Predicting 5 Summer Updates for Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Predicting 5 Summer Updates for Animal Crossing: New Horizons

As someone who’s already put over 300 hours into the cultural phenomenon that is Animal Crossing: New Horizons since release and still manages to find plenty to do each day, it’s not as though it’s lacking in content. With that said, New Horizons is missing certain features from past games, and with datamines and an interview with the developers indicating regular updates over the course of the next two to three years, there’s still plenty that can be added to this massive game. Summer is around the corner, and while we could likely list as many as 30 additions that could come to the game eventually, let’s focus on five probable additions that we may see in the imminent summer update.


1. Kapp’n / Tortimer Island 


Kapp’n is one of Animal Crossing’s most iconic characters, appearing in every game to-date, and is even the first face you see in the only Animal Crossing feature film. His absence up until now is awfully conspicuous, but also somewhat understandable on a temporary basis, given the new mechanics in New Horizons and Kapp’n’s likely role. In New Leaf, he ferried the player to Tortimer Island, a vacation spot where he and his kappa family lived with Tortimer, the former Animal Crossing mayor. Here, you could play minigames for medals which could be exchanged for prizes, catch rare bugs, fish, and sea creatures, and acquire exotic fruits such as lemons and bananas. You’d think Kapp’n and Tortimer Island might be a day one inclusion, but given the extensive exterior decoration, terraforming, and photo modes that were added in New Horizons, it’s very possible Nintendo held off because they felt online multiplayer minigames might distract players from new content. This won’t be a problem this summer, which feels like an ideal time to have our kappa friend occupy our barren piers to whisk us away to a different sort of tropical paradise.


2. Diving / Seafood / Museum Update 


Along with the addition of Kapp’n should come another summery activity and corresponding museum update: diving for sea creatures. Diving was introduced in New Leaf and makes no better sense in any Animal Crossing game than it does in New Horizons. Dataminer Ninji (who accurately predicted the arrival of bushes and artwork) found evidence of diving and seafood in the game’s code, and the manila clam itself seems to hint at such an addition, as it is currently the only creature that cannot be donated to Blathers. I’d expect that to change this summer alongside an expansion to the aquarium section of the museum.


3. Reese & Cyrus as visitors / Gemstone mining 

reese cyrus

As Leif was the mascot for the recent Earth Day event, so are Reese & Cyrus the mascots of the month long Wedding Season, recently newlywed. They’ll be busy having their pictures taken in June, but don’t be surprised if they don’t just disappear for 11 months until it’s time to run the event back. In New Leaf, these two ran Re-Tail, a shop where you could sell your goods for maximum profit, put up items for sale to villagers and guests, and have furniture crafted from gemstones mined from fake rocks. In New Horizons, Reese could offer better prices for unwanted furniture clogging up your storage, while Cyrus could maintain his role with the addition of gemstones. Many of us now have more stone, iron, and clay than we could ever need, so adding diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and the like when mining rocks would be more than welcome. Similar to how the fish and bug models work in New Horizons, you could provide Cyrus with a select number of gemstones and he could craft you a piece of unique furniture to arrive in the mail the next day.


4. Vegetables / Farming


The brand new addition to the Animal Crossing series that will likely see its debut this summer is farming. While cooking will likely wait until fall, summer is a prime time for growing vegetables. This one, like bushes, will cause players to re-engage with island design as they make small tweaks to squeeze farmland onto their island. Similarly to diving and seafood, Ninji has also found evidence of this update in the game’s code. This isn’t far-fetched either: farming has been at the core of many life sims and Animal Crossing taking the step to finally include it makes sense.


5. Fireworks shows / (Maybe) 1-2 other holidays


Finally, we have our summer holidays. Summer is the lightest season for holidays in Animal Crossing historically, with the only true staple being the fireworks shows. We should expect those to return, but based on New Horizons cramming in left-field events such as May Day, International Museum Day, and Wedding Season, we may see one or two new holidays. As to what they could be is anyone’s guess, and they could settle with just the fireworks shows (they spread out across months and the above content combined with Bug Off season should give players plenty to do), but it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility.


While we fully expect additions such as The Roost, gyroids, cooking, and others, these seem like updates for fall and beyond. Let us know if you have ideas for what might be included in the summer updates.

Ranking Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Visitors

Ranking Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Visitors

If you’ve been absolutely obsessed with Animal Crossing: New Horizons like we have, you know about visitors: animals who don’t inhabit your island but come on occasion to provide a service for the day. With the exception of K.K. Slider and Daisy Mae (who arrive each Saturday and Sunday respectively and won’t be ranked here), they arrive randomly, and we’ve found ourselves hoping for certain visitors over others when we boot up each day, and the new 1.2 update has shaken things up considerably with the additions of Redd and Leif, as well as a nerf to a certain money-making mechanic.

Here are our rankings for the 10 randomly arriving Animal Crossing: New Horizons visitors.


