Refamiliarizing oneself with their Animal Crossing: New Horizons island after spending a considerable amount of time away can feel like navigating a labyrinth of your own making. This was certainly the case for actor and screenwriter Avery Monsen, who recently returned to the island that he’d literally shaped into a maze that would put the mythological Greek artificer Daedalus to shame.
This article first appeared on Kotaku Australia on November 13, 2021. It has been retimed as a weekend read.
I wanted to try the animal crossing update and then I remembered last year I made my entire island into a hedge maze and now the game is basically unplayable 😎 pic.twitter.com/GBzgf58BsP— averymonsen (@averymonsen) November 8, 2021
With this much craftsmanship and excavating ingenuity on display, you’d think Monsen was an Animal Crossing series veteran, but New Horizons is the first one he’s played. In fact, prior to sailing away with ACNH, Monsen had only played two other video games in his life, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Stardew Valley.
“My parents didn’t allow video games when I was a kid,” Monsen told Kotaku. “But a few Christmases ago, my wife bought a Switch and then I went deep, in the frenzied, feverish way that sometimes happens to people with game-less childhoods.”
And deep dive he did. In no time, Monsen nearly 100%ed BotW and its DLC and got so far into Stardew Valley that, “many ancient fruits later, there wasn’t much left to do.”
“But then, during COVID lockdown last year, it felt like everyone on Twitter was talking about Animal Crossing, so I gave it a shot,” Monsen said. “I hope people don’t get mad about this, [but] I didn’t like Animal Crossing as much as Stardew Valley. I realise it’s ridiculous for someone who has only played three games to even give an opinion here, like a toddler offering financial advice.”
Monsen found Stardew Valley’s gameplay to be slightly less repetitive while also having a weirder premise, which he enjoyed. Despite his gripes, Monsen couldn’t stop playing Animal Crossing.
“Once I got the terraforming Island Designer App, I decided to make the whole island a maze, which accomplished two things: A) I enjoyed creating my own game more than pulling weeds and smashing rocks [and] B) Once the whole island was a maze, the game would be unplayable and I’d have to go read a book,” he said.
Monsen guesstimates that it took at least two weeks for him to construct his island maze, which he says was enough time for his wife to go from joking about being concerned for his well-being to being genuinely worried. But sure enough, he immediately stopped playing the game immediately upon finishing his maze.
“It takes 10 minutes to get from anywhere on the island to anywhere else. I really ruined it,” he said.
But like catching a sea bass while fishing, Animal Crossing is inevitable, and Monsen would find himself picking up his Switch again in anticipation of the game’s recent, massive version 2.0 update. But when it finally dropped, his return to his island paradise turned out less than idyllic.
The unfortunate side effect of being a talented maze maker was that the walls of Monsen’s maze obstructed the hedges of his island, making it impossible to climb them with a ladder. He found that if he wanted to get anywhere on his once-beloved island, he had to bravely walk the maze to get there. And he quickly discovered that, fancy new patch or not, he’d essentially made his island unplayable.
“I wouldn’t say I forgot about my maze, but I definitely forgot how much of a hassle it is. It’s a nightmare,” Monsen said. “So, I took a few screenshots and posted them to my Twitter. I was very quickly flooded with people who were impressed by my dedication and terrified by my obsession. Both of these reactions are valid.”
Although his maze island might go down in infamy as a particularly creative island design, Monsen thinks he’s done with playing Animal Crossing. Any potential maze-making time is now occupied with raising his two-month-old daughter, whom he says is incredible despite her lack of virtual island maze construction know-how.
He’s posted his dream address for anyone who thinks themselves brave enough to tackle his labyrinth: DA-4398-9607-2053. While Monsen would like to think he’s left his gaming phase behind, he admitted to setting Google alerts for both The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 and ConcernedApe’s Haunted Chocolatier.
“I hope people enjoy my island and I hope it doesn’t make me look totally nuts,” he said.