I have a big issue with open ended, creative type games like Animal Crossing. I really love the idea of them, but struggle with the lack of direction and the time I need to put in to make something worthwhile. I’m the same with most open world games, and I think it must be how my brain is wired. I need goals and directions in a game, and having tried many many times to get to grips with these kind of games, I ultimately give up.
Cozy Grove is the perfect alternative to this. If you want a charming, relaxing chilled out game that respects your time and effort, allows for creativity while gently pushing you in the right direction and is gorgeous and fun, keep reading. I played on the Switch, but the game is available on PlayStation, Xbox, Steam and Apple Arcade as well.
You start the game as a Spirit Scout who is out on their first solo expedition. As it transpires, you were meant to be sent to Cosy Cove, but you end up on Cosy Grove, an island that seems at first glance to be pretty small, and uninhabited. Here you meet Flamey, a sentient campfire (stick with me) who explains that the island is haunted by the spirit of the bears who used to live here, and if you work together, you can restore the place to it’s former glory and bring some resolution to the spirits who dwell there. To do this, Flamey sends you off to meet the first spirit, who sets you a quick task and rewards you with a Spirit Log, which you feed to your new pal and he reveals more spirits for you to talk to.
If it all sounds a bit spooky, it really isn’t. The bear spirits are all friendly types who have a role on the island. One is a crafter, another a baker, another a postman, you get the idea. Some of them think they are a different species completely, one is convinced he is a seagull, another believes she is a tree. The tasks they set you are pretty simple. They have lost something they want you to find. They want you to catch x amount of fish for them. Very simple stuff, and you usually get a clue as to where an item is, such as near a horned skull, next to a pond or close to a folding chair. Once you complete the task, the grey area around the spirit is flooded with colour and you can harvest fruit and flowers in the area. Then about 40 minutes into playing for the first time, the game reveals it’s trump card.
Talk to Flamey after doing a few quests and tells you that there is no one else to help today, you should come back tomorrow, and that means tomorrow in the real world. The game starts another day at 5am according to your console each day, and when you come back, things have changed a little. The landmarks have moved around though each spirit is in the same place, so the searching is different each day but still not taxing. And there are a new set of tasks to complete. Each day needs only about 30 to 45 minutes to play through, and then it’s up to you what to do.
Ultimately, there is a lot more to do on the island. Fishing, gathering and crafting take time and resources, and you can create a living space around your campfire. There are various animals you can raise, trees and flowers you can plant and they all have different likes and dislikes. If a particular bird likes Rustic decor, put that near it and it produces more resources. Every plant and animal has a different set of likes and dislikes, but getting it organised is not particularly tough. You can expand your inventory and the local shop, and there is a spirit who will take donations of everything you find to fill out a logbook, like the museum in animal crossing. But if you do all this or not is entirely up to you each day.
The joy comes in the interaction with the spirits, who have great personalities and backstories that you uncover little by little. In the first few days the game goes to great lengths to push home that this a long term endeavour, and there is no need to rush. You get given items that you are explicitly told you can’t use yet, or asked for something you can’t get yet and told to just be patient. It’s a really nice chilled out way of playing, and it’s obvious that this game is meant to be played over months. The island expands when you find new spirits too, I can imaging it will be a lot bigger later in the game.
The art style is gorgeous, and the music is chilled out. I was playing on the Switch and noticed some bad slowdown at points, particularly when an area is coloured in, but it’s not too distracting. There are some great touches as well that help with the chilled out feeling as well. You end up with a whole bunch of tools, such as a shovel, machete and hammer for gathering with, but when you approach a rock or dirt patch, the tool is magically equipped and used, you don’t need to select it. Tools you need to interact with, such as the fishing rod, need to be equipped but you will be setting off to do some fishing so thats fine, not having to change the other tools as you wander around is a real help.
I’ve only played for just over a week, but I’m loving this game and I finally feel like I have found that relaxing game I need to switch on just before bed each day to wind down. The “Be Patient” message is perfect for me, though I’ll revisit my opinion in a few months to see where I am. I’ve just received a task that will take 12 days to complete due to resource availability, but maybe there will be a way to speed that up. So far, every time I have had a question about the mechanics the game has handled it dynamically, I am thinking this might be the same. For me though, the short bursts of quests followed by a bit of resource gathering is a really satisfying gameplay loop, and I would recommend this to anyone who likes their games chilled out.