10. Kicks


Our buddy Kicks unfortunately got the short end in New Horizons. First introduced in City Folk, he previously ran a shoe shop also named Kicks. In New Horizons, he still sells shoes, in addition to being the only way to purchase bags. While this may sound like an upgrade, unfortunately the Able Sisters now also sell shoes every day in greater variety, and the bags feel lackluster compared to many other visitor offerings. No New Horizons visitor is useless, but Kicks is the least useful.


9. Wisp


This ghostly goober, while adorable, just barely beats out Kicks. Wisp wanders at night and if you talk to him, he’ll get spooked and his essense will disappate across the island in the form of five smaller wisps you’ll need to collect with your bug net. Return to him with theses wisps and he’ll become whole again, as well as gift you an item: something new, or something ‘expensive-looking’. The latter can be decieving, as he’s not a great judge of cost. The former is nice, especially as it’s free, but these items are not exclusive to Wisp and you could end up getting something really lame that you intentionally passed up before. Still, you have a chance at getting something really cool, so he’s a slightly more welcome visitor than Kicks.


8. Label


Label, the third Able Sister, is a good visitor to have because she just gives you free stuff with basically no hassle. A fashion designer, Label will task you with putting together an outfit, but she’ll give you an article of clothing for free to get you started, and you put together the rest of the ensemble from there. She’s not a harsh judge in the slightest, but the better you do, the more Tailor’s Tickets you recieve, which can be traded in at the Able Sisters shop for free clothes. This is a cool and easy minigame that costs nothing and can net you quite a bit, so it’s nice to see Label parked in front of Resident Services.


7. Flick


Before the 1.2 update, Flick was easily the best visitor, but oh how things change.

Outside of Daisy Mae and her turnips, Flick’s 150% value buying price on bugs was the fastest way to make money in the game, and the most consistent, reliable, and player universal. Unlike fish, you can see exactly what you’re going after, and once you got some hybrid flowers, peacock butterflies would flutter about in swarms like slow moving bags of 3,750 Bells. Crafting your own Tarantula Islands made the profits even crazier. Unfortunately, the peacock butterfly spawn rate has been reduced 80-90% and tarantula spawns have been reduced by half, drying up the bug money well to a massive extent. The common bugs are worth essentially nothing and you can’t force spawn more bugs like you can with fish. Flick now might slightly edge out C.J. during summer bug-hunting season, but for the rest of the year, he now pales in comparison. Like C.J., he’ll also take commissions for models, but for bugs.


6. Gulliver


The perpetually shipwrecking Gulliver might seem like one of the less desirable visitors initially: he tasks you with digging up communicator parts so he can call his crew to pick him up and sends you an item through the mail the next day. His appeal slowly becomes more apparent once you realize these items come from a small list where every one is exclusive to the Gulliver quest, including awesome stuff like lucky cats, Moai statues, and pyramids. There are some less great ones as well, which is why he may be underwhelming at first, but you eventually hit the good stuff. Additionly, he’s your source of rusted parts, a resource needed to complete the robot hero. One rusted part will appear in the recycle box each day after you help Gulliver, but should you be a jerk and not return the communicator parts to Gulliver, each one will become a rusted part, up to five.


5. Leif 


Leif is an adorable little sloth dude originally introduced in New Leaf, where he ran a gardening center that eventually merged with the Nooklings’ shop. In New Horizons, he’s a visitor (at least for now), who visits to sell shrub-starts and flower seeds that you normally can’t acquire. As someone with pansies as their native flower and tulips and windflowers as their cycling Nook’s Cranny seeds, Leif selling cosmos so I can crossbreed en masse orange cosmos for Tangy’s orchard is a godsend. Shrubs also add a new element to exterior decor, and he also buys your weeds at double price (less useful as you should probably use them for hedges now, but hey). Plus, as a merchant, your island visitors can also make use of his services. He loses some luster once you get what you need though, as there aren’t tons of shrubs in season at a time and flowers propagate, which means once you get a couple of everything planted, you don’t need anymore.


4. C.J.


C.J. the otter will visit your island on occasion to buy your fish at 150% value, as well as take commissions for fish models you can place in your home, if you part with three of the fish in question. Up until recently, C.J.’s  was great, but not quite as great as his bug-crazed chameleon partner for a couple reasons: first, before he’ll buy your fish, he requires you to partake in a challenge where you must catch three fish of a specifized size in a row. This is generally easy but sometimes irritating. Second, you can’t tell what you’re going after. Big money fish are rare while sea bass and horse mackerel are plentiful: an extra 50% on those doesn’t amount to much. That said, after the 1.2 update nerf on bug spawns, C.J. is now far more reliable for beefing up your bank account than Flick, so he shoots up while Flick plummets down. Also, the fish models are way cooler than the bug ones.


