Cozy Grove is a pocket-sized, slow burn project that takes a different approach to how we consume our games. Playing as a Spirit Scout, you are tasked with heading to the small island of Cozy Grove to help bring peace and ease to the ghostly bears that inhabit it, revitalizing the land. Your time there consists of foraging, crafting, exploring, and quest completion - a classic game loop that makes our brains go Ahhh yes the good shit.
You help out your beary-ghostly neighbors to get what are called Spirit Logs, the main resource for narrative progression, but you can only get so many per day. After you've collected what you can, your spirited cohorts mention that you should probably just come back tomorrow, which limits the overall progression of the game drastically. Tack on the strategic unlocking of various mechanics like tools, cooking, etc., Spry Fox explicitly designed Cozy Grove as a spirited little getaway for you to check in on each day. It’s a way for you to cultivate a natural, long term commitment of creating a beautiful thriving island.
Now I will be frank, I've literally only played two days of this game (because it has only been on Switch for two days). I've made very little overall progress as per design and have barely scratched the surface in terms of what can be unlocked. With the daily gameplay sessions averaging at about half an hour by design, although I’ve been putting closer to an hour or two myself, this title is built to be an easy daily commitment that you watch flourish as time goes on.
Your time outside of completing quests and expanding your island consists of things like stocking up on money and resources, or rearranging your place’s furniture and items to redecorate. As you fish and forage, you’ll come across recipes for crafting new items and various components you can collect and donate to one of the NPC’s catalogues (very similar to community centres or museums you may have come across in other games). Along with that, there are items you can place like fruit trees and pets (eyes emoji) that you can harvest various unique resources from. Throw into the ring the adorable outfits and customizing your look at any time, you’re in for an enchanting time.
Cozy Grove feels very special, in the sense that it's purposefully doing the opposite of what the rest of the games industry is. It's grabbing your hand as you go to rush in, and saying "Wait a second, take a moment, really enjoy this". The long-term progression being purposefully halted, so that you can't just power through the narrative and be done with it, creates this intriguing experience that is hard to find anywhere else. Animal Crossing is a close comparison to this title, and very obviously a big inspiration for it, but even then Cozy Grove is built from the ground up to be something you don't dump hours at a time into. It rewards you for your daily visits, while still allowing you that freedom to put in that extra time if you want. You have the freedom to play as long as you like, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll make any significant progress.
It feels like a lot of games these days, and the media surrounding them, push us to consume our video games fast and unstopping, sinking hours and hours into giant RPGs or online games that just eat our time away continuously. As someone who dumps an unholy amount of time into the online game Dead By Daylight, I truly appreciate what Cozy Grove has created; a gameplay experience that balances keeping you just arms length away from the next milestone, and giving you just enough to make sure you come back for more.
Now, if you're the type to start a game and want to burn through it quickly to be done with it - this may not be the title for you. Any kind of time travelling has a chance of corrupting your save, so unless that is a risk you are willing to take, you might want to look elsewhere. I can see how someone might be frustrated with the distinct, halted progression and the timed gatekeeping of this title, and if you think that is something that you will resent, then it might be worth passing on this one. Going in with the proper expectations however, I feel will allow almost anyone the opportunity to sit down and relax with this title on the daily. For the price point and the level of commitment, I truly encourage you to give it a chance.
I will reiterate, I'm on Day 2. But I know myself, and I know that I will be continuing on with it as the days go by. I find myself so enamored with the NPCs and am starting to realize the potential of what's to come on this spooky little island. I love the idea of having this daily routine, and can't wait to continue incorporating it into my life each day.
Maybe after a week or two, or even more, I'll write about my experience over time and see how the long term gameplay has been, but for right now, I am absolutely adoring my time in Cozy Grove. If you are a fan of the Animal Crossing series, or have never played but are interested in a similar concept, Cozy Grove is a great stepping stone into the genre that creates its own unique, whimsical experience I don't think I've found anywhere else.