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Happy Home Paradise's outdoor design tools belong in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Sometimes all a room needs is one finishing touch to really bring it together. Maybe it's a tasteful potted plant, a cosy rug, or a painting that adds a little artistic flourish to your living space. When everything falls into place, nothing quite beats the satisfaction of successfully taking an empty house and transforming it into a personalized home. Animal Crossing: New Horizons' first paid DLC Happy Home Paradise captures this rewarding feeling, and I've been completely losing myself to it over the past week. Thanks to its easy-to-use tools, an array of exciting new decorative items, and a real sense of progression, the Animal Crossing DLC delivers a truly enjoyable experience that scratches my creative itch. But as I've dived into designing exterior spaces, in particular, my mind continues to think about one: If only these tools could be used back on my island. 

The right tools for the job 

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Admittedly, I never thought I'd find myself eagerly asking to go to work in a virtual world, but everyday since the launch of Happy Home Paradise I have found myself running to board a flight and get stuck back in. On the idyllic sunny beach front, you take on the job of designing villagers' dream vacation homes to make their perfect little holiday hangout spots a reality. Each fuzzy friend has a specific theme they're looking to capture, and you have to personalize their vacay home to suit their vision. With a number of themes to bring to life using furniture, wallpapers, flooring, and more, every home I create is distinctly different and the variety keeps the excitement alive – I can really let my imagination and creativity loose with each concept I'm presented with. 

As you continue designing homes, you'll start to earn promotions and unlock more tools and decorative items to create larger, more varied spaces for the vacationing villagers. The way you actually design homes works in much the same way as decorating your own house in the base game, but there are new features such as partition walls, pillars, and counters that can be placed down to change up the layout of a room. Happily, some of the new techniques you learn in your career as a designer can be used in your own home back on your island. 

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

All of the tools make designing an absolute breeze, and add some delightful new additional touches to the look and feel of a room with features like soundscapes, room expansion, and colored lighting. The tools for decorating outside spaces in Happy Home Paradise in particular are so good, in fact, that I'm once again reminded of my long-held wish that exterior designing was as streamlined and easy as it is to decorate the inside of your home. 

Interior decorating in New Horizons has always been a joy thanks to its top-down grid view and a cursor which allows you to rotate and place furniture with ease. Exterior designing, on the other hand, is a completely different story. Since the launch of the base game, we've only ever been able to decorate the exterior by going directly to the spot where we want to place down an item and pop it down manually from our inventory. In order to move something, you have to physically go up to the piece of furniture as your little villager and push it backwards or forwards. Rotating also works in the same way, with your villager needing to go to the item and actually turn it to the position you want it to face. 

Designer's delight  

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

With New Horizons introducing more robust landscaping features, there's so much scope for creativity when it comes to building up your very own ideal island getaway. The Animal Crossing community has done some truly incredible things with the manual setup we have right now. But after playing Happy Home Paradise and getting to see first-hand how easy it is to create outside spaces with the same top-down tools, I'm reminded of just how awkward and time-consuming it is to do back on my own island. 

The DLC also improves the way you can place down different path terrains and fences. Instead of having to hammer down fencing piece by piece, or physically putting down paving one block at a time, you can pop them down in one swift motion. It's almost like a painting tool that makes fencing and paths an absolute doddle to put down, remove, or edit. 

I know I'm far from alone in wishing it was easier to decorate in the great outdoors. With the wealth of new additions in the Animal Crossing: New Horizons update 2.0 and Happy Home Paradise DLC, the urge to redesign my island has been steadily growing. But the exterior design tools are too much of a slog to really commit to the idea, and after diving into the DLC, which proves just how intuitive and enjoyable these tools can be to help you realise your designer dreams, it's all the harder to return back home and grapple with old controls again. 

Happy Home Paradise really provides us with so many different home canvases to let our designer dreams and creativity thrive. Nintendo really has delivered with the first paid DLC for New Horizons, and offers up a satisfying sense of progression, exciting new features, and characters you can't help but fall in love with. It might make me continue to yearn for improved and more streamlined exterior decorating tools in the base game, but that in and of itself proves just how fantastic Happy Home Paradise's design mechanics really are. 


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Heather Wald

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.