3. Celeste


The arrival of Blathers’ sister Celeste always feel like a mini-event, showing up occasionally on clear nights to bestow upon the player a special DIY recipe. This is the only way to get star fragment recipes, which make up many of the game’s coolest items, and all of your friends can pick up a recipe from her, which is excellent. A simple visitor, but one of the best.


2. Saharah


This cutie camel has been around since game one and deals in wallpaper, flooring, and rugs. While rugs can be hit or miss, the bizarre wallpaper and flooring she offers make her one of the most fun visitors, providing even animated oddities to spruce up your home decor. She also offers a system where you can redeem tickets earned through buying rugs to get free additional mysterious wallpaper and flooring. These can’t be rebought or gifted, making them particularly special, and they’re completely random and thus very rare. Another merchant, every island visitor can buy from Saharah and earn tickets.


1. Redd


It’s not always about who’s the most useful, but the most fun. Jolly (formerly “Crazy”) Redd is a shady town visitor dating back to the series’ origins who deals in art: much of which consists in forgeries. Redd’s out to rip you off and laugh his way to the bank at your expense, but he’s also the only way to fill up the art gallery in the museum with classic paintings and statues to gawk at. The way this happens in New Horizons is that Redd will dock on your private beach with his dimly lit pirate ship filled with mostly counterfiet art. Once you’ve gained his trust, he’ll invite you aboard, where you’ll have to carefully examine the art in order to determine what’s real, as Redd will slip up and sell the genuine articles on occasion. If you purchase the real art, you’ll be able to bring it to Blathers for display at the museum. If not, hey, the forgeries are amusing to put up at your own place. This is one of New Horizons’ most interesting mechanics, and Redd one of the series’ most interesting characters as the only one to be outright bad, so this was a no-brainer.


Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments who your favorite visitor in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is!

Loving Tom Crook

Loving Tom Crook

I was catching butterflies for Blathers, a loquacious owl who had just moved to my island, when I got a call from my boss. “Hey, so, as you might have heard, the Governor ordered us to close the store. So ah, unfortunately, this does mean that we will have to lay you off at this time. This was, ya know, a difficult decision for us, but we really appreciate all your…” Anyway, he was real nice about it. That was the second job I lost last week; the other was a substitute teaching gig for a school that won’t be open for at least another month. So I hung up, put away my butterfly net, and entered Blathers’ tent.

“Hoo! A pleasure to meet you!”

Oh, believe me Blathers, the pleasure is all mine. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the fifth installment of the Animal Crossing franchise, and for many people since its release, the game has been a much-needed reprieve from the grim realities of COVID-19. You play as a villager who, along with two other residents, has settled on a deserted island owned by a profiteering raccoon/land developer named Tom Nook and his two “nephews” Timmy and Tommy (although their relation to each other is the subject of some dispute). Your only goal is to explore this idyllic world and shape it into a bustling town of your own design. And, of course, pay off your ever-increasing debt to Tom Nook.

This aspect of the game in particular—the Pullman-esque relationship you have to this greedy raccoon landlord—is puzzlingly delightful and has consumed most of the Animal Crossing discourse. Many a meme has been made about Tom Nook in an effort to make sense of how we could possibly enjoy something that so closely resembles the capitalist anxieties we face in real life.



However, in playing this game myself, I realized that the enjoyment of it comes not in spite of our relationship to Nook Inc. but because of it. This cartoonish rentier state allows us to play out fantasies of home ownership and economic stability that help us to purge the immense angst and stress we feel from the same oppressive systems that the game caricatures.

First and foremost, the rules of the Animal Crossing world are completely different from our own and different even from previous iterations of the game. If you neglect to pay your mortgage in real life, the bank will take you to court, foreclose on your home, and leave you in the gutter. And Tom Nook of previous games was never afraid to get his hands dirty either. Shoot, the old Tom Nook would threaten to knee cap you at the first sign of delinquency.


But in New Horizons? Hardly says a word about it. He just hands you 98,000 bells and trusts you to pay him back some day. There is no death, no hunger, no global pandemics. The fruit you pick on Monday will grow back on Wednesday. The worst thing that could possibly happen to you is that you get stung by bees until you faint. But it’s not like there are consequences for it. You just wake up at home and skip off to whatever you were doing before.

Without that pressure, you are free to do whatever you please. And there is plenty of work to do! The game does an excellent job of giving you complete freedom with just enough structure to not feel lost. By the time you exhaust all the missions that are given to you—like helping Blathers open his enormous zoological museum—there are a hundred projects of your own to pursue. Occupying free time with labor is satisfying, so long as we can keep and enjoy its fruits (no pun intended). Especially now, as so many sit at home without jobs, New Horizons helps replace the routines that have been lost.


Because time in Animal Crossing passes with real time, the game requires you to be patient. But that’s okay, because Tom Nook is happy to be patient with you. The goals that you end up achieving, like owning your own home outright or planting an apple orchard, are ones that can be reached in 48 hours, not 48 years. He walks and talks like a moneylender, but at least you won’t spend a lifetime working your fingers to the bone to be free from his grip. Just a few days of dutiful fruit-picking should do it.

