REVIEW: ‘Cozy Grove’ gives the life-sim genre a paranormal twist

Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash

Cozy Grove has become a lovely little daily ritual over the last eight days and there are still so many more elements for me to discover.

I came across Cozy Grove while browsing the “wholesome games” category on Steam in a desperate search for some serotonin after finishing ‘Spiritfarer.’ Since it was on sale for $13.49, I figured I didn’t have much to lose by purchasing it. Even the regular price of $14.99 won’t break the bank. Steam also allows you to return games if you have played them for less than three hours.

When I launched the game for the first time I was greeted with a gorgeous title screen and a soundtrack that sounded like it would fit right in with Stardew Valley. One of the first things I noticed was that it used my computer’s time and date and took place in real time, much like Animal Crossing. I was immediately entranced by the 2D illustrated art style. It’s really cute. 

You can customize your character’s skin tone, hair color, hair style and eye color. The hair color options are definitely limited and I hope they improve them. It makes no sense that my character can have purple eyes but not colorful hair. 

The user interface can be a bit tricky. You have a hotbar and then a larger inventory space in your backpack and oftentimes items go into your hotbar when you pick them up even if you don’t want them to. There’s also a delay in exiting some dialogue menus, mainly when purchasing items or crafting. 

The game’s lore is really interesting. Your character is a Spirit Scout, which helps spirits cross over and you get merit badges for completing various milestones. Your character is sent on their first solo mission, a rite of passage for all Spirit Scouts. After you arrive your boat floats away and you are stranded on the island until you help all of its ghostly inhabitants.

When you first start, the island is entirely a grey-ish green color and it slowly grows more vibrant as you help more spirits. All the spirits are also bears with very cute character designs. 

As with any good life-sim, there’s a fishing mini-game and it’s one of my favorite parts. It’s fairly similar to ‘Animal Crossing’ in that you wait for the fish to fully bite before reeling them in and the reeling animation is really similar. The main difference is that the fish have really unique names and designs and don’t appear to be named after any real life fish. The more rare the fish, the more complex the steps are to catch them. Some of them will scare off if they are hit with the bobber, others require that you land the bobber a few feet away from their mouth in order to bite. 

There’s also a sort of museum mechanic similar to Animal Crossing that I’m way too set on putting the first of everything into, even if it means it takes longer to complete requests. You get currency or decorations depending on what you donate. Plants and fish also appear in different seasons so we will get new items in the summer.

You can only do a limited amount of spirit requests each day and as you progress, they get more labor-intensive. I’m currently stuck on a quest to make a recipe that requires 12 eggs and at the moment I can only buy one a day from the shop. As you do more quests, you unlock more spirits and the island gets bigger. 

There are a lot of interesting mechanics that would take a while for me to explain them all, but I really enjoy having to surround your plants and pets with decoration styles they like. It forces you to have different sections of the island be different themes. 

Part of me hates the real-time mechanic because I want to play the game for hours at a time, but, on the bright side, it means I can’t use the game to procrastinate. The developers of the game at Spry Fox say they designed it this way so players have something to look forward to each day, and it really works. The developers seem really responsive to the requests of their player base. They have a Discord server with a feedback channel where people can report bugs and make suggestions to improve the game. I think this is definitely a game to watch that will only improve with time.

Cozy Grove’ is available on Steam, Epic Games, Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo Switch.

 

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