Back in the Wii and DS era, Nintendo tried something new: telling its players to take breaks. We're no strangers to the Animal Crossing all-nighter, and it seemed like Nintendo was finally starting to worry about our health, but very few people actually heeded the gentle warning. You're not our mum, Nintendo. In any case, we don't listen to her either when she tells us to go outside and play.
Cozy Grove is an extension of that ethos: it really, really wants to make sure you're not playing video games all day. It cares about you. As the CEO of developer Spry Fox puts it: "Cozy Grove doesn't make you feel like you need to play for 8 hours in a single sitting to "maximize" your experience, and it doesn't make you feel like you've seen everything there is to see in a few days either." To put it succinctly, Cozy Grove respects your time.
The Animal Crossing-inspired game is all about tending to an island and its inhabitants, providing the comforts that they need while also building and maintaining your own. Like Animal Crossing, its goals are pretty freeform, but gentle guidance will steer you in the direction of upgrading your tent, growing fruit trees, and raising pets.
By performing tasks for the people who live on the island, and engaging with the crafting, fishing, mining, and foraging mechanics, you — the Spirit Scout who was sent here by your mentor — can gradually bring life back to the island. Therein lies the twist that sets Cozy Grove apart from its inspiration: in Cozy Grove, everyone is dead.
You begin each new day in real-time with an island inhabited by ghosts, and all the colour drained out of the landscape. Each of the ghosts will ask you to do something for them — find a lost item, bring them some food, or go on a treasure hunt to find several things that they need — and, upon performing said task, their gratitude will ripple out in a wave of colour around them (and a bone-shaking Joy-Con rumble). It's beautiful, but it happens every day, which tends to suck the magic out of it and leave you feeling more like you're stuck in a Groundhog Day loop.
However, each little quest will bring you closer to the ghost, and perhaps give you a fragment of memory, a new tool, or something to learn about the island. They'll also give you a Spirit Log, which is used to feed the campfire back at your tent. The campfire, who is basically a less-mean Calcifer from Howl's Moving Castle, serves as your main guide for Cozy Grove, telling you what to do next and also taking care of your storage and tent upgrades.
It's a pleasant enough loop — help people out, do a bit of fishing, forage all the mushrooms and sticks from around the place, feed the fire, repeat — but there's not really much to do, and it feels like the game knows it, too. After just thirty-to-sixty minutes or so, you'll have completed all the ghosts' tasks, so the fire will tell you that there's nothing more to do for the day, and to come back tomorrow. You might be tempted to stick around, but beyond the ghost quests, there's basically just fishing and foraging, neither of which really lead anywhere.
Everything you find can be donated to one of the ghosts, who has a "Collection" (think of it like a Museum, but it's in his pockets, and you can't physically explore it) or sold to a really tall travelling merchant fox, who's a non-dead permanent fixture of the island. There's a basic cooking mechanic, but it involves throwing food into the fire, and doesn't include fish. When the fire tells you that there's nothing more to do for the day, he means it — and it's a real shame.
It's easy to imagine that this works a lot better on a phone. iOS and Android games are much more frequently played in short bursts, and it's probably pretty relieving to find a game that goes along with that, rather than punishing you for not playing as often as it wants you to. On a Switch, that's not really how it works. Paying £10 for a game that literally refuses to let you play for as long as you want is an odd proposition, and though it is possible to time-travel, we'd much rather just play the game without having to dip in and out of the settings menu.
What's more, those scant hours you spent in Cozy Grove's world are a real mixed bag. It's a really gorgeous game, which is unsurprising given Spry Fox's pedigree, and it has buckets of charm. The characters are all unique and weird in the best way, and the dialogue is sweet and easy to like. But the island itself is small and sparse, and at the same time, packed with unnecessary clutter.
Trees, shrubs, bushes, grass, leaf piles, rocks, and unmoveable furniture litter the place, and while they look pretty, they also make it really difficult to forage, move, or collect items on the ground. A ghost might ask you to find six leaves, and trying to find leaves in an island filled with green stuff is an absolute nightmare (although you can buy hints for 100 coins each that tell you exactly where something is).
When the island is drained of colour (which is every single day) it's even harder to see what's what, because everything is a pale green outline. Occasionally, you'll see something interesting in the pale parts — a tree with a bees nest in it seems to imply that you can get honey, or a birds nest might imply that you can collect eggs — but almost every time, it turns out to just be decoration, which is disappointing. It's lovely art, but when practicality takes a back seat to looks, it's hard to appreciate.
