If you're a fan of life-sims, but you're tired of the traditional grind — farming materials, building stuff, and maintaing your space slog without a story — have I got the game for you. Cozy Grove, developed by Spry Fox and published by The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, takes a slightly different approach to the genre and is able to to imbue some freshness into the all-too-familiar formula.
With the mantra "make the world a better place," Spry Fox uses familiar character designs, hand-drawn graphics, and some lively spirits to embody that motto and make a charming game. And with a mix of puzzles, crafting, and mystery-solving elements, there's something here for all kinds of players.
Bottom line: Cozy Grove is a fun and beautifully drawn life-sim game with a "spooky" twist that you can sink over 40 hours into at a relaxed pace. It's a charming game with lovely graphics and memorable characters. However, it does have a few bugs and pacing issues.
- Unique, hand-drawn graphics
- Plenty to do day-to-day
- Excellent dialogue and fun characters
- Great story in addition to sim-life gameplay
- High-quality game for a low price!
- Glitchy at times
- Graphics sometimes blend too much
- Frame rate issues in handheld mode
- Pace may be too slow
Cozy Grove: What you'll like
|Publisher||The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild|
|Play Time||40+ hours|
Cozy Grove is a simple life-sim that tasks you, the Spirit Scout, with helping the ghosts residing on the island to pass on, thus earning some sweet merit badges for your troubles. What seems like a short trip, however, takes a turn when your boat floats casually away, leaving you stranded on the island.
No worries, though. There are plenty of tasks to keep you occupied, earn badges, and stop you from losing your mind. It's a simple yet unique premise that's very welcome to the simulation genre. While the familiar game elements are all here — crafting, gathering, and more — there's enough to make this game stand out from others, including the big titles like Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Right off the bat, the thing that stands out the most is the graphics. The hand-drawn aesthetic makes the island of Cozy Grove come alive, so to speak, as long as you help out all the inhabitants on the island. To start, the images are a muted color, and the little island feels barren and isolated. You really do feel alone as you set out on your journey. However, as you get to know the spirits on the island and slowly unravel their memories, the color your budding friendship brings makes it feel like you're doing your job as a Spirit Scout, and makes the game more vibrant.
As a life-sim, there's plenty to do in Cozy Grove, just not right away. You can harvest resources like money, fruit, nuts, twigs, and mushrooms. As you find more spirits, you can do even more, like craft items, make food, fish, cut down shrubbery, mine for ore, and even decorate the island. It's when you get deeper that the twists start to emerge. You can even buy and take care of pets, although they aren't the traditional kind. Also, every plant, tree, and animal has preferences, so you have to place them all accordingly to get the most out of them! For instance, your pet bird may love rustic decor and lamps but hate common items.
Everything you buy has a purpose, and everything you pick up has a use. You can transform ingredients by cooking or burning them on your Spirit Fire, or you can sell them to the island shop-keep, Mr. Kit. Don't get rid of everything, though, because the spirits on the island may decide they want them. While there are a lot of items, you have minimal inventory space. You could leave some things in your tent, but you'll have to upgrade frequently to keep up the pace.
As you're given tasks, you can navigate the menus to find your objectives for the day, go through your inventory, and check out which badges you've picked up. Plus, this game features touchscreen compatibility, so you can navigate the screen however you please on the Nintendo Switch or mobile.
As you help and discover spirits, you'll also notice the fantastic dialogue. Whether you're chatting with a spirit or reading the instructions, you'll see a mix of silly humor with a heartfelt twist, and it can take a sharp turn fast. As you discover more about the island's inhabitants, you'll find yourself chuckling or really feeling for them as you unravel their pasts. It definitely makes things more interesting.
Finally, things change on this island every day. In fact, it's not possible to complete the game in a day. The resources refresh over time, and you will not have access to everything up-front. While you can easily put a ton of time in by fishing, gathering items, and finishing the day's available quests, it really only amounts to around 30-40 minutes of play per day. It's a nice, slow-paced game, and it is enjoyable if you like that sort of thing.
Cozy Grove: What's not good
There are a lot of great things about this little indie game. However, it has a few little issues that were definitely frustrating, and some even made me want to put down the game entirely.
First, while I love the look of this game and its unique graphics, they sometimes get in the way, especially when the color pattern is muted. It was hard to distinguish the bushes from the rocks at first, and you could easily find yourself running into a rock or something that wasn't visible and getting stuck. This becomes less of an issue as the map starts growing and filling in with more objects.
By design, this is a slow game. I found myself frustrated when trying to help the spirits because I couldn't find certain items and wondering if I was looking in all the wrong places or they just weren't available yet. In fact, I was stuck on a quest for at least two days because I lacked the materials to proceed.
My frustration with this part was a mix of not knowing if it was a game problem or a me problem. For example, typically, when you're finished with everything you're able to do in a day, your Spirit Fire will tell you. However, mine would just repeat that someone needed my help. Thankfully, an update solved those issues.
Part of the issue is a lack of tutorial or guidance. While it's not completely absent, it would help if some elements were more apparent. The spirits tell you it could take a while for resources to come in, but there are so many resources and they come from different areas. In one instance, the resource I was waiting for came via a merchant I didn't know existed. While the game shouldn't be weighed down with tutorials, I think a few lines of dialogue could solve this problem.
If you aren't a fan of inventory management, you might also get a little frustrated. There are so many resources; I constantly found myself selling things or dropping items around the island because I just didn't have room for them. I tend to horde everything, so that might be a me problem. If you don't mind cycling out your stuff, this won't bug you as much.
While you get plenty of stuff to decorate the island, it may be best to wait it out since the spirit's areas start to fill in as you collect memories for them — it kind of leaves you wondering what you should do with the stuff you have. I ended up selling a bunch for cash and keeping anything necessary for keeping my plants and birds happy.
Last but not least, there were a few technical issues. I played Cozy Grove on my Nintendo Switch, and the frame rates dropped a little when I played the game in handheld mode, but it played fine when docked. The game even completely crashed on me at least three times, which may have soured my experience since I had to completely redo everything I had done that day. The game also took a very long time to load. However, it is worth noting that all these bugs will be patched with a game update upon release.
Cozy Grove: Should you play it?
Cozy Grove is an adorable little indie sim with a twist. It has fun puzzles, charming graphics, and a lot of heart. It's a great game to pick up and play for just a few minutes a day, and you can easily pick up wherever you left off. It doesn't require you to pour a ton of time in each day, but it does limit how much story you can actually complete in a sitting. You can do a lot of little things to get the most out of your play-time, provided you don't experience any bug issues.
This game easily matches pace with other games in the genre while bringing something fresh to the formula, and for only $15, it's a steal. I did a double-take when I saw the price, which was after I played the game for a little stretch.
It's delightfully fun, with interesting characters, great dialogue, and a whole lot to do. And for that price, it is most definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of these games.
Cozy Grove will be available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox, Playstation, Steam, Apple Arcade, and the Epic Games Store on April 8, 2021.