So Animal Crossing: New Horizons isn’t going to solve my problems. I’m still out of a job and we’re heading toward a major economic depression. But it is nonetheless a soothing balm for the dread and loneliness that lurks in the corners of the bedrooms we cannot leave. Almost everyone I know is taking refuge in their little island homes, trying to find cute wallpaper to match the new coffee table they built. At night, we have social conference calls so we can drink wine together and cast our adorable fishing rods into the ocean. And yeah, Tom Nook is gonna make a buck off it. At least it’s a debt I can afford.


S.E. Shopp is a Philadelphia-based writer and musician. His band Birdspotter released ‘A Garden Everywhere You Go‘ last year.

Video Premiere: Medium Soft’s “I’m Fine, I Lied”

Video Premiere: Medium Soft’s “I’m Fine, I Lied”

Today, we’re excited to premiere the new music video from English yacht pop/soft music singer-songwriter Medium Soft, “I’m Fine, I Lied”.

Living in the slums, Medium Soft’s music is all about escapism, drifting away to a more comfortable, peaceful, almost luxurious place using the modest means of a toy nylon string guitar, some light percussion, a tape machine, and his imagination. “I’m Fine, I Lied”‘s relaxed disposition and budget bedroom jangle aesthetic might lead some to draw comparison between Medium Soft and Makeout Videotape/early Mac DeMarco, but the similarities are surface level: whereas DeMarco might use a piece of cheap equipment to wring an odd tone out of it, Medium Soft does so out of necessity and thus his messaging rings more true. “I’m Fine, I Lied” is a worn, weary tune desperate to not be so, conjuring up bright and sunny tropical chords as Medium Soft sings “My skin’s white / As a sheet / Haven’t seen / Sunlight in weeks”. The production is thin and shaky, but it’s far from a negative here, capturing perfectly the image of a man looking to, if just for a moment, daydream his way out of squalor.


medium soft
Medium Soft


The music video was created in Grand Theft Auto V, where Medium Soft used modding to play as Jesus (“the only character which looks like how [he] look[s] in real life”) and live out his ideal day: hanging out at the beach and on a yacht, playing guitar and bongos, doing yoga, and enjoying the scenery. He then drives into the city for a gig, strikes out with the ladies, gets high, and lies on the floor, grounding it with a looming sense of reality. As with the song itself, it’s a perfect representation of Medium Soft’s situation, as well as the situation of many shut-ins who might turn to video games to escape their less-than-ideal circumstances, forget their troubles and and their loneliness, and live a vacation out of their reach.


You can watch the video for Medium Soft’s “I’m Fine, I Lied” below:


You can also listen to Medium Soft’s preceding singles:


“I’m Fine, I Lied” is out now and available to purchase here. Be sure to follow Medium Soft on Twitter and Bandcamp to keep up-to-date with his music. Spotlight: QT Spotlight: QT

Welcome to the very first Spotlight! Think of this feature as a companion to the Bandcamp Roulette pieces; here, I’ll be taking a look at weird, fantastical, and under-the-radar releases on, the premier creator-centric video game marketplace. Of course, video games are a lot harder to write about in a timely fashion than music, so, to save my sanity, this series will focus on just one release at a time. Today, I’ll be profiling QT by HappySnakeGames.


QT isn’t a very easy game to describe; or, at least, nothing you can say about it on paper feels particularly communicative of its essence, its essential vibe-liness. A screenshot will get you halfway there; a video will get you even closer:

But, you’ll only really understand when you’re playing the game for yourself. Put simply, QT is a small walking-sim charmbox where you can roam around and meet a bunch of friends. Sometimes, you can pet the friends; sometimes, the friends can be fed; what’s always consistent, though, is that every friend smiles at you. Constantly. Every single item and sprite in the game besides the walls, floors, and ceilings has the same soft, unerring grin, like this: · ◡ ·

Here, look at the object to your immediate right. Project a · ◡ · onto it. That’s what QT is like, OK? It takes some getting used to, and it’s an aesthetic that could easily read as cloying and obnoxious if you’re a more cynical consumer than I; at times it can feel almost dystopian, like you’ve had a set of VR goggles clamped onto your head that force you to perceive everything around you in as cute and inoffensive a manner as possible (and, hey, that’s kind of fun, too, isn’t it?). Ultimately, I found myself quite enjoying the overarching visual style; but, its distinctness and uniformity won’t be for everyone.

QT offers three unique little diorama worlds for you to peruse at your discretion: QT, the title game, a quirky spoof of the legendary horror demo P.T. by Kojima Productions, Museum, an area where you can smash priceless pottery with your bare hands and collect bronze Etruscan horses (all branded with a placid · ◡ · stare, of course), and, finally, Kouen, a pleasant Japanese mountain town full of smiling animals and infinitely stocked vending machines. Each world features strange, yelpy background music that I can only describe as a good-natured, occasionally grating cross between the Hypnospace Outlaw and Animal Crossing OSTs.

