Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a game about life, the universe and everything. Arriving in your own animal-filled village by train, the game begins as you're mistaken for the town's new mayor, being given a quick intro the town, and a tent to live in, before being left to your own devices. What follows is a game about friends, fishing and furniture; shopping, shell-collecting and shaking trees, and one that you can play at your own pace as you save up money for house extensions, collect donations for a fountain in town and try to discover everything the game has to offer.
One of the things parents should be aware of is that the game works on a real-time clock – 11am in real life will be 11am in the game, the middle of the night is the middle of the night and so on, and the events in the game unfold at a fairly slow pace, requiring you to check in on a pretty much daily basis for a little chunk at a time. Seeing as different shops and buildings open at different time of day, it's not the best of games to be playing first thing in the morning, or late at night - with most of the town working on a 9-5, or for certain places, on a 10am - 11pm basis, being around when things are open is an important part of the game.
If your child's the sort of person who likes collecting things, exploring, and taking things at their own pace, then Animal Crossing is the game for them. With a whole museum to fill, with exhibits dedicated to the fish, insects, fossils and paintings you can find during your day, there's tonnes of stuff to collect and find. Another huge part of the game comes from interior design - as you save up your money in the game, you'll go from a poky little room to a sprawling three-floor mansion (at a cost of course), which you can fill with all kinds of furniture - from bog-standard tables, chairs and beds to the more exotic anatomical models, a baby panda or cement mixers, and a whole host of rare Nintendo-themed items too. Being the mayor also gives you the power to start new design projects around the town, too, adding fountains, topiaries and bus stops to your village, or changing how the outside of your house or town's big buildings look.
But you can't buy the things you really want in the game without any money, and a constant cycle of finding and flogging stuff will provide you with all the disposable cash you need. Stroll along the beach and pick up some shells, sell the fish you catch or cash-in the fruit off the town's trees – if you want that fire hydrant, marshmallow chair or top hat you'll need the coins for it. With home upgrades coming at an extra price, and a seemingly never ending mortgage to pay off to the infamous Tom Nook, Animal Crossing is a never ending cycle of making some money, chatting to some villagers, and running errands to make ends meet - only with no time-limit or pressure to pay things off. Just like real life, then. Only a lot more fun. With a hugely entertaining cast of villagers to keep you laughing - from the slow but sporty Sly, who sports a fetching rainbow shirt, to the super-friendly kleptomaniac zebra Savannah, and the cranky rabbit-in-a-sun-hat O'Hare, each game has a different collection of villagers in their town for your child to make friends with, and run errands for.
Like the other Animal Crossing games, New Leaf is very text heavy with everything from conversations with villagers to writing letters to descriptions of the fish and insects you've caught – making a decent reading ability a must. It's not really the sort of game you can fudge your way through without reading either, as villagers often ask you to get them specific items or take a parcel to another inhabitant.
A game based around making friends and doing odd jobs for other villagers, there's very little for parents to worry about with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. There's nothing in the game itself that would really be questionable for children of any age - no sex, swearing, drugs, or violence