I thought I'd never get the same satisfaction from a creature collector as I did with Neko Atsume until I played Kamaeru: A Frog Refuge

The wetlands you restore covered in frog-themed furniture in Kamaeru: A Frog Refuge
(Image credit: Humble Reeds)

I love a game that lets you collect creatures of all shapes and sizes, and as someone with an affinity for the more obscure a frog collector was bound to pique my interest. Kamaeru: A Frog Refuge blends farming sim elements with creature collection to create a heartwarming story of conservation for my new amphibious friends, and I fell in love from the second I hopped into its watercolour world. What came next was a feeling of pure joy I haven't had with a creature collector since I downloaded Cat Collector Neko Atsume in 2014. 

Along with letting you design a frog sanctuary, Kamaeru: A Frog Refuge is a cutesy farming sim that encourages you to restore the biodiversity of the wetlands. Between digging ponds and farming crops, you'll use your harvest to create goods to sell and reinvest your profit into your sanctuary. Basically, everything you do is for the benefit of the wetlands, which makes the experience feel more fulfilling. Don't get me wrong, I love the satisfaction of restoring a derelict farm or an abandoned town, but there's something beautiful about watching life return to a natural habitat, which I sometimes miss in farming sims. 

Once you've gone through Kamaeru's simple tutorial, you're left to your own devices, and you have a surprising amount of ground to cover within your sanctuary. This is a refreshing change of pace for someone like me who is used to a single phone screen worth of space in something like Neko Atsume. But this space can't be filled immediately. Because of the way you have to decorate and farm in equal balance, Kamaeru forces you to slow down. It's a very steady process which I'd usually get frustrated about, but once I started placing a few toys and the frogs started visiting I was able to appreciate the game's rhythm.

What I love about games like this, and the reason I loved Neko Atsume so much, is the excitement that comes each time you get new visitors to your site. Waiting for new frogs to appear gives me the same satisfaction as any gacha mechanic since you can never guarantee which variant or species you're about to encounter. There are certain items of furniture that attract specific species of frogs, but you have to learn this as you go along since the game gives few hints as to which frog likes what. 

Once you've established yourself in the area and discovered a variety of frogs, you'll also start delving into the science of different species. From here, you'll learn all about breeding through a mini-game that shakes up the core gameplay. This feeds into completing the appropriately named Frogdex, where you log all the different species you encounter. I found that having this mini-game helped stop Kamareu from ever feeling repetitive, and it's another great way to spend more time among the frogs. 

But even though a lot of my time with Kamaeru was spent fawning over the adorable amphibians I was responsible for, the story is what resonated with me the most. The wetlands you're restoring are more than just any old location. As the game introduces at the start, the wetlands were one of your favourite places to visit in your childhood, but over the years they've been abandoned. Paired with the excitement of getting new frogs to visit, this is all the motivation you need to pour hours of your time into Kamaeru. 

This is what I found separated the love I hold dearly for Neko Atsume from the love I developed for Kamaeru. With Neko Atsume being a very simple mobile game to pick up, there isn't any story to sink its hooks into you. Kamaeru has far more depth, which makes it a lot easier to lose yourself in the restoration process. When you don't want to sit around waiting for frogs, you can switch back to farming, and by the time you've returned, you're bound to have new visitors. With Neko Atsume I would get impatient at how long it took cats to come and visit my garden, but luckily Kamaeru wastes no time in letting you welcome new friends. 

Kamaeru is equal parts emotional and adorable, and it also spreads an important conservation message. If you want a cosy game that doesn't fit into the same mold as the bulk of farming sims, then I cannot recommend Kamaeru: A Frog Refuge enough. 

Kara Phillips
Evergreen Writer

Kara is an evergreen writer. Having spent three years as a games journalist guiding, reviewing, or generally waffling about the weird and wonderful, she’s more than happy to tell you all about which obscure indie games she’s managed to sink hours into this week. When she’s not raising a dodo army in Ark: Survival Evolved or taking huge losses in Tekken, you’ll find her helplessly trawling the internet for the next best birdwatching game because who wants to step outside and experience the real thing when you can so easily do it from the comfort of your living room. Right?