QT 1_28_2020 8_30_42 PM

Of these worlds, Kouen is certainly the most elaborate: it’s almost intimidatingly dense and huge, and even after wandering around its map a few times, I still don’t feel like I’ve seen more than half of what’s available to me. This amount of sheer detail is an example of the care and sincerity that elevates QT over being just another cute, virtual-dust-collecting distraction to stare at for half an hour and then abandon; its creators were clearly invested in cramming it chock-full of secrets, quirky in-jokes, and fun scavenger hunts. There are hundreds upon hundreds of unique, · ◡ · – faced sprites to find, and dozens more odd easter eggs scattered about each world. It’s not a perfectly made game – indeed, it can get pretty damn rough at times with sudden, inexplicable framerate drops – but it is a painstakingly made one, and I think that counts for quite a lot. If you’re even the slightest bit curious, it’s worth checking out.

Pair with: Gray’s Peak cola; the gaze of Braco; vewn animations


QT is available now for purchase and download here:

[advanced_iframe use_shortcode_attributes_only=”true” src=”″ width=”552″ height=”167″ id=”advanced_iframe” ]


Secat is a musician and writer based in Houston, Texas. To see more of their work, you can follow them on Twitter (@secatsecat) or check out their personal blog at

Track Premiere: Carter Fox’s “Sidewinder”

Today, we’re thrilled to premiere the newest single from Philadelphia bassist and producer Carter Fox, “Sidewinder”.


Carter Fox


“Sidewinder” comes from Fox’s upcoming Minecraft-inspired project Cartercraft, following the title track, “Cavediver”, “Nethergate”, and “Zombies in the Forest”. An avid gamer, Fox describes the track as an invitation for the listener “to chill out, sit back, relax and get trippy as the line between reality and game melt away into one smooth universe”. While inspired by Minecraft, the composition also reminds us of another composer and game: Shoji Meguro and his work on Persona 4. The lead piano melody evokes the same feelings of hopeful melancholy that the accompanying pieces to post-Persona confrontation self-acceptance did, while the funky guitar and bass transports us back to the streets of the sunny small town of Inaba. As it progresses, the drums of Fried Monk grow louder and more active along with the guitar, like rays of light and clarity busting through a fog: a triumphant finish. The name “Sidewinder”, to us, is left up to interpretation: the most common sidewinder is the snake, but in relation to games, it was famously the name of a map in the original Halo, which has since been re-created in Minecraft by the modding community.


You can listen to “Sidewinder” below:


“Sidewinder” will be available to stream on Spotify, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud tomorrow, January 17. Be sure to follow Carter Fox on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram to keep up to date with his projects. Further reading available on Carter Fox from us via an interview with Biblioteka Records’ Sofie Mikhaylova, as well as an 8track where we featured “Zombies in the Forest”.

Track Premiere: James V’s “Saria’s Song”

Track Premiere: James V’s “Saria’s Song”

While another famed Nintendo franchise takes center stage on its launch day today, that doesn’t mean we can’t bask in a little Zelda love as well. Today, we have the pleasure of sharing with you James V’s art rock interpretation of iconic Zelda tune “Saria’s Song”.



Also known as the ‘Lost Woods theme’, “Saria’s Song” is one of the most recognizable of Koji Kondo’s compositions for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, a whimsical woodwind earworm that has taken up residence in many a gamer’s subconscious for over 20 years. If you’re familiar with James V’s recent work (including “Lavender”, which we covered earlier this year), you may not be all that surprised to learn that his version is less flittering and more slowed down, tripped out, and dripping in sludge. This is what “Saria’s Song” might sound to Lucas on Tanetane Island (props if you get this cross-Nintendo reference). Check it out below:



You can also check out “Television” for an original James V tune:


Single artwork for “Saria’s Song” by Miles Wintner. Be sure to follow James V on SoundCloud, Bandcamp, SpotifyInstagramTwitter, and Facebook to keep up-to-date. New material is planned for release early 2020.

amusingmusings on CROSSNIQ+ (PC)

amusingmusings on CROSSNIQ+ (PC)

amusingmusings is a feature from Counterzine contributor, Secat, that riffs and digresses on recent, exciting releases in music, games, television, movies, and more. Today’s amusingmusings covers the new game CROSSNIQ+, released on October 4th for PC and Nintendo Switch.


