When I was a kid, I was very briefly a member of my local scouts, and I have a very clear memory of the first time we went out camping as a troupe in the middle of this rundown old area near a farm. Safe to say, little me hated the experience and would have much preferred staying indoors watching TV with my family, but now I can get my own back by forcing digital kids to do my bidding in my own camp via the upcoming game Camp Canyonwood. Well, sort of.
Camp Canyonwood comes from the minds behind the quirky roguelike We Need To Go Deeper, Deli Interactive, and tasks you with transforming a derelict campsite into a children’s dream location to spend their parent’s hard earned dollars. You’ll be building up the site in your own image, managing the grounds before leading a group of campers in traditional activities such as fishing, foraging and wood chopping. The better you do with each new group of campers, keeping them happy and healthy, the better the payout from their folks once the trip is over, which can be used to increasingly improve the site over time.
My preview run-through quickly introduced me to the concept of being a camp counsellor, kicking off with having me create my own character with hilarious results. It didn’t take long to get down to business with my first group of kids, each with their own distinct likes and dislikes which determined how they reacted to what I wanted of them. One of the kids hated me leading them around, much preferring to be left to explore on their own, while two others quickly picked up their first badges thanks to a love of flower picking. You only have a few days with each group to make an impression on them, which means balancing the needs of the camp with a fun factor that will keep them entertained long enough to ensure a good pay day.
But not everything is as it seems. I did know ahead of time that there’s something else going on at Camp Canyonwood, but the weirdness that undercuts the life sim still took me by surprise. Not that anyone at the camp is willing to admit there’s something supernatural about the place, but there’s an unnerving presence at night that you’ll have to be wary of to ensure the kids don’t go missing. What’s worse, it seems like the wildlife has it out for you too, so you’re going to need to have your wits about you to avoid a potential bear attack.
The kids are alright, for the most part
Camp Canyonwood launches in early access first, but there’s a lot to it already. There’s no gamepad support just yet, no doubt that’s part of the plan, but the general gist of the game and its enjoyable spin on the sandbox life sim is all there. The other counsellors on site will have quests that can lead to unlocking new items, the camp area itself has plenty of little secrets hidden away and there are a ton of options to make your campsite look just the way you want it to. There’s a solid experience under the hood that will keep you entertained with every new bunch of kids that come through, with plenty more on the way.
But what interests me more is the gloomier storyline that lurks underneath, though it’s a little early to tell which direction it might go. Hopefully the longer you spend building up the camp site, the weirder things will get, which should set Camp Canyonwood apart from more traditional sandboxes like Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley. From the outset it has my attention; perfectly eccentric visuals mashed with silly animations and a strong sense of humour are always a positive in my book.
The character creator is suitably silly
Camp Canyonwood hits early access on PC from August 4. Are you jumping in when it launches? Are you a fan of Deli Interactive’s previous work? Let us know what you think in the comments below and on our social media channels.
Previewed on PC // Preview code supplied by publisher