Just like it's hard to see anything in the sea of foliage, it's also hard to see what Cozy Grove is really about. There's an intriguing vein of something dark and mysterious within, and when the ghosts mention death, or there's something a bit creepy in an item description, it makes you want to dig deeper. But, like an overbearing parent, Cozy Grove snatches away the game just as it gets interesting, telling you not to eat it all at once. It feels artificial and frustrating to be slowly spoon-fed a story that we want to read at our own pace. The consistent re-desaturating of the island only adds to this, making us feel like any progress we made yesterday will be undone again overnight; like Penelope unweaving her tapestry.
To top it all off, Cozy Grove just doesn't run too well on the Switch. The beginning loading screen (there is mercifully only the one) is looong, and the cornucopia of shrubbery on-screen at any given time is often more than the wee Switch can handle. This leads to pop-ins all over the shop, a frame rate about as smooth as buttered gravel, and a couple of glitches that we think were glitches, but we're not entirely sure about, because Cozy Grove prefers to be coy about everything.
We really want to love this game. The pitch of "a game that respects your time", coupled with the beautiful art and the promise of a dark storyline in a genre that's usually quite twee, had us very intrigued. Cozy Grove just doesn't quite nail enough of it to make us excited about the prospect of being led on a breadcrumb trail for miles.
Cozy Grove measures out its game sessions in snack-size portions, and its gorgeous artwork and genuinely laugh-worthy dialogue almost make up for its metered-out gameplay. Sadly, with a few technical issues on Switch, and the game's refusal to let players set the pace, it's one best played on a mobile device for now.
This joke is still funny
Oof, that score wasn't what i was expecting. The game seems promising. Maybe wait for a sale...
@Onion Honestly, for £10, it might be worth the gamble - I expect some people will see past its flaws and issues and enjoy it. I just didn't gel with the way it artificially doses out the game!
After having played a bit over an hour, I have to say this review aligns with my impressions. The game changes from super cozy moments to very irritating moments all the time. One moment you are in awe with the environments, music and characters the next moment you are faced with hard to navigate environments, items that blend into the background and technical issues like stuttering, framerate drops and harsh object pop-ins. The amount of stuff you can do on a daily basis is incredibly limited, even moreso than in the Animal Crossing games. For the price it's alright, I guess.
If a game won't let me play when I want for how long I want I won't like it. I want to be able to sit down with a game for multiple hours at a time, not play one for thirty minutes and then do another game. I'm sorry, but that seems the opposite of cozy. At least some people may enjoy the game.
@Beatrice I think that review was written by Alex...
Posted this morning: Video: 11 Exciting New Games Coming To Nintendo Switch In April ... No.3 .... Cozy Grove!
The EXCITING Cozy Grove ... scores "5"!!??
@Onion It is also on apple arcade if you have iphone or ipad.
Oof. Pre-ordered this on eshop prior to waiting for reviews. Ahh well i'm sure I will get some enjoyment out of it still.
@Beatrice if you're coming to a Nintendo-focused website expecting the staff to hate Nintendo games then I'm not sure what to tell ya
I would say it's fair, as unlike Animal Crossing, there is a huge limit to what you can do in a day and is usually limited to a quick 30-45 minute session that doesn't feel like good game design for a console game, but well-suited for mobile; would give around 8/10 for mobile but definitely agree with it being average for switch
Actually Earthbound started that nonsense.
I can understand games that put restrictions on you optionally for a challenge, but a sims game that forces you to stop when it says so, is dumb.
I guess it'll be fine for people who don't have enough hours in the day to indulge often.
Sounds more like artificial inflation of the game's runtime than the game "respecting the player's time" to me
Spirit farmer and Animal Crossing and I’m still not interested
I meant spiritfarer
"we already have Animal Crossing at home"
*Animal Crossing at home
@KateGray is 'time travelling' possible do you know?
Pretty sure Animal Crossing is flawed, so I won't hold it against this title.
I pre-ordered this one (to get those cute outfitz), and after playing for a couple hours or so, I must say that I'm really enjoying my time with it. After I finished all the available tasks for the day, I did find myself throughout the afternoon thinking, "Yeah, let's play some more Cozy Grove," followed swiftly by the realization that all I could do was pick up sticks and leaves if I did so.