>A conversation with one of the many small ants in my car about CROSSNIQ+.

secat: ugh! Another ant on the dash.. How did you guys even get in here, anyways..

ant: do you remember when you got drive thru krispy kreme a few weeks ago? Well. Your fool ass spilled a few flakes of that sweet, wonderful glaze in the passenger well during the box’s transition from the car to your apartment

secat: you know what? I could just SMUSH you right now if I wanted to

ant: what does it matter? There are so many of us in your car. you little idiot. It will not even be a “drop in the bucket” for you to smush me, to use a human expression

secat: that’s only a human expression? What’s an ant expression sound like

ant: we do not have any. We communicate our ideas clearly and directly. Unlike YOU.

secat: ah.. That stings, ant.. Prepare to meet my “smushing finger” (author’s note: I’m assuming every other human also has a designated “smushing finger” for crushing small annoying ants or other miniscule bugs that end up on their person or in their personal space .. I know *i* do.. as always, like and comment if your experience is different.. alright, back to “reviewing”..)

ant: wait! Before you smush me. you write such wonderful reviews for COUNTERZINE..

secat: aw shucks

ant: such, um, *cough* “unique” takes on the format..

secat: hahaa.. oh my gosh, stooppp.. well, I try my best.. one word at a time, ya know.. :3

ant: why don’t you talk to me about something you’re reviewing

secat: ah, but of course! Let me talk to you about CROSSNIQ+

ant: ok! What’s that

secat: it’s a puzzle game slash lucid y2k dream slash the only reason I’m getting outta bed in the morning!

Pre-battle screen

ant: what? I thought you had a job

secat: shhh now. The object of CROSSNIQ+ is to survey a grid of colored squares and move them around to form a cross.

ant: and?

secat: and that’s it! But, oh, such depth! Such style! SUCH style. This is one of the most consciously and lovingly designed games I’ve ever played, yes – it’s like being transported back to 2000.. the very cusp of the digital age.. ah, when the world was good, and cool, and everyone was much more fond of translucent plastic and chrome..

ant: were you even alive to appreciate the original aesthetic you are now so lavishly praising, you goober

secat: yes! I was three

ant: ugh

secat: anyWAYS. See, look at these MENUS. This USER INTERFACE. It is pleading with you to interact with it. Click one of its tiles.. hear the pleasing “blomp”s and “boomf”s it makes.. they don’t make things like this anymore..

ant: oh! This is nice

secat: and don’t even get me STARTED on this beautiful drumbreak-ass, lush summer nostalgia-ass SOUNDTRACK..

ant: it seems like you want to get started

secat: right you are! GAZE upon the marvel of such tracks as “MECHANIQ” and “CONFLIQ”. Gaze with your little beady ant eyes

ant: I am not equipped for this sensory experience quite in the same way you are but I appreciate it nonetheless

secat: playing this game is a pure and honest good time. Like the very goodest of times. The best time, I mean. When you are in “THE ZONE” of sliding back and forth these little rows of colored tiles and you hear the bassy lil POW! after you make a cross. you think to yourself, “Everything should feel like this. This is what games are meant to do to me”

ant: is it tough?

secat: it is! At least, I kinda suck ass at it so far. It requires the same kind of spatial awareness and clarity of purpose that solving a rubik’s cube does, and I am frankly just horrid at rubik’s cubes

A competitive race to cross

ant: oh I hate those

secat: ugh, me too! my mind, it was not molded for the manipulation of colored squares across two or more planes. But you know what it WAS molded for.

ant: Overwrought reviews

secat: yessir! On PC, the game offers you multiple control schemes – mouse, keyboard, gamepad – but none of them feel *quite* correct for the task at hand (to me, at least). frankly, this is a moment where I find myself craving a touchscreen interface – it seems like it would be so satisfying to manipulate the playing field with a few flicks of the ol’ fingies.. in other words Why oh why do I not have a Nintendo switch to play this on

ant: get a switch lite then

secat: heavens no! My friends would make fun of me 😦

secat: there are a couple of different modes for you to goof around with, too. there’s your classic Endless mode, where you slide around tiles and make crosses ‘till you can’t keep up – a Time Attack mode, where you make as many crosses as you can in a given amount of time – a Versus mode where you take on another human player (I didn’t have anyone to play this with at the time so I didn’t do so much of it. There are lots of cute fashionable characters and cool powerups and such in it. Hopefully there’ll be an AI to play with someday, or some kind of random online matchmaking) – a Chillout mode where you can just make crosses at your own pace without ticking timers and also talk to a charming little beret-wearing cat.. oh, and a shop where you can buy outfits for those Versus characters and new songs to play in the background (you earn coins as you complete more and more activities and games in CROSSNIQ+ world).

CROSSNIQ+ features several modes

ant: any negatives?

secat: i’m glad you asked! On occasion, I kind of wondered how much I was enjoying the *GAME* versus enjoying the sensory spectacle of its existence. Making crosses is certainly fun but I never booted the game up saying “hell yeah! Let’s make some crosses!”.. more like “Yes! Time to throw myself into the meticulously crafted y2k-core appreciation box”

ant: hm, I see..

secat: also, I wish there were more music tracks to select from when I play any given mode.. but that’s just because I love this soundtrack to bits, oh goodness

ant: seems like pretty much a great game all around, though!

secat: absolutely! Well worth the $8, plus an extra $4 for the soundtrack. It’s a wonderfully special experience. To be incredibly trite .. it’s a Love Letter to a Bygone Era..

ant: boooooooo

secat: oh, stuff it! *smush*


CROSSNIQ+ is developed by MaxKreigerVG and is available to purchase on Steam and the Nintendo eShop for Switch.


