A game where you set up camp on an island with adorable anthropomorphic neighbors. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Befittingly so, as Spry Fox’s Cozy Grove takes inspiration from the relaxing tones of Animal Crossing. At the same time, it does a good job of adding its own flair while deviating from some of the more hardcore mechanics of the social simulation series.
Gather 'Round the Campfire
You play as a Spirit Scout, and end up washed ashore on the island of Cozy Grove. Accompanying you on your travels is the sentient flame, uh, Flamey. Unlike Animal Crossing, however, your island is filled with ghosts who’ve been inhabiting the island for a long time. Keeping the Spirit Scout Motto in mind (All Those Who Are Lost Deserve Kindness), you begin life on the island and make it your mission to help the spirits pass on.
The game is based on your system’s internal clock, so you’ll be able to cycle through the seasons on Cozy Grove while being able to sink in an average of 40 hours of story content. Much like Spry Fox’s previous games such as AlphaBear and Road Not Taken, there are square bears, among other animals that the spirits take the form of. In their charming gibberish-speak accompanied by quips, they’ll give you a quest that needs to be fulfilled and will contribute to your relationship with them, as well as the colors on Cozy Grove.
The more quests you complete, the more Spirit Wood you’ll earn to feed to Flamey, and your fire-y friend will unlock more parts of your island for you. As you start off, the island will be fairly monotonous, barring the light emitted by Flamey, but the more you play, the more color starts to seep in. You’ll get to know all the cuboid creatures and their backstories as well, and while some are very silly, some can pull at your heartstrings.
It's Ok to Log Off
Once you complete your daily quests, there isn’t much to do. Of course, there’s a bunch of other activities such as fishing, harvesting, and even bits of crafting and decorating involved, but these are all to a healthy limit. Here enters the best aspect of Cozy Grove, the game encourages you to log off and come back another day. If the NPCs have nothing more to ask from you, and Flamey doesn’t have any advice, the game will indeed tell you to check again tomorrow. This sort of laidback experience may not be for everyone, as it doesn't quite create the gameplay loop that can be found in Animal Crossing. Sure, you can time travel and play on even further, but I never felt the need to do so.
Unlike Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s hurrying nature that makes you feel like you need to fast forward a few days just to shift the museum by two spaces, Cozy Grove feels more like the earlier installments of Animal Crossing back when trades for Raymond in boxes weren’t all the rage, and the game was more of just wandering around and talking to people. It feels nice to just collect some seashells and talk to the postman about how his day’s been, instead of scrambling to sell my turnips at a profit.
Not everything is entirely ship-shape however, as I did have some qualms with the control scheme. As Cozy Grove was originally launched for Apple Arcade, it would seem that the interface is primarily meant for the mobile experience. On a console, it doesn’t feel quite right. The mapping feels a bit awkward and many times I felt there could have been fewer button presses involved for certain actions. Not to mention, the number of times I went cross-eyed going left to right across the screen between my inventory and quest log. What would have solved this would be the ability to remap the buttons, but there is none sadly.
The good thing about the Switch in handheld is that it is touch screen enabled, so if your joy cons are giving you too much of a headache with the drift like mine are, you can just keep them aside and play the game using touch controls.
Of course, apart from peaceful gameplay, there’s more to Cozy Grove than just its name. The hand-drawn artstyle that fills in with more color as you progress is a brilliant mechanic and maintains the slightly eerie yet warm feeling of the game. The music also adds to the tranquil nature, along with the other ambient noises of the island.
The best way to play Cozy Grove is at the end of a long day while curling up in bed. It’s the perfect game to play in short bursts and takes up 20-30 minutes of your day. As someone who says you can never have too many relaxing games, Cozy Grove ticks a lot of boxes for me, while serving as a reminder to take one day at a time
TechRaptor reviewed Cozy Grove on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on PC, iOS, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
- Hand Drawn Artstyle with Adorable Characters
- Great for Short Bursts of Gaming
- An Overall Relaxing Experience
- Controls are Clunky and Can't Be Customized
- Not Much of a Gameplay Loop