Cozy Grove is a heartwarming life-sim game about death and moving on. You play as a rookie Spirit Scout who is tasked with helping a community of restless souls come to terms with their passing. While Cozy Grove liberally draws inspiration from Animal Crossing, it carves out its own identity with its laid-back world and more relaxed approach to gameplay.
On the surface, there isn’t much separating Cozy Grove from the games that inspired it. You do much of the same activities here as well. This includes creating a collection of random items, going fishing, hunting for resources and decorating your home space. However, what separates Cozy Grove is how the player’s actions creates a noticeable change on the island.
When you’re first dropped off on the island, the land is completely washed of any color. Color is important in Cozy Grove as you can’t interact with your environment until it’s been colored. Think of it as like an elaborate coloring book, and this is where you come in.
By placing decorative lights and helping spirits out on the island, sections of the island become colorful again and come back to life. Its all part of how Cozy Grove demonstrates the player’s progress without waving a percentage bar in front of you. Cozy Grove respects the player’s time and makes sure that your actions have meaning behind them.
Time and patience are the main pillars of Cozy Grove’s design philosophy. As the developers have stated themselves, Cozy Grove isn’t meant to be a game where you grind countless hours in a single day. There are no time-limited deals or events you are pressured to take advantage of. Instead, Cozy Grove encourages the player to go at their own pace.
Play sessions in Cozy Grove are meant to be handled in 20 to 30 minute increments a day. The primary way you progress through the story is by burning spirit logs. On Cozy Grove, there is a community of ghost bears, each with their own stories and personalities.
Your job is to help them come to terms with their passing by helping them remember their past. Each day, ghostly members of Cozy Grove will have a task for you to complete. Once you complete said task, they reward you with a spirit log that you can burn at Flamey — your sentient campfire companion.
You are only able to burn three spirit logs a day, meaning the best way to make progress in Cozy Grove isn’t through hour long sessions, but rather by making Cozy Grove a short part of your daily routine. In turn, it makes the relationships you build with characters in Cozy Grove more meaningful.
Unlike other games, completing a few side quests isn’t going to make a character give up their life story to you. You must work for it in Cozy Grove by being patient, and that is the core of what makes Cozy Grove so enjoyable to play. The characters you work with are fun, quirky and endearing in their own way. Whether it’s a nature loving bear who’s convinced she’s a tree or a baker who believes red velvet cupcakes are made from ketchup, these characters are adorable and compelling and what makes Cozy Grove worth returning to each day.
Fostering these relationships is a commitment not in the sense of time but how you remain consistent and patient. However, these relationships are worth pursuing not only for the little character moments but also for how each of the members of Cozy Grove helps you. For example, Charlotte the former Scoutmaster will provide tips on hidden quest objects if you’re stuck, and the sea captain will reward you with recipes and decorations for your campsite. By helping the citizens of Cozy Grove, you start to see a community come back together.
The only thing that hampers Cozy Grove is its technical limitations. The game suffers from quite a bit of stuttering on PS4, and the initial loading screen is lengthy. It also has a severe pop-in issues, especially when the player is running.
Bushes and trees rapidly pop into existence as you dash from one side of the island, and this can impact your immersion with the game. Cozy Grove may look like an Animal Crossing game, but it unfortunately lacks the polish of one.
Cozy Grove is rewarding in how it lets the player enjoy the relaxed vibes of its world. There’s an atmosphere of peace and mindfulness in Cozy Grove with its dreamy soundtrack and storybook visuals, and these elements come together to forge a world you just want to exist in.
While clunky in terms of its gameplay, there is also genuine love and heart in this game and one of the few games out there that wants to foster healthy playing habits with its players. Cozy Grove may not stand head-to-head with its peers, but if you give it a chance, it can be a wonderful addition to your home library.
Review code provide by Popagenda. Game reviewed on a PlayStation 4.