Cozy Grove is an exploration and adventure game from developer Spry Fox. It was recently released on consoles and I managed to get my hands on a review copy for the Nintendo Switch. I normally don’t play these kinds of games but there was something special about this one: ghost bears.
The big idea: Cozy Grove is a game in the same genre as Animal Crossing. It’s safe to say that fans of one would probably enjoy spending time with the other. But, as mentioned, Cozy Grove has ghost bears. That might sound like a weak comparison, but the ghost bears are really cute.
Okay, there’s more: Cozy Grove feels like a game that was made by people who actually care about me. Unlike Animal Crossing: New Horizon, a game that begs me to play 24 hours a day lest I miss a celebrity sighting, sale, or special event, Cozy Grove offers me a similar experience in a world more suited to enjoy in small bursts.
Most players will find the game’s combination of task-based quests and character interaction take up about 30 or so minutes a day. Once you’ve done everything you can do, you’ll have to wait about a day to do more quests.
On first inclination, this feels a bit like a rip-off. You pay your hard-earned money for a game and its developers essentially tell you to play on their terms. But then I realized Spry Fox wasn’t trying to sell me any shortcuts, loot boxes, or other crap.
From what I’ve been able to discern, Spry Fox intended for players to experience the game in small bites over months at a time rather than exhaust its content in a week of marathon play sessions.
This is a fantastic and brave approach to game development. Our time is valuable. Not just as consumers with hundreds of entities competing for our attention spans, but as humans with mental health concerns most game makers don’t bother themselves with.
Cozy Grove respects that by conceding it’s not the most important thing in the world. It doesn’t want all your time, just a little whenever you’re in the mood.
The good stuff: I won’t get too deep into the story, but Cozy Grove has you create a character called a “Spirit Scout” who goes camping on a haunted island. There, players meet a sentient fire and several of the aforementioned ghost bears.
Your goal is to aid these bears in their transition while exploring the island and interacting with its inhabitants. The storytelling is top-notch and the writing is cute and funny. There’s a general feel of chill in everything Cozy Grove has to offer.
And there’s a lot on offer. Cozy Grove has all the familiar trappings of the genre (fishing, crafting, collecting, and events) as well as a fantastic story to enjoy as you while away your time on the island.
Also, the hand-drawn art direction immediately reminded me of Don’t Starve, and that’s a good thing. The game looks brilliant and beautiful on the Switch screen, which is saying something considering you’ll spend a portion of play each day viewing the world in black and white.
The not so good stuff: The lack of immediate depth combined with the short bursts of gameplay means it can be difficult to maintain your motivation to play once you’ve missed a few days. Inventory management is also a bit annoying in that several quests require you to obtain multiple items, but you can only turn them in once you’ve found the lot.
The bottom line: This game’s a no-brainer for fans of the genre. But I’d also recommend it to anyone looking for a gaming experience that won’t try and suck out your soul. If you’re looking for something cute and relaxing to do on your lunch break, a game to play on the train, or just something to do for 30 minutes a day to take your mind off things, Cozy Grove is a great place to visit.
Cozy Grove is now available on all major platforms.