Developer: Spry Fox LLC
Release Date: April 8, 2021
In a pretty significant departure from how I’ve been playing most of the games for this project, I’ve been playing Cozy Grove daily for just under two months. Although this has led to a much higher than usual playtime of approximately 30 hours thus far, I expect I’m still pretty far off from seeing everything the game has to offer.
This is because Cozy Grove operates on a real-time system, designed for long term play. This is not usually a format I embrace. I like to be able to play a game as much or as little as I want, and honestly, feel like time gates in a single player non-competitive game are a bit ridiculous. At least Animal Crossing: New Horizons has a multiplayer component – this title has none, but it does warn you pretty sternly about screwing with your system clock for a bit of time travelling.
I found the premise interesting enough to overcome my apprehension about the real time mechanics. You play as a Spirit Scout, left on a (kind of) deserted island to help the spirits there in whatever way you can. You start out with nothing more than a small campsite, a tiny backpack, and a can-do attitude. The main progression mechanic is the collection of Spirit Logs, usually given to you upon completion of a quest, which are fed to your campfire and – at certain breakpoints – expand upon the island, leading to the discovery of more spirits to help.
I’ve been playing Cozy Grove daily with my morning coffee, and if you play as casually as I have, you’ll spend the first few weeks with just a handful of spirits to help. Mechanics are drip-fed slowly, so you’re unlikely to every feel overwhelmed by systems, and every few days, there’s something new to play around with. If you’re diligent in doing quests and feeding your fire, by the end of your first month, you’ll have discovered quite a few ways to interact with the spirits and the world.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll also soon discover that the biggest annoyance is not the enforced snail’s pace of progression, but the limitations of your inventory space. Both your backpack and your campsite storage start out far too small for the amount of things there are to interact with and collect, and even this far in, I find myself wishing for more carry capacity and storage. I’m not sure if your storage is infinitely expandable (assuming you have the currency available to pour into it), but my backpack has been stuck at 28 slots for quite awhile now, and I expect that’s going to be the maximum.
I tend to be a hoarder when playing this type of game, but it’s impossible to keep everything you might possibly need down the line. The game will tell you when you’re carrying a unique quest item that you need to hold onto, but sometimes, those items have sat in my inventory for weeks before I’ve gotten the quest to hand them over. You also have about a half-dozen required tools to juggle, and a lot of your daily game play is going to be spend collecting specific items for the spirits on the island. This would be slightly less annoying if there weren’t required story quests that asked for an almost obscene amount of resources considering how much you can gather daily is also restricted. If you sell everything you don’t need today, you could easily spend weeks re-gathering when one of these quests shows up.
I’ve finally reached a point where inventory is significantly less of a problem (although I still find myself running back to my old friend Flamey to store things several times in a half hour or so of play). The day I discovered that a certain resource that you’ll receive in abundance was able to be recycled into an immense pile of cash was pretty great – it allowed me to upgrade both my storage several times, and the in-game shop. Unfortunately, I had to get through several weeks worth of tedium and annoyance to reach that part.
Now, I realize I’m doing a lot of complaining, but I am still playing daily. I certainly don’t need to – I’m far past where I feel like I need to be to do a write-up on this one. I really like the fact that you can achieve meaningful progression in a fairly short amount of time, and that it’s also pretty clear when you’ve done what the game expects of you for the day. Which is not to say there’s nothing else you can do after completing your handful of completable quests – especially if you’re a person who enjoys cosmetic customization & environmental optimization you could easily spend a few hours some days just working on that. I personally have just been plunking down the myriad of decorations I’ve stumbled across wherever I can, and only ever changing my clothes on Saturdays when the character with the clothing-changing quest shows up.
My weakness is collectibles. There is one spirit – who you unlock fairly early on – who you can visit to turn in new-to-you items the first time you encounter them. Each new item that you give him grants you a reward, usually a form of currency and sometimes other items or recipes. There are also badges to be earned for interacting with the different activities in the game. Both of these things serve as secondary progression mechanics that I personally find to be satsifying.
I wasn’t sure going into Cozy Grove if the bits I like would be enough to push me past the bits that I find annoying, but so far, other than the first week or so, it’s fallen squarely on the side of “mostly enjoyable”. It does avoid the pitfall of having aspects of the game only available at certain times of day, so whether you prefer to play in the morning, at lunch, or before bed, you won’t be missing out on any critical game play elements. There’s definitely more here for gamers who like to decorate and play around with cosmetics, but if you’re content to only do as much as you’re allowed every day, there’s plenty of game here, with new collectibles appearing with both progression and with the change of the seasons. You could easily play Cozy Grove for months, if not years, before truly running out of things to do, just not for more than an hour or two per day.
Here’s yet another example of cozy gaming continuing to thrive. SteamDB estimates somewhere between 81,300 and 223,700 people own Cozy Grove on Steam. A combination of good sale and good reviews have given it a rank of 491 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.