Cozy Grove Review (Switch)
Release Date: April 8, 2021
File Size: 853MB
Publisher: The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild
Developer: Spry Fox
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
Version Reviewed: 1.6.2
With the boom of simulation games, it can be hard to stand out amongst the vast amount of games released. You need a mixture of a great gameplay loop, great art, and lovable characters to not just leave an impact, but also to keep people playing your game. With the release of Cozy Grove, just how cozy of an experience does the game provide to its player? Let’s find out!
You play as a young Spirit Scout looking to help guide spirits to the afterlife. There are a variety of characters that appear the more that you play, each with their own backstory. Some characters, such as Francesca DuClaw and Allison Fisher are more than happy to see you while others, like Charlotte Pine and Octavia Cubbins, will need a bit of time to warm up to you.
Each character will give you a task to complete each day. By completing these tasks, you will hear a bit more about their individual stories. Some days will be just simple statements about how they are feeling, and these days are typically accompanied by basic tasks. With more time-consuming tasks (those that do not have a timer), there is usually a bit more to chew on when it comes to learning about these characters.
Along with the individual stories, there is also a little bit of background being told via letters from the post office from your Scoutmaster. They start off with assuring you that you will definitely be rescued but with each passing day, I can’t help but wonder if the Scoutmaster is truly doing his absolute best to get his Spirit Scout off this haunted island.
Cozy Grove is a real-time simulation game where you complete tasks for the inhabitants of Cozy Grove in order to help them pass on to the next life. These tasks will either be finding specific items scattered across the island (character-specific or commonly found), or creating specific items. To complete said tasks, you are either going to gather, fish, or craft (by handing off ingredients to specific characters or burning specific items using your friend, Flamey).
By completing a task, the character will give you a reward. This reward can be money (to buy more items/clothes/storage space), decoration items, spirit logs (used to expand the island and potentially unlock more characters), or character-specific items that will be requested by an inhabitant at some point. After you complete a task, a little bit of one of the hearts over a character’s head will fill up and the area around them will be painted with color. This color will typically be gone the next day, but it will always come back once you fulfill another task for them.
One main concern that I found as I was going through the motions had to do with the item drops. As you progress, you will find that some characters will ask for very rare items, or just a large amount of items. Even if you are heavily gathering every single day, you will reach a point where you are going to have to wait a day or two (or more, if your luck is just really bad) to turn in a quest. For people who time travel, that perhaps isn’t much of an issue. But if you’re just looking to play casually, but also like having the satisfying feeling of turning in a quest, there will be times where you just can’t.
With gathering, you have a wide variety of tools to help collect a lot of materials. Unfortunately, these tools will take up inventory space. All tools except for the fishing rod will eventually be upgradable, which will happen via a task from one of the inhabitants. You will get a shovel to dig up sand pits, a machete to cut down vine patches, a pickaxe to mine, a dowsing rod to locate relics, and a fishing rod to fish. Outside of those tools for gathering, you will also be able to gather from leaf/sand/stick piles or from fruit trees/bushes without the use of tools.
The materials that you can find from gathering will range widely. Typically, you will find different types of wood, vegetables, fruits, fungi, etc. Each of these items vary in rarity, with the rarer items being harder to find typically. And while it may seem like you aren’t able to find that specific mushroom or wood, just keep hunting because eventually you will be able to find it. But, of course, if you’re still having problems finding a material, you may be able to use your excess of another resource to craft (ex. using your sticks to make softwood, or recycling your hardwood to create softwood).
Gathering spots (piles, pits, and vine patches) do tend to regenerate at a decent pace, so if you want to spend more time gathering, the game does let you do so. However, other gathering spots, like rocks, trees, and bushes, will only regenerate after a set amount of days.
As for crafting, you have two ways of performing it. As you unlock more of the island, there will be specific characters that will be able to create items for you. First is Flamey, who is there right from the beginning. Using the power of its flame, you can burn items to create other materials. For instance, to create ingots, you just need to throw iron, silver, or gold nuggets into Flamey and he’ll spit out the newly created items to you. There are quite a few items you can make right off the bat, like fish bones (used mainly to fix broken tools), and food dishes.
