How Cozy Grove's Bear Ghosts Are Better Than Animal Crossing's Villagers
Cozy Grove is inhabited by adorable, ghostly bears. Unlike Animal Crossing's villagers, these bears actually help players with daily tasks.
Much like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, fantasy slice-of-life game Cozy Grove deposits the main character, a "Spirit Scout" tasked with helping ghosts pass on to the afterlife, on a deserted island with little more than a tent and a (sentient) fire. The ghostly bears Cozy Grove's protagonist must befriend and aid are different than Animal Crossing's villagers, however, as they have intriguing backstories and provide vital assistance with daily tasks around the island.
The ghost bears of Cozy Grove each have a special skill the main character can make use of after completing certain tasks. There are bears to help with many typical simulation game tasks, like cooking, making tools, and even sending mail. Each bear has a unique personality and backstory to unravel throughout Cozy Grove's real-time gameplay. By helping the ghost bears remember parts of their past, the main character brings color and light back to the island as a way to mark progress through the story.
The are much less important to its gameplay. While there is a large number to select from, players can only have 10 island residents at any time, and each player's selection of villagers usually comes down to superficial characteristics, like appearance and a very basic personality. Animal Crossing villagers can give players gifts or DIY recipes, but they don't influence daily gameplay. They can even be left alone for days at a time while the player does other things. Villagers also lack backstory, relying on simple catchphrases and unique home layouts to express their personalities. This can make relationships with villagers feel shallow, and interactions often boil down to a single line of conversation.
Because Cozy Grove requires players to spend more time getting to know the bear ghosts on the island, the relationships forged with its NPCs can grow deeper than most connections to an Animal Crossing villager. Each bear ghost has a story and a set of troubles and quirks that are more than just a generic "Preppy" or "Sassy" personality. The complexity of each individual character in Cozy Grove encourages players to log in every day and continue advancing the narrative.
It isn't likely will ever flesh out its villagers with personal backstories, so fans of simulations games and deeper narratives will likely enjoy Cozy Grove. Its balance of storytelling and simulation-style mechanics creates a great experience for those who like crafting and collecting, but it also provides a better understanding of the player's virtual world than Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
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