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If You Loved Animal Crossing But Wanted Less Capitalism & More Ghosts, Cozy Grove Is Your Game

A spirit scout and a bear roast smores together in Cozy Grove

It was just over a year ago, right at the start of the global pandemic we’re all still living through, that our collective obsession with Animal Crossing: New Horizons consumed us. It was exactly what we needed: a soothing game that filled our days with constant manageable tasks, that was as mundane or as intensely creative as we chose to make it, and that even gave us an opportunity to visit and collaborate with friends.

A year later, Cozy Grove feels like the natural spiritual successor to ACNH, based on where we are now vs. where we all were then. As the title suggests, this game is, in fact, very cozy. But rather than animal visitors looking to put down roots, this island is populated by a number of friendly ghost-bears (and a sprinkling of other ghost animals) who need your help remembering who they were in life.

You are a helpful Spirit Scout and every day you have a variety of tasks to perform on your haunted, ever-changing island. Some are practical, like gathering supplies or helping the ghost of a hard-drinking seagull ship captain ease his hangover. But you also need to help these bears recover memories of their lives.

With every success, the gray ghost and their habitat are filled with color. Over the course of a day with each task completed and memory retrieved, you turn a gray island into a colorful landscape and bring a bit of piece to the bears. And every morning, the color has been drained and the island and you start again.

If you can’t tell, there’s a faint undercurrent of sadness running through this game. The humor, too, has a bit of an edge to it, which makes sense given that it was co-written by the creator of the brilliant anti-billionaire game You Are Jeff Bezos. Take the friendly mail carrier ghost who reminds you that it’s important to make friends. “What if you get sick and need to crowdfund your appendectomy?! Friendship = Survival,” you’re advised. “Especially if you want to survive late-stage capitalism.”

Honestly, after a year of failing to ever win big in the Stalk Market and trying to pay down my debts to Tom Nook, I adore my cozy little socialist island retreat.

Really, my only issue with the game is that there often just isn’t enough of it to play. This is deliberate, as the game is designed to be played in fairly brief chunks, twenty minutes to an hour or so a day. You only have so many tasks to gather and complete in a day (which, like ACNH, passes in real-time) and after that, you can mine materials or fish or reorganize your campsite but ultimately, you have to listen to the advice of the ghost bears, who repeatedly tell you you must be patient. They are right, of course, as the ghost bears always are. It’s okay to take things slow.

To developer Spry Fox’s credit, I used to have other issues with the game. But the small studio has been incredibly attentive to players’ feedback over the last few weeks that the game has been live. They are constantly making updates, fixing glitches and improving the gameplay in small but hugely impactful ways.

Cozy Grove is only $15 and is available on a number of platforms (Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, Steam, Epic Games Store, Apple Arcade) so go ahead and treat yourself. You deserve a little coziness and a lot of ghost friends.

(image: Spry Fox)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.