Since the first announcement of this puzzle adventure-slash-social sim, we’ve been keeping our eyes peeled for Lonesome Village. Now that we’ve played it, we can confirm that it requires you to strap on both your exploring boots and your thinking cap, but it’s also a relaxing game that, for the most part, doesn’t demand much from you, apart from your enjoyment.
This charming release from indie developer Ogre Pixel brings puzzles and life simulation together, and makes them best friends. Lonesome Village is a cute, wholesome game with many of the features common to our favourite cute wholesome games: bright colours, natural setting, adorable animal friends, and, of course, a fishing minigame.
It pays homage to some legendary games that came before it – you could even add your own game of ‘Spot The Zelda Reference’ while you play. But anyone expecting this to mirror a Zelda game might be disappointed. It eschews combat in favour of delightfully calming challenges and repetitive mechanics, à la Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley. All these references are exciting to see, though they form a very long yardstick. Lonesome Village may not completely measure up to those illustrious predecessors, but it definitely doesn’t fall massively short.
You take the role of Wes the coyote when he’s just arrived at a now-deserted village. Once known as Ubhora, Lonesome Village was a quaint happy town before it was annexed by a cult of animals in maroon robes. They invaded the town and trapped its residents in statues in a tower. As Wes, you’re tasked with freeing the villagers. In your pocket is a mystical magnifying glass to search for clues and speak to Coronya, your spirit guide who pops up to give you helpful – and sometimes not-so-helpful – direction.
In the tower, you encounter a puzzle on each floor, which, once solved, frees a villager and their family. These brain-ticklers start easy but graduate in difficulty, and are always satisfying to complete. There’s a unique variety too, from mazes to sliding puzzles to memory challenges and more. They might make you scratch your head, but they’ll hardly make you bash it against a wall. Every few levels, you’ll go back to the village to collect hearts or offerings: hearts are earned from neighbourhood quests, while offering items are either found or crafted with a villager’s help. Isn’t that so wholesome? Defeating the enemy with friendship!
The village’s calming atmosphere is a reprieve from the mild darkness of the tower. Its lilting flute soundtrack contrasts well with the creepy piano and strings that overshadow your puzzle-solving. Take your time here and you might even discover some Easter eggs from other games too. The play can feel like two games – a puzzle game in the tower, and a life sim in the village – but the team at Ogre Pixel has tried to give you time in both, with one leading to the other.
The art style is all bright block colours and bold outlines that gave us a hit of nostalgia for after-school cartoons. Textural details like water bubbles or dappled light add to the otherwise simple design, and everything comes to life with bouncy 2D animation. It’s a shame, then, that the story is two-dimensional too. The surplus of well-designed characters only has slight variations in dialogue. The plot is interesting enough to keep you playing, but it isn’t something you haven’t seen before.
Right now, the game is not the most intuitive experience. Instead of using the d-pad to scroll through certain menus, for example, you often use it to select arrow buttons on screen. Switching between tools is cumbersome, and in the inventory menu, we found it hard to tell which items were selected. Some other issues in the game were patched on day one – a sign the developers aren’t finished yet. We hope they’ll continue to work on these things in future.
But as far as core gameplay goes, it’s clear Lonesome Village wants to be as stress-free as possible. You never need to sleep or eat, you don’t have a health bar, the shops are open 24/7, and the fishing game requires you to press one button, at your own pace. And if you die – which is rare – you reappear at the start of the challenge with a pretty puff of smoke. No dramatic screaming! No lost items! No GAME OVER!
This fun, cosy adventure is a worthwhile consideration for those who loved chopping wood in Animal Crossing and solving puzzles in Zelda (yet panicked in combat). It might not quite match the splendour of its influences, and the menus still need some work, but it’s certainly pleasant to play.
Lonesome Village takes elements of life-sim legends and a large handful of Zelda references and wraps them together in very cute packaging. It may not have the richest narrative, but it will absorb and soothe you – even in its short playtime. Barring a few drawbacks with player experience, specifically around menu navigation, this game offers up some good wholesome fun without the sweaty button-mashing of combat. If you’re puzzling over a new cosy game to play, Lonesome Village just might be your solution.