Secat is a musician and writer based in Houston, Texas. To see more of their work, you can follow them on Twitter (@secatsecat) or check out their personal blog at

Game Review: Catherine: Full Body (PS4)

Game Review: Catherine: Full Body (PS4)

Catherine: Full Body

Studio Zero


Back in 2011, developer Atlus released Catherine, the unique and innovative brainchild of dream team Katsura Hashino (direction and scenario), Yuichiro Tanaka (scenario), Shigenori Soejima (art) and Shoji Meguro (music). Known primarily for their work on the Persona series, Catherine stands as the outlier, or the black sheep, among their games together: short, brutally challenging, with a focus on multiple endings and score chasing for replay value and not a level-up or high schooler in sight. Catherine was not built for mainstream success, and yet nearly nine years later, it’s sold seven-figure numbers and now receives an enhanced port in the form of Catherine: Full Body (the first project from new Atlus subsidiary studio Studio Zero) described as a richer, more mature experience. To say that it delivers on this promise would be an understatement. Catherine in its original form never felt like an incomplete experience, but Full Body retroactively makes it one. From the brilliant addition and incorporation of a third love interest in Rin, more than double the number of puzzles of the original, five new endings, new music, more than 20 new animated cut-scenes, new liquor trivia, new bar patrons to talk to, and competitive and cooperative local and online multiplayer, Full Body spoils the player with an abundance of content and ways to experience it. Whether you want to play for three hours or 300, you want a visual novel or hardcore puzzle platformer (or both), Full Body can and will be bent into the shape you wish it to take. With its initial primary theme of freedom and a new story-line surrounding one of the most touching LGTBQ+ relationships in mainstream gaming to-date, Full Body sees Catherine age from a highly enjoyable yet flawed niche title to an unadulterated classic.

For those unfamiliar with the original, Catherine: Full Body follows nine (or ten) days in the life Vincent Brooks, a 32-year-old engineer with deep-seated fears of commitment and change, as he begins to experience nightmares where he must frantically climb diabolically complex and crumbling block towers in order to flee from monstrous representations of the shackles (or responsibilities) that threaten his freedom. The catch is, if he dies during the nightmare, he dies in real life ala Nightmare on Elm Street. He’s not the only one either: the nightmare is shared among many men in their 30s and 40s, who all appear to Vincent as sheep and are killed off in in the real world each night via weakening as a constant reminder of the fate that awaits you should you fail.

Catherine: Full Body_20190908164040
Unique sheep on landings in-between levels are patrons of The Stray Sheep, and you’ll want to support them in and out of the nightmares when possible

At the same time, Vincent must also wrangle with his newly messy personal life: a young, blonde bombshell enters the picture just as the nightmares begin and Vincent starts an affair with her he can’t seem to remember any details of, while his long-time girlfriend announces her pregnancy and pressures him to settle down. In Full Body, Rin is also added to the chaotic cocktail: an adorable and supportive new love interest who Vincent rescues from a stalker, moves in next door, and starts working at his local bar The Stray Sheep as a server and piano player.

The gameplay in Catherine: Full Body is divided into two wildly opposing types that alternate back and forth as the game progresses: anxiety-producing tower puzzles in the nightmare, and relaxed drinking and socialization at the bar. The balance is simple but brilliant, as the existence of one magnifies the impact of the other: the terrifying nature of the nightmares aids in the player’s appreciation for the laid-back atmosphere and safe haven that is the bar and vice versa. To mock a certain games journalism cliché: Catherine: Full Body really makes you feel like Vincent. However, if you’re just looking at the game for its story or its gameplay and not both, Full Body is more than happy to abide: all cutscenes and bar segments can be skipped, and all puzzles can be automated on lower difficulties. The only thing in the bar that truly affects the core gameplay is drinking: filling your intoxication meter will make Vincent move quicker, but this can be done in about a minute and will still rarely be the difference between success and failure.

Catherine: Full Body_20190908161751
Studio 4°C provides anime cutscenes both old and new

This isn’t to say there’s nothing to do in the bar, but it all relates to story. You’ll want to spend plenty of time talking to patrons to learn their backstories and support them in hopes of saving them from the nightmares, as well as respond to texts and calls from the C/K/Qathrines. Your responses to the latter will affect your morality meter, and you’ll need to answer a lot of them, particularly for the true endings. That’s not all though: there’s also a jukebox freshly stocked with new tunes from Atlus games including Persona 5 and the upcoming Project RE:Fantasy, and the most meaty bit of content in Super Rapunzel, an arcade game of shorter block puzzles that feature no time limit but a set number of allowed moves, emphasizing efficiency over speed. Between classic and remix modes, there are now 256 stages of Super Rapunzel alone and many players will find themselves wracking their brains to solve them just a few stages in. It’s a staggeringly generous amount of content for what amounts to a completely optional activity.

