'Cozy game with consequences' Echoes of the Plum Grove is constantly threatening me with death, taxes, and mean neighbors

Echoes of the Plum Grove - several characters fish from a pool in a town market
(Image credit: Unwound Games)

Echoes of the Plum Grove may be an adorable-looking farm sim, but it's not so much like Stardew Valley as it is like the weird community simulations in Fable and Kynseed. Its two-person development team calls it a "cozy game with consequences," and, sure enough, the only things certain in Honeywood are death and taxes.

Plum Grove does all the usual farm sim stuff: You've come into possession of a small house on an overgrown plot of land where you'll plant seasonal crops or raise livestock to make a living while doing quests and maybe finding love with one of the villagers. But on top of that is a somewhat demanding survival system. Food items perish after a few days, my tools eventually degrade and break, and I'm constantly hungry. I've been staring down the threat of starvation all spring, whipping myself up a "survival salad" every day because it's the only meal I can manage to scrounge up with foraged goods.

(Image credit: Unwound Games)

The winter season is a greater threat than in most farm sims, too. You'll need to prepare enough food to eat, which may mean butchering your cows and drying meat so it doesn't spoil too fast. And if hunger doesn't get you, the spread of disease through the village might. All the while you have weekly tax payments to keep up with. It's a cruel world, but death isn't game over: even if your character dies, you can go on playing as your own children to carry on the legacy.

If you don't want that level of stress in your village, you can pretty much turn off all those survival settings (even player aging) individually within the menu. I decided to turn off item decay and tool durability after I found my pockets stuffed with rotten food and my hoe broke while I didn't have enough coins to buy a pricey new one.

Plum Grove's paper cutout aesthetic filled me with Paper Mario nostalgia, but its setting, inspired by Massachusetts in the 1700s, makes for an awkward historical playground for the cheerful cartoon cutouts. The developers have made mention on social media of doing research on historical outfits and including details like apothecary shelves and legally compulsory house cellars based on what they learned. Honeywood's citizens say things like "godspeed!" while sending their Quaker Oats cosplaying children off to the schoolhouse in buckle shoes. But in the few hours I've played so far the consequences of actual American colonization go conveniently unmentioned because this is a made up island, after all.

(Image credit: Unwound Games)

I've run into some small annoyances with its menus and the fact that it appears to support a gamepad but makes using my tools on objects adjacent to the square I'm standing in nearly impossible without a mouse. But overall Echoes of the Plum grove has given me an amusing first spring as I juggle my empty stomach, empty pockets, and ill-fated pursuit of a spouse.

Adding insult to matrimony 

What I've liked most about Plum Grove is that it packs in a social simulation that's just deep enough for me to get myself into trouble with. I can talk with each townsperson twice a day to gain a small amount of friendship with them, which is tracked in the "village" menu. I can also choose to give them a gift or just insult them. Initially, I couldn't imagine that I'd want to insult anyone—what would be the point? 

But halfway through spring I found myself desperate for any community bulletin board quest that I could complete without crafting materials, which I was sorely lacking thus far. Luckily for me, local old grouch Temperance Crompe had a very simple request for a hardworking farmer: "Be really mean" by insulting 20 villagers for an undisclosed reward. Well, at least I could achieve that for free. 

I rolled up my sleeves and chased down my neighbors all day, doing my best to talk to each villager twice before insulting them in an attempt to offset the friendship loss. But by sunset I'd pretty much nuked my goodwill with the locals. After a hard day of running my mouth I returned to Temperance for my reward: a handful of coal. Great.

(Image credit: Unwound Games)

Being a jerk doesn't pay dividends, apparently. But when I opened the village menu to bemoan the state of my public relations I realized that I had actually maxed out my friendship with three villagers, who, it turns out, all had one thing in common: the "cruel" trait. They actually liked the fact that I'd spent the day telling everyone off!

Those emergent stories that its silly social system can produce are their own kind of enjoyable character journey

One of them was Jack Watt, both "cruel" and a "drunkard," whose brother William I'd been hoping to befriend and marry. They're co-owners of "Brothers Carpentry" and I figured that marrying into the family could benefit my farming plans. I talked to William daily, slowly filling that friendship meter and even giving him one of the fresh fish I'd caught despite the tooltip in my HUD warning me that I was starving. One makes sacrifices for an advantageous marriage, and luckily William loves salmon.

But then the next morning my mean old friend Temperance sent me 100 coins in the mail just for being such good pals. I abandoned my pride and used her mean money to buy myself some real food for once, because every food recipe I knew demanded more than just the handful of turnips I'd harvested. My intended beau William, on the other hand, gifted me a wooden crate. Thanks, Bill. I attempted to return the favor in the form of more seafood, a crayfish this time, but it turns out he dislikes them. My ill-considered gift took a nasty bite out of our friendship and I looked with despair at how William wasn't so keen on me but his jerk brother Jack still thought I was rad from all that insulting I'd done the other day. 

(Image credit: Unwound Games)

In a fit of pique I decided to just insult William instead. Sure enough, it lost me friendship with the man I'd hoped to marry but got me points with his brother. So now I wake up every morning to chat with Jack the cruel carpenter then bully his brother to really butter him up. Oh, and Temperance sent me another 100 coins because we're such great pals. Evil does pay after all. Just wait until I get my hands on the cake that kills anyone who eats it.

Echoes of the Plum Grove won't be one for those that really enjoy the character arcs and friendship cutscenes of Stardew Valley. Its characters are about as flat as their paper aesthetic and most of the dialogue is just them regurgitating facts about one another in a pull-string doll fashion. But for those willing to mess around a bit, those emergent stories that its silly social system can produce are their own kind of enjoyable character journey. 

Echoes of the Plum Grove launched this week and has plans for some upcoming free quality-of-life updates like more pets, a family tree, and modding support.

Lauren Morton
Associate Editor

Lauren started writing for PC Gamer as a freelancer in 2017 while chasing the Dark Souls fashion police and accepted her role as Associate Editor in 2021, now serving as the self-appointed chief cozy games enjoyer. She originally started her career in game development and is still fascinated by how games tick in the modding and speedrunning scenes. She likes long books, longer RPGs, has strong feelings about farmlife sims, and can't stop playing co-op crafting games.