It’s hard to talk about Cozy Grove, the charming new life-sim from the team at Spry Fox, and not make comparisons to Animal Crossing. I don’t think the developers would be shy in admitting that it was inspired by Nintendo’s behemoth franchise either, with plenty of elements of its design showing up across Cozy Grove’s daily routine style of island-life gameplay.
That’s not a complaint by any means though, and it’s something that will make the game even more appealing to players. Whilst Cozy Grove does wear its inspirations like a big badge of honour though, it also has its own unique story-driven elements that help it stand out as a vibrant and addictive experience.
Cozy Grove puts players in the role of a Spirit Scout, a special person that is able to communicate with the dead and help them find peace in the afterlife. This afterlife just so happens to take place within a peculiar yet pleasant island known as Cozy Grove, which is where you’ll be calling home during your adventure. This is an adventure that’ll take you a while to progress through though, with the core gameplay loop seeing players partake in daily tasks that take around twenty minutes to complete and then coming back the next day to do some more… and the next day… and so forth.
That makes it similar to Animal Crossing, though Cozy Grove does spice up the routine-like formula a little. For one, each day sees you completing tasks for the inhabitants of the island, with these ranging from finding items in fetch quests to simply gathering fruit or catching fish. Admittedly, they’re the sort of things you’d have probably spent plenty of hours doing in Animal Crossing: New Horizons over the last year anyway, but the incentive here is driven by your ever-increasing relationship with each character. As your relationship builds, you’ll learn more about them and their previous life, as well as bring back bursts of colour to the island. It’s a really rewarding setup that gives each of your everyday actions a genuine sense of purpose.
Whilst the incentive to progress is certainly there though, you should expect to be in for the long haul. Cozy Grove will give you tasks to do each day, but when they’re done there’s not much to keep you hanging around for an extended session. Sure, you could explore the island, gather resources, or do a bit of crafting, but with the quests changing up on a daily basis (and progression tied to them), you’re better off waiting and seeing what’s expected of you the next day. It means that it’ll take a while to see each of the island’s inhabitant’s tales through to their conclusion, which is something that may or may not appeal to gamers.
Personally, I liked it. Playing Cozy Grove became part of my daily routine, and honestly, the cast of characters are so endearing that it felt like a treat to see them each morning. Of course, the game was guilty of getting a little repetitive with the tasks that it asks of the player, but the brief nature of the sessions you spend with it ensures that it never actually gets boring. You’ll continually expand your island and the folk you get to interact with too, so there’s a growing sense of discovery that’s introduced each day you play.
Everything is more streamlined that you’d have been used to in the likes of Animal Crossing too, whilst things like fishing are more intuitive in design to make it easier on the player. You can even take the time to decorate your surroundings if you please, even if it does lack the depth seen in its counterpart. I suppose the biggest difference of all is that Cozy Grove feels like less of a grind, with no need to constantly try to build up your cash or inventory – everything is just more straightforward here. It’s nice that it’s a bit more relaxing to play, especially after spending tens upon tens of hours amassing a fortune of bells by fishing or gathering fruit non-stop…
On the flip-side, those who were hoping to fully invest themselves in island life on Cozy Grove might be a little underwhelmed by the daily restrictions. If it doesn’t hook you in over the first few days, it’s unlikely that you’ll keep coming back for more sessions in the long run. It’s a shame too, because the game really does come to life the longer you invest in it. It’s more streamlined and accessible to play than the likes of Animal Crossing, but in other ways it’s a lot more limited thanks to its daily play setup.
But that’s the thing: whilst Cozy Grove feels a lot like Animal Crossing, it isn’t trying to be it. It offers an experience that’s a bit more thoughtful and emotional, with the narrative focus making it more of a world that you get to experience as opposed to build. It’s lovely really and it’s something that you could easily play alongside your adventures with Tom Nook and company as opposed to instead of it. I know I’ll be coming back for more, if only to see what delightful secrets and characters lie further within the island of Cozy Grove itself.
Oh, and let’s not forget that the game is absolutely gorgeous. I loved the hand-drawn style of the world, whilst each character you encounter is so cute and endearing in design that it’s hard not to find yourself instantly attached to them. It’s just a lovely little world to be a part of, and one that’s complimented by a soundtrack that’s befitting of its heart-warming vibe.
Whilst I was a fan of the game, I did run into a few issues on the Nintendo Switch. For one, the frame rate can really stutter in places for no real reason. It’s not as if Cozy Grove is a graphically intense game or anything, so it was something that just felt a little weird. And don’t get me started on the loading times – it was the only thing I dreaded with each daily session.
The issues were certainly annoying, but it IS worth noting that the developers have released a day-one patch to address a lot of the problems. I haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet to see what has been fixed, but they specifically mentioned the loading times and performance so it should be a much smoother experience for those playing from launch.
Cozy Grove offers a whimsical and heart-warming island-life adventure that has completely hooked me in over the last couple of weeks. There’s just something incredibly rewarding about helping out the island folk, whilst the short nature of the charming array of daily tasks ensures that it never feels like a big commitment – it’s just something you can jump into here and there to spring a smile on your face.
Of course, there’s no doubting that the style of play won’t be for everyone, whilst the simplicity of the experience might make Cozy Grove harder for some players to invest themselves in when compared to the likes of Animal Crossing. Those who do dive into its wonderful hand-drawn world are in for a delightful little experience though, and one that I can see myself coming back to for quite some time.
Developer: Spry fox
Publisher: The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Click here to visit the official website.