Your other form of crafting will come from the inhabitants of Cozy Grove. While you only start off with one inhabitant, as you unlock more of the island, new characters will appear and with them, different additions to the game. Jeremy Gruffle, a maker bear, will be your main crafter when it comes to building furniture, tools, and materials. Allison Fisher, a baker bear, will help to fix the more complex food dishes that Flamey is not able to create with its simple flame.
The actual crafting in this game is by no means deep, so don’t get your hopes up for something substantial. You will primarily be spending your time gathering materials and then handing them off to the respective characters who are able to craft the item that you want.
There isn’t much to fishing in Cozy Grove. Unlike the other tools, which can be used even if they are not being directly held in your hand, your fishing rod will need to be equipped in your hand slot. Afterwards, you’ll need to hit the R2 button to first take aim. You’ll want to cast your line far out enough that it won’t end up hitting the ground right in front of you (in the cases where the fish might be a bit close to the shore), but also close enough to the fish that it will divert its attention towards your bobber.
Afterwards, hit R2 again to let out your line and wait to see if the fish’s attention is attracted. I have found that if the fish’s attention isn’t captured right off the bat, it’s better to just reel your line back in and recast. Once the fish has focused on the line, it will hit at the bobber until it latches on, causing the controller to rumble. At that point, you would just hit the A button and wait for your character to reel the line back in. For those familiar with Animal Crossing, it’s a similar experience. Definitely not the deepest fishing mechanic, but relaxing enough for a simulation game.
Simply put, Cozy Grove is absolutely gorgeous. The general area without color looks reminiscent of a sketchbook where all of the lines have been inked masterfully. It leaves a comforting, if not a bit sad, feeling. But the game truly comes to life when you are able to light up the island by completing tasks and putting down more lamps. Colors slash across the screen like watercolors. Stylistically, Cozy Grove definitely stands out from simulation games in the same gameplay vein.
Of course, you are able to customize your Spirit Scout, both in general appearance and even with outfits. General appearance wise, I do wish there were a bit more choices, specifically with the hair. While the choices available are all cute, it would have been nice to have a bit more variety. The clothing choices, however, help make up for this oversight by being just the cutest.
You are also able to decorate your island. While you can’t move any of the items already placed by other inhabitants, you can place any decorations you acquire anywhere on the island. This gives a nice way to really make Cozy Grove your home and differentiate your game from other players. Storage space is limited, though, so if you’re looking to do major redecorating, be ready to do some hopping between your bag storage, camp storage, and the cold, hard ground if you want to get things just right.
I have experienced a few stuttering and lagging issues, most of which have been addressed since the time of this review. The difference between launch and its current form is vastly improved, however, but keep that in mind if performance issues can be a deal breaker.
Cozy Grove overall left a lovely impression on me, although it is not without its quirks. The gameplay loop is both lacking and limited; after finishing tasks for the NPCs, there’s not much for you to do outside of gathering and crafting more materials. To progress, you’ll either need to time travel (go forward a day on your Switch’s internal clock) or wait until the next day to get a set of new tasks. Another downside is the storage aspect. Compared to when the game first launched, the developers have increased the storage size, so it’s not quite as limited. Still, with the large amount of materials available, you may find yourself running low on space depending on how far you dive into gathering.
The art is definitely this Cozy Grove’s highest note, with a lot of love and care being put into the presentation. The characters, while kind of stuck in their own bubble when it comes to characteristics, are cute and quirky. It’s a nice experience, but not really an RPG. While the island’s inhabitants have more depth to them compared to similar games, such as Animal Crossing, there isn’t much beyond the individual character arcs that would potentially pull it into RPG territory (and even that is a stretch). Regardless, for those looking for a relaxing game to sit down and play casually, Cozy Grove will definitely fill that hole.