One of the things that makes Animal Crossing so special is it’s soothing. There aren’t a lot of other games like it; it’s laid-back and comforting in a way that most games aren’t. Sometimes it can feel less like a game and more like a relaxing space to hang out in. But now that New Horizons has been out for more than a year, you may be looking for something just a little different. Cozy Grove might be just the thing: it has much of what makes Animal Crossing so great but in a tighter package. Also, there are lots of ghosts.
Much like New Horizons, Cozy Grove drops you on a seemingly uninhabited island with the goal of turning it into a bustling town. The difference is that in Cozy Grove, the island used to be inhabited. And it still kind of is. When you first arrive, it’s mostly devoid of color and life. But eventually, you’ll meet a few ghosts, and as you help them out, life will slowly return. You’re helped out by a sentient campfire — reminiscent of Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle — who constantly wants to eat something called spirit wood.
What you actually do in the game is very similar to Animal Crossing. You can catch fish, gather fruit, collect seashells, and craft new tools and items to decorate your campsite. There are no time limits or penalties for failure. But Cozy Grove is a bit more structured. The ghosts, which are all adorable animals, will ask for very specific things, like finding some lost earmuffs or catching fish for dinner. You can do a handful of these tasks each day, which will earn you some spirit wood; feed enough to your fire, and the island will grow.
It’s a good system for those who need that extra bit of structure, and Cozy Grove also does something unexpected: it encourages you to log off. There are only a handful of quests each day, and they’ll probably take you less than 30 minutes to complete. After that you’re free to do what you want — fish, decorate, craft — but the game makes it clear that you can’t progress any further until the next day. It’s always nice when a game is respectful of your time. Just like Animal Crossing, Cozy Grove has turned into a habit for me, a nice space to dip into for a brief period each day. It helps that its hand-drawn world is incredibly charming. There’s even some hilarious writing and lore to dig into if you really want.
Cozy Grove is available now through Apple Arcade, and I’ve found it to be a perfect fit for mobile. Once I get a notification that new quests are available, I hop into the game for 20 minutes, and then I’m done. It might be the most peaceful part of my day. For those who don’t subscribe to Apple’s gaming service, Cozy Grove is also coming to the Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC on April 8th.