself is great.

Level of Precision Required 9/10

This score does not address catching wasps. You need some wizard-ninja skills to catch wasps. For everything else, you have multiple attempts and no punishment for needing to try again.

Except fishing, if you pull the line too soon, the fish runs away. Swims away. Whatever. Bite me.

Controls and Depth Perception 6/10

The controls are fine with one minor complaint. You can purchase a tool menu with NookMiles, but by the time you can buy it, you’re already used to using the more cumbersome pocket inventory. I also wish they gave you more of a tutorial on how to use the tool wheel. It tells you to press up on the D-pad, but you can press left and right to switch tools faster.

The depth perception… isn’t good. It’s a fixed-camera game. It does try to give you shadows to help you, but I don’t find them easy to see at all. This doesn’t break the game, but it does make it less seamless than it should be.

Note that controls are not remappable.

Misc.

There are certain tasks that are made easier by playing with a friend. They can catch bugs for you, for instance. But playing in multiplayer also presents challenges. You have to follow the leader around close enough that you don’t pop out of the screen. Nothing bad happens if you do – you just get popped back next to the leader, but it makes you feel like a useless bum if you can’t keep up because you’ll be constantly popping back in.

Recommendation for visual skills needed for enjoyment

For handheld play, I recommend 20/400 or better. If you want to read the text in docked mode, I’d recommend 20/800 or better, and be prepared to have the TV in your lap. To run around the island and pull weeds, I’d guess you could still enjoy the game with 20/1200 and a sighted buddy.

Overall, I recommend this game. It doesn’t do anything groundbreaking in terms of accessibility, but it’s escapism at its finest. Even if you might not normally have picked it up, I’d recommend it now. With all of the accessibility issues with it, I probably won’t be dumping hundreds of hours into it, but it’s a relaxing way to decompress.

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Christy Smith

Christy Smith is a visually impaired gamer whose main goal in life is to snag a seat on the metro instead of having to stand so that she can play Switch on her commute. She/her/hers or They/them/theirs