That being said, I honestly appreciate the bite-sized approach, and I'm eager to keep chugging at it each day. My guess is that if the core 20-30 minute daily loop turns you off, you'll also be put off by the frame rate and pop-in. Because I enjoy the loop, those things barely register as issues for me.
Summary: This review made me a bit sad, but I totally get it!
@Nintendo_Pone I read somewhere on Reddit that you technically can time-travel, but that it will break the game somehow. Not sure how reliable that is.
One day one of these games will bowl me over and click with me and will play forever. Littlwood is the closest and best for me a nine out of 10 but after 20 hours I feel like I’m done xx will get this when on sale xxx
Waiting for a sale, I still feel like I could get into this.
@pikku like how new horizons has no real quality of life features, and forces you to spend 20 minutes crafting one thing.
@Nintendo_Pone yep, I mentioned it in the review
Crazy to see this game get such a (relatively) low score when it has an 80% on Metacritic and 9/10 on Steam!
Personally, I think the bite-sized chunks sound lovely to me. As someone with a full-time job, a family, and many other responsibilities, the idea of playing something that doesn't require hours of my day at a time is really appealing. I think it might be more suited for mobile, but unfortunately I don't have an iOS device (and have no intention of getting one) and it's not on Android.
@KateGray just how much do you feel that the bugs contributed to your score? I'm curious if I'd still like the game regardless...
@Glorbenz Great to hear you liked it! I only just heard about this game today, but I am quite interested and feel that it would suit my current playstyle as I rarely have more than an hour to play at a time these days.
I feel bad for @KateGray moving from one disappointingly un-cozy iyashikei game to the next, forever searching...
@FiveDigitLP The bugs weren't too bad - it was mostly the stuttering framerate that shaved a bit off the score. The game would pretty frequently just freeze for a second or so before continuing, which really bothered me.
For what it's worth - I do think this game could be good, and there's definitely an audience for a game that doesn't require a lot of time to play. It's just not great on Switch - although, for the low price, you might not mind the framerate issues too much (and they'll almost definitely patch it a bit more)
@Beatrice What would you rate New Horizons?
I have this on Apple Arcade and found it to be very average, so a 5 seems pretty fair to me.
sigh There are going to be a million of these games coming out in the next two years, aren't there?
@SpaceboyScreams You're misunderstanding. @Beatrice has discovered the secret formula that Nintendolife uses to rate games. It's (PRO - CONS) * MYSTERY = SCORE. Through extensive statistical research Beatrice has determined that the secret MYSTERY parameter is in fact a heinous bias. While Animal Crossing did receive near universal critical acclaim and sold millions of copies, none of that matters because Nintendolife commenters can root out bias in every comma and bullet point.
Interesting. I've played for 2 days now (since it just came out). I've enjoyed if so far. I actually like the clutter and finding stuff, because it feels like a big, interactive "Where's Wally?" puzzle. Maybe I'm weird, but so far, so good.
@KateGray I bought it and the game is good, not spectacular as animal crossing but it is nice
ahh yes i must have missed that bit, sorry for the derp on my part.
You can change your date and time to timeskip like in animal crossing new horizons to progress faster if you want longer playing periods
@RainbowGazelle yeah, you nailed it - the hidden object aspect is a large part of the game, and if it billed itself as a "find a leaf in a pile of leaves" game then I might have enjoyed it more for what it is!
@Nintendo_Pone that's ok! It was one small line in a big review, and it was actually the last thing I added before publishing it!
I re-read the review and on second reading it doesn't sound as bad as I first thought.
However, the gameplay seems to get boring and annoying very quickly, I gather, which would turn me off big time.
I don't like annoying fetch quests in gaming. This is also the kind of game you genuinely want to play at your own pace.
It was on my wishlist pending reviews, but I shall give this one a miss.
I really think this game is an underappreciated gem. It is a slow build patience casual game, you have to be ok with playing just a bit each day, but it really grows as you progress. Yes, it's still light, but I enjoy that- I'm not missing anything if I miss a day.
Plus the developers have already made several updates and continue to make the game better.
I totally dig the charm and am over 70 days in, and haven't found all the bears yet.
lazy version of the game, alot of bugs and bad fps. Its way better on PC.
Beautiful game that would be a masterpiece if they would be able to patch it so it runs better.
The fps drop and glitches are the only thing bringing this game down
Tap here to load 41 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...