Catherine: Full Body_20190908162445
Both Katherine and Catherine are more fleshed out in Full Body, with new texts, photos, cutscenes, and endings

Regarding the main gameplay, there are nine stages (ten on Rin’s route) with each one including between one and six levels. Stages regularly introduce new block types to keep things fresh and ramp up the difficulty: trap blocks will impale you with spikes if you rest on them, bomb blocks will explode a time after stepping on them and turn surrounding blocks into cracked blocks that will break, destroying your footing and ability to make paths upwards, ice blocks will cause you to slide off the tower to your death, etc. Navigating all of these obstacles while on a timer is tough and addicting, especially on higher difficulties going for Gold Prizes. That said, Full Body is definitely more forgiving than the original. While the towers themselves remain largely unchanged (aside from remix mode, which is often harder than classic), the lives system has been removed and undo is now a focus, allowing you to go back a set number of times after poor moves. This makes the game feel easier, but in reality, it just saves a lot of time resetting after losing too many lives and is a welcome change. Hard mode will still beat your ass, don’t worry.

Catherine: Full Body_20190908162846
Remix mode appropriately ‘mixes’ things up with new tetromino-shaped blocks, allowing for new puzzles and strategies

Returning game modes outside of the main story campaign include Babel, a set of four massive and brutal stages that change each time you play them, and local competitive play, where you can battle it out on a tower with a friend, disrupting each others climbing paths and knocking them down or off the tower. The latter was considered something of an afterthought by the developers in the original game, but surprisingly blossomed into a healthy scene in Japan, with sub-tournaments being held at major fighting game tournaments. As such, Full Body also features online multiplayer for the first time. Admittedly, it’s rough right now with far too many disconnects, but this is the only real knock on the game I have: a brand new game mode that isn’t the main selling point of the game but could be great with subsequent patches isn’t great right now. I’d be calling this game a masterpiece even if it were entirely absent, so it doesn’t make too much sense to dwell on it.

Visuals and sound are both fantastic and have seen improvements and additions as well, with Soejima’s character designs looking better than ever in the Persona 5 engine, and Meguro provides more than 20 new compositions and remixes on top of the already stellar soundtrack, with the remix of jazzy j-hop main theme “YO” a particular standout. Catherine’s all-star voice cast returns as well featuring the talents of Troy Baker, Michelle Ruff, Liam O’Brien, Travis Willingham, Yuri Lowenthal, Laura Bailey, and Erin Fitzgerald. You can also play the game with Japanese audio if you wish, but the English cast is excellent.

Without spoiling too much about the new elements of the story, it needs to be said that Rin is probably the single best addition to a re-release of a game. Ever. Their implementation is so seamless and prevalent that it feels bizarre to even think back to a time when Catherine didn’t include them. The original Catherine was in many ways a very jaded game, putting forth the idea that attaching yourself to anyone must mean sacrificing your freedom. Rin is representative of the re-examination of that belief, as well as a rebuke of it. There can be someone who will accept you as you are and in turn not make you a different person, but make you want to be a better version of yourself. Rin causes Vincent to reconsider everything he thought he knew about, well, everything. Life, freedom, love, and his own sexuality. He is easily the best version of himself here, not because of a pansexual awakening (which is admittedly refreshing), but because the love he has for Rin feels the most genuine and he rises to meet them, taking responsibility for his past mistakes without letting them hold him back and displaying the charm and confidence that was often alluded to but rarely shown before. The original Catherine was criticized for its treatment of a trans character and in some ways rightfully so. Unfortunately that seems to have tainted the perspective of many regarding this new release (aided by out-of-context clips and screenshots and twisted narratives regarding Rin’s gender identity and the aforementioned trans character being shown pre-transition in a new ending (still heavily implied to be planning to transition)), but in this queer’s opinion, we don’t see LGBTQ+ portrayed this favorably in mainstream gaming. Vincent and Rin’s story is beautiful and heartwarming, and I hope more people open their minds to it.

Catherine: Full Body_20190908161904
Rin is absolutely precious

Catherine: Full Body is just about everything anyone could reasonably ask for. Anyone looking for a great visual novel, a addictive and challenging score chaser, a multiplayer experience with friends, or all or of the above can cater the experience to their preference. Just as the game posits “there’s no right way to climb the tower” and “there’s no right way to live your life”, there’s no right way to enjoy Catherine: Full Body, but there are many ways. Nearly nine years later, it finally and truly embodies the ideals it espouses, and is one of the best experiences in gaming for it. There’s was nothing before Catherine like it and there’s been nothing like it since, and it’s only gotten better with age.

Length: ~15 hours (100+ for completion)

Rating: Masterpiece