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Meet ghost bears, a talking campfire, and the best merchant ever in Cozy Grove

Cozy Grove
(Image credit: The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild)

An island littered with dead bears doesn't sound like it'd be a cozy place, but it mostly is. I've spent some time with Cozy Grove today, an Animal Crossing-ish life-sim where you play a scout camping on an island where a horrifying bear massacre took place at some point in the past. (That's not canon or anything, but I assume it was a massacre because the island is home to a surprising number of ghost bears.)

I haven't unraveled all the details yet, but the ghosts are (so far) pretty darn friendly and upbeat considering they're deceased, and they're certainly keeping me busy with tasks and chores. As you help the ghost bears with their needs, which usually involves finding some lost items on the busy little island, they'll become happier and the island around them will become more colorful, encouraging more ghosts to appear.

There's a bird-bear (not an owlbear) working as a ship's captain, who wants some extra feathers to help him keep warm. A postman bear wants some packages found and returned, which will result in a post office opening on the island. Another ghost bear can help you out with crafting items, and one can provide hints if you're having trouble finding items hidden in the world. 

To help you out as you explore and hunt for lost items, you can dig things up with a little shovel, search through piles of leaves, shake trees to dislodge fruit, and cook items in your sentient campfire to create new resources. It's all completely adorable, and a soothing soundtrack makes the experience even more relaxing.

My favorite thing about Cozy Grove is that I've finally met a video game merchant who actually pays decent money for stuff. In RPGs I'm used to cooking up a bunch of food and bringing it to a vendor and them being like, "Cool, here's 2 gold." But I took some cooked vegetables to the merchant in Cozy Grove—he's not a dead bear but a living fox with a mouse sitting on his head, though he must be part bear because he's enormous—and he gave me almost 2,000 coins for them. Thanks, enormous fox! You're officially the best merchant in a game, ever.

(Image credit: The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild)

Along with fetching items for ghosts you can earn coins by selling your stuff to the merchant and buy things like new outfits, scarves, and hats, and you can work on improving your own campsite, which begins as just a bedroll but can be upgraded into a tent and then a cabin. But progress isn't something you can just sit there and grind out. 

As Rachel noted in her preview, Cozy Grove takes place in real time and there are some quests that can't be completed in a single session. For instance, my talking campfire likes to dine on ghost logs (those are logs that are also ghosts, seriously, what the hell happened on this island?) that I'm given when I help out a deceased bear with some task. My campfire asked for six logs, and I've got five, but I can't get the final spectral log until tomorrow, as in, the actual tomorrow. There are still activities like fishing, gathering, and cooking I can do, but I can't just sit there grinding through the Cozy Grove's little quests without coming back another day.

(Image credit: The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild)

And maybe that's ultimately good? Much as we like to mainline games for hours at a time, it can be nice (and is probably healthier) to play a game for a half-hour or so and then check back in a day later for another short session. According to the developer, there's 40+ hours of Cozy Grove, and in bite-sized sessions it's "designed to span months of playtime."

I'm not sure Cozy Grove is exactly my jam, but it's awfully cute and if you're looking for an Animal Crossing style game on PC, this is one you should keep in mind. It's available now on Steam and The Epic Store.

Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring stories in RPGs so he can make up his own.