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Friday, June 21, 2024

'Cozy Grove' Doesn’t Shame Me

There are, it seems, endless choices when it comes to gaming. Thanks to increasing backward compatibility, the trend of remastering old games, and a plethora of new titles coming out each week, there’s always something new. That can make it difficult to decide what to play. And it can make it even harder to choose what titles are worth keeping in rotation.

But here’s the problem: I’m really bad at going back and picking up games I stopped playing. And I’m probably not the only one. Ghost of Tsushima was a fantastic game that I only made it about a quarter of the way through because something else piqued my interest. Immortals: Fenyx Rising? Made it all the way to the final mission and got sidetracked. My list of unfinished games is comparable to the list of completed titles—and growing.

There’s one game that defies all of this, though. One game I keep going back to after months of idleness: Cozy Grove.

This game has gotten me through some hard times, to be sure, but it’s not nostalgia or gratitude that keeps me coming back. It’s the fact that it doesn’t shame me for leaving it alone for long periods or demand more of me than I’m able to give.

Cozy Grove also artfully dodges all of my control-memorization woes—it’s so simple, so easy, and so intuitive that there’s never a relearning curve. Whether it’s been a day, a month, or a year, I never forget how to play. The quest display is also comprehensive and easy—there’s never confusion about where I’ve gone, where I should head next, or what I need to get done. I loved Spiritfarer, but it requires players to hold way too much information in their brains during gameplay. I’ll never pick it up again because I have no idea what I was working on when I stopped. The journal in the game is, unfortunately, pretty basic.

That said, Cozy Grove isn’t alone. There are a lot of games that have this kind of easy control mechanism, detailed quest log, and ongoing story to help you settle back into a game after a long time away—Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes to mind. But when I tried to go back to that with the recent DLC, it didn’t stick. The game shamed me for being absent, right down to my villagers’ comments and the roaches in my house. Guilt trips aren’t gaming.

The characters in Cozy Grove also keep me attached. The premise of the game is that you’re a Spirit Scout sent to an island to help a bunch of ghost bears move on to the afterlife. As I’ve run errands for the bears (how many goddamn fish do you need, Captain Snout?), I’ve gotten to know them. I’ve come to care about them and their stories, and I want to know the truth behind each of their journeys.

It’s bittersweet, and even sad, but it’s surprisingly rewarding, considering you’re just gathering a bunch of fruit and sticks and rocks a lot of the time. Honestly, I’d feel terrible not seeing the story through because at this point, I’m invested in these bears finding closure, even if it’s all made up.

The bottom line is that Cozy Grove works the way I need it to and doesn’t demand more than I can give (or remember). It feels like the perfect game for my weird little brain, and it’s nice to know it’s there when I need it.

Excuse me, the bears are calling my name.

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