In Racoon Lagoon, it is your job as the Island Spirit to maintain and keep your island prosperous. Do you have what it takes to keep the castaways that landed there happy?
Racoon Lagoon starts off by immediately throwing you into the action. Awakening on your island after a long slumber you discover a ship nearing the coast, and it is heading on a collision course toward a rocky section jutting out in the water. In order to avoid disaster, you rely on the island’s resources of wood to light the hearth on the coastline that has laid dormant for quite some time. After setting the fire ablaze it begins to storm, and retreating to shelter is the only safe option for now. You’ll just have to wait till morning to discover the fate of the ship’s passengers.
As you reawaken in your temple, you discover that unfortunately your lighting of the hearth was too late, and they crashed into the rocks anyways. Thankfully, all the passengers survived, and have found means to inhabit your simple island. These Nyms — as the disembodied voice that serves as your narrator calls them — are colorful, adorable animal-like characters that need your help. With a bit of elbow grease and a pinch of love and care, you can help restore the island to its former glory and make some new friends along the way.
Solving tasks would be trivial challenge, managing the countless items that make up the island’s natural resources, but you are given a magical tablet to help manage it all easily. As you pick up items with your hands you can quickly hold a button to store it, or open your inventory and place it where you wish. Quantities automatically stack for you, and there are several pages of slots, giving you a nearly infinite amount of storage space, especially when you consider that later on, you’ll be able to build additional space by making some storage chests.
Each resident of your humble island has their own wants and desires, ranging from simple items to requesting items that take several component items to build. You can find most laying around on the ground, but even though some wood can be found this way, you’ll quickly exhaust that convenience. There aren’t too many trees around, but certainly enough when you consider what all the wood you reap from each one.
One of the tools the Nyms help you construct — tools are permanent items in your inventory that you can access any time — is an axe. This axe is a great tool to chop down trees and then chop their trunks into smaller pieces. The game uses realistic physics, so whichever way you are chopping, the tree will fall — this helps give the game a lot more realism, which assists to make a believable VR experience, in my opinion. Some trees also bear a specific fruit, which you can obtain by either grabbing the trunk and shaking it to loosen it from its branch or by throwing an axe in the tree’s trunk to knock it free. Animals roam your island as well, and they often want specific foods to eat, so it’d be wise to pay attention to what type of trees you have around you. Also, don’t worry too much about the typical consequence of cutting down a tree — these grow back the next day.
Wood is an essential ingredient to most tools and building projects, but even more so are — oddly enough — hearts. Hearts are the villagers way of thanking you for giving them items or helping them with tasks, and can be used at statues around the island to unlock new areas. There are eight different biomes, each with their own quests, so you’ll be spending a lot of time making the Nyms happy in order to unlock each one.
Growing crops is another task in this island management sim, and you’ll get a watering can to help your plants grow. If you come across some soil on the ground with holes in it, you can use the various seeds that you’ve earned through helping villagers to sprout a plant. Once that plant is fully watered — a process that takes seconds, not days, thankfully — it will produce a pluckable resource, be it fruit, vegetable or something else. After extracting your wares, the plant will wilt and die, requiring you to pluck it before growing something new in its place. It’s not a terribly tiring process, and you can quickly plant, water and pick a whole lot of crops in a short period of time.
There are some additional tools that you have access to — such as the fishing pole and pickaxe — that are also really fun to use and play around with. Fishing is a relatively simple process and like Animal Crossing, has you chasing fish-shaped shadows in the water with your bobber. Casting is a bit of a learning process, comprising of figuring out how much strength is required to have your flick put the line where you want it, as well as tugging a bit on the pole to pull the bobber back towards you and help fine tune its position. This combination feels natural for a fishing emulation.
The pickaxe, like the axe, requires physical labor. Instead of trees, though, you’ll be pounding away at rocks that appear around the island. These outcroppings yield precious metals and stones and are essential to the creation of many of the more complex fixtures and decorative items that you can fancy your island up with — something you can find yourself spending a bunch of time working on, even after finishing the main quest. With the additional option for multiplayer, showcasing your hard work is even easier.
Multiplayer in Raccoon Lagoon is a simple affair, is accessible from the pause menu, and gives some new purpose to all your item fetching and beautification: someone to show off. You can choose whether you want your island to be private, friends only, or open, which gives you some choices when it comes to how you interact with others, be it a stranger or friend. Only one person can visit your island at a time, but playing around in someone else’s land makes it even more fun to interact, throwing objects back and forth and genuinely just having a good time.
Raccoon Lagoon is a fine distillation of the many farming sims that people have loved over the years with the fresh new dimension of VR on top. The colorful characters are cute and have their own personality as they mill about the island; they will show you their appreciation as you can pat each of them on the head, giving you an opportunity to strengthen your bond with them a little bit more. Each of the biomes look great, the items are easy to distinguish and the gameplay loop of picking items up and being able to play with the physics of throwing them around just makes the game so much fun when compared to other games in this genre. I can easily recommend this VR title to anyone looking to escape a bit, and even though there’s certainly some work required to get the full enjoyment out of this title, the result is always worth the effort.