As someone who both adores Adam Robinson-Yu's wholesome adventure game A Short Hike and has spent many hundreds of hours playing Animal Crossing over the years, Fabien Weibel's new camping indie game Haven Park seems like the perfect cross-section of my personal gaming tastes. It's set on a colourful island paradise-cum-outdoors adventure park, much like A Short Hike, and your task is to make this place a nice, cosy hangout for prospective campers, building and crafting new facilities to fulfil their needs, which is very much in the same vein as Nintendo's animal life sim. And having played a bit of the game so far, I am happy to report that this really is the perfect cross-section of my personal gaming tastes, and I will likely be losing the entire weekend to it as I continue my little adventure.
If I had to pick which game Haven Park was more heavily influenced by, I would probably say it's definitely more Animal Crossing than it is A Short Hike. As I've been exploring the island and discovering new campsites to fix up, I've been picking up sticks, logs and mushrooms and rummaging through barrels for materials such as metal and fabric so I can fill said sites with cool, fun things like tents, firepits, barbecue stations, beach umbrellas and more.
There's a lot of flexibility in where you place your various creations. While each campsite has a generally defined area where you'll need to put things down in order for them to count as 'being' in that site, you can plop down a tent, grill, radio, bench - you name it - pretty much wherever you want. You're not tied to a set grid like Animal Crossing, and once you've decided on the rough location you can rotate your item to whatever jaunty angle you desire. It's a bit like Hokko Life, in that respect - albeit with a much clearer set of goals and objectives attached to them.
I'm still pretty early on in the game, but so far it's a very lovely place to hang out and mosey about in. Developer Fabien Weibel estimates it will only take two to four hours or so to 'complete' Haven Park, but based on what I've played so far, this is definitely a game I want to take my time with. The top down view means it shares that same sense of delight and discovery as A Short Hike, and at the moment I've probably spent more time just walking around collecting things than actually doing any campsite building. It's very easy to get distracted by some alternate route or some new trinket in the distance, but bumbling my way back to the beaten path is just as enjoyable, too. It's a game of detours and diversions, and I'm just having a swell time soaking it all in.