It is hard not to write a review about Cozy Grove without drawing comparisons with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. But the comparison is like comparing the living world with the spirit world–and during the month of Halloween, Cozy Grove gives that extra spice. Personally, Cozy Grove is like a warm blanket wrapped around me, making it so much better on many levels. I would much rather make friends with a ghost bear on a haunted island than trade beetroot with a racoon any day.
What is Cozy Grove?
Cozy Grove is a life-sim game with camping on a haunted island. It fits perfectly within the same popular genre as Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Stardew Valley. You play as a Spirit Scout, wandering around the island and meeting the local ghosts. With each new friend you help, you gain badges and rewards, along with the personal satisfaction of improving this quaint little place.
When you first start to play Cozy Grove, you’re presented with beautifully hand-drawn but washed out scenery. As you help various ghosts, it all starts to fill out with texture and color. Your character is rewarded with their own acknowledgement along with the visible improvement in the area. It is a brilliant way to show how good deeds can make the world a better place without being too preachy about it.
There is one really big feature to distinguish Cozy Grove from AC: NH–and it’s not just the Halloween-cozy vibes. It is the time mechanic within the game. Most games are designed to hook you for as long as possible, always wanting more of my time so I don’t spend it with other games or things. Cozy Grove does the exact opposite. To put it simply, Cozy Grove wants me to visit but have a life too. This alone makes it perfect for our 31 Days of Halloween Games because you will want to play it a lot over this ghostly season. But it also makes it a really great game to play overall.
Short but Sweet Visits
Cozy Grove, like other games in the genre, operates in real-time, changing from day to night as you do. Each day, there are a new set of tasks given to players to help move you around the island and complete quests. However, unlike AC: NH, there is no big push for you to be forever checking the game. The majority of the tasks in Cozy Grove can be completed within 30-60 minutes. Once you’re finished, Flamey tells you there’s no more spirit wood and you can come back tomorrow. Sure, you can hang around to check out the fishing but that’s about it.
I am a HUGE fan of clear and distinct signposts for breaks in games. For more on this, check out my previous article, Gaming is Good for Your Health (presented at PAX Aust 2019). TL;dr: For a game to qualify as “helping”, it needs to have regular “save points” or milestones so that you can limit your play, stop there, and be rewarded for your accomplishment. Cozy Grove does exactly this in a warm and positive way. It is a genuine slow burn, unfolding with a cozy narrative to keep you going beyond Halloween.
There are some gamers who will not appreciate this timed approach. There have been a few reviews expressing frustration and feeling stunted in their gameplay. For some, it has felt like a hard block at the end of the 30-minutes. If you’re looking for a game to give you neverending action and entertainment, I have a bunch more games to share with you this month. However, if you are looking for a game with Halloween-vibes and a comfy blanket, Cozy Grove is for you.
Doesn’t it Look Cozy?
If you’re going to go for a cozy aesthetic, the soft artistic palette of Cozy Grove is definitely the way to go. It starts out with lots of greys but eventually, your success fills it with color and warmth perfect for the Halloween season. The downside is it is all washed away before the next day. Your everyday tasks are to bring the island back to life but you also need to remember you are working with the dead. It’s kind of a catch-22 situation. It’s not that your work is undone each night; it is more a realisation you are there to help the dead but not change them back to the living.
Important to note here, this is going to cause an issue for anyone with color-blindness or weak eyesight. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish details within the imagery, such as items hidden beneath leaves or even the leaves themselves. It will be easy to miss items. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any quick fixes for this but I would love to hear from other players via our social media platforms (tag @geekmomblog on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram).
As far as the sim details go, Cozy Grove does not offer as much individual detail as other games. You can customize your character for some self-representation but is it mostly limited to colors and hairstyles. It’s a reminder you are still playing a character in the story rather than placing yourself directly into the game. It’s a little unusual for a sim-based game. Not a dealbreaker but noticeable.
The music compliments the scenery perfectly, giving an all-around perfect experience. Cozy Grove is one of those few games where the images and sounds can instantly transport you into the game without any need for a warm-up in the title scene. It gives far more value for the time you spend in the game, complementing the minimal time demanded of you.
Cozy Grove is a Warm Hug When You Come Home
I absolutely love this game and think it is perfect for Halloween gaming (and beyond). Cozy Grove is not going to guilt you when you don’t visit for a day or a week. There is no shame in ‘abandoning the island’. And best of all, there is no pressure to give Cozy Grove all of your time all of the time. In fact, this game feels like it was made for my benefit and not as a purpose. It’s weird to explain but once you settle into the cozy short bursts of gaming, Cozy Grove is a feel-good game ready to be played when you want to play. Think of it as a final cup of cocoa at the end of a long day.
Cozy Grove is currently available on Nintendo Switch, Steam, PS4, iOS Arcade, Epic Games, and XBox One. No compensation was received for this review.
Score: 4.5 out of 5 fully-stocked wagon shops