If you’ve taken a look at any screenshots or trailers for Castaway Paradise, then you’re likely to have gotten some pretty strong Animal Crossing vibes and, to be fair, you’d be right to feel that way. Castaway Paradise is the most Animal Crossing-like experience you’re likely to get outside of playing, well, Animal Crossing. It’s not a total carbon copy, though, and does manage to inject some of its own personality into the sandbox genre, creating a fun but flawed adventure.
From Humble Beginnings
The game begins with you getting caught in a storm in the middle of the ocean. You end up washing up on a tropical island where you get to meet a variety of friendly inhabitants. You’re given your very own tent to live in and after being given a few tasks which help you to learn the controls, you’re pretty much left to your own devices.
You’re the only human around with the rest of the island populated by talking animals. Each character you meet has their own unique and quirky personality, which is reflected in their zany aesthetics. They look like a mash-up of Roblox characters, with a smidge of Minecraft, and of course, a huge dash of Animal Crossing.
Unlike Animal Crossing, there isn’t a constant stream of new villagers to interact with; the ones originally on the island are all you get. Thankfully they are an entertaining bunch, from Angus the grumpy baboon who’s a dab hand at building stuff, to Gustave the French moose who’s also a baker. It’s always entertaining to walk up to them for a natter. You never know what they’re going to talk about, with plenty of jokes filled with pop-culture references, and also lots of gossip about the other island residents. It really helps to give an insight into their personalities and lives.
As well as being a delight to shoot the breeze with, these little animal critters will provide you with plenty of quests to get involved in which we will get on to in a little bit.
Let’s Discuss Life Goals
When you first start your adventure, there’s only a small part of the island that you can access. All other areas are blocked off until you unlock them. You do this by acquiring puzzle pieces; these are given to you by villagers as a reward for completing their quests. Puzzle pieces can also be purchased from the store.
These aren’t the only demands on your purse strings though. Even though there’s no Tom Nook-like character trying to make you pay back a massive debt, you’ll still need a lot of pearls (the in-game currency) to do various things like upgrading your tent into a house, buying furniture, clothes, and tools.
There’s an absolutely humongous range of things to buy, and you can either flick through the in-game catalogue or peruse the shop’s wares. The shop’s inventory changes on a daily basis, so it’s always fun to go window shopping and come across the perfect lamp or chair that’ll make your house feel complete. It’s slightly less fun to search through the catalogue. Although it’s broken down into categories, it’s not always easy to work out where things are. In addition, there’s no search function so it can be a bit tricky to navigate and find specific items.
Just like in the real world, it’s important to bear in mind that not everything is about you. As you upgrade your tent into the perfect home, you should also take a moment to help others. The storm that caused you to wash up on the island also did a number on everyone else’s homes. If you have enough cash you can help to repair them. While nothing really happens when you repair them all, you can be satisfied with the warm fuzzy feeling inside that lets you know you did a good deed for a bunch of fictional animals.
Show Me the Money
There are plenty of things to buy and so thankfully there are also loads of ways to earn those pearls. You can choose to while away the hours, growing crops, catching creepy crawlies, fishing, or wandering along the coastline looking for sea shells. You can then either donate some of these things to the local museum or sell them to make a profit.
There are also an infinite number of quests given out by your local animal friends. These can involve things like growing flowers or buying specific furniture. You can only take on three quests at a time, and once started there’s no way to cancel them. This is particularly annoying when you get stuck on quests that won’t be completed for a while. In the PC version of the game you can pay to cancel quests so hopefully that will be patched into the game in the future.
There will be many times where the monetary reward for these quests ends up being about the same as the amount you need to spend buying seeds or furniture to complete the quest. Although you won’t make much money, you do get something else which is quite valuable: experience points. Experience is needed to level up, and you’ll be given access to more and more things to buy as you level up.
The levelling up system works quite well and means that the more you play the game the more content you’ll unlock. If you’re the kind of person who loves spending time growing plants and decorating your home, then this works well to keep you hooked into playing. If you don’t care about new plants and furniture, then the repetitive quests are unlikely to keep you entertained for long.
Time Waits for No Man
While there’s no day and night system in Castaway Paradise, time plays an important role in the game. When you plant any vegetation, a little timer pops up to show how long until it can be harvested or will need watering again. Some plants take just a few minutes, whereas others will take many hours.
I did notice one rather odd thing that can happen to some of the timers. There are some types of trees that produce fruit, which can then be sold for over three thousand pearls at a time. While extremely lucrative, they take a long time to grow. Or at least they should. A countdown pops up with an hour on the clock, and yet I found if I wandered over to the other side of the island and returned back after a brief period of time, the fruits respawned. While being extremely handy at aiding my shopping sprees, I don’t think it’s quite how the system was intended to work.
Unfortunately that’s not the only bug that I encountered. There were many times when I couldn’t enter buildings as the option to open the door didn’t appear, and even times when I couldn’t switch between different tools. Many of these were easily resolved by restarting the game, but it was still annoying when it happened. The developer has said that there will be a day one patch, so hopefully many of these issues will be sorted out.
Another Day in Paradise
The gameplay in Castaway Paradise is not the deepest thing ever created, but it’s relaxing and is the kind of game that you can continue to come back to and play for an hour or so at a time. The game actively encourages this by providing daily rewards for logging in, as well as daily challenges to partake in.
If you stick with the game for long enough (or fiddle with the PS4’s internal clock), you’ll also get to see seasonal events such as Halloween and Christmas. The wintertime is particularly fun as the island is covered in snow, and you’ll get to purchase lots of wintry decorations. Who wouldn’t want to create a winter wonderland in the middle of a tropical paradise?
Castaway Paradise PS4 Review - Trouble in Paradise
Castaway Paradise has potential, and it’ll be interesting to see if the developer updates it with new content in the future. While it’s nowhere near as in-depth as Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing, it is still a very relaxing and entertaining little adventure. Its unique visuals are simplistic but colorful, and the characters you get to meet are entertaining. If you don’t happen to have a Nintendo console with which to play Animal Crossing, then Castaway Paradise makes a reasonable substitute.
Castaway Paradise review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.