People have been clamoring for Nintendo games on mobile devices for years now, and seeing as the Big N hasn't obliged, it's no surprise to see others taking it into their own hands.

Hence Castaway Paradise, a game that's Animal Crossing without actually being Animal Crossing.

I was a bit sceptical (okay, a lot sceptical) at first, but I have to say the formula fits the platform extremely well. Even with the free-to-play elements.

Island hoppers

You wash up on the beach in Castaway Paradise as a glob of seaweed with eyes. Apparently you were in some kind of shipwreck, but it's okay because you've washed-up on a fantastic island filled with friendly animal people - and no Doctor Moreau in sight.

You'll start performing some basic tasks, like picking up litter, until the game tells you you're ready to strike out on your own. Then you'll be performing more complex trials for the island's denizens to earn some money, items, and experience (which unlocks even more items for purchase).

The interface is fairly intuitive, if a tad clunky when you're surrounded by small interactive elements like crops, and before long you'll be wandering all over the island planting corn and catching bugs.

Free-to-enjoy

What really strikes me as odd (in a good way) about Castaway Paradise is how well the free to play elements tie in to everything.

The game's obvious inspiration already involves a lot of waiting for stuff to happen (waiting for trees to grow, waiting for fish to appear, etc), so tying that into "Speedups" makes sense.

Having to wait for stamina or water to recharge for some tools like the watering can or the pickaxe is a strange, but you can spend some readily available premium currency to increase their maximum uses and speed up recharge times. The ads are a pain, though.

Castaway Paradise works a whole lot better than I'd have imagined, and despite a few irritations it actually uses its freemium elements to great effect. All things considered, it's not a bad place to get marooned.