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Cozy Grove: Camp Spirit is more of the same, in a good way

When David Edery, co-founder and studio director of Spry Fox, and his team set out to create a second Cozy Grove game, they wanted to mirror the first game, but “bigger and better.” The concept of the original game and the new sequel, Cozy Grove: Camp spiritis simple: every day you check on the bear spirits in the camp and help them complete tasks in exchange for wares and spirit blocks, which feed and grow your fire, Flamey.

If Flamey eats enough logs, new parts of the island will be unlocked, with new ghosts residing there. Each day you help the spirits return color to their parts of the map, learning stories about their lives along the way. Interactive elements such as piles of leaves, fish and insects are randomly regenerated on the map, making the same areas intriguing to explore even after months of play.

Image: Spry Fox/Netflix via Polygon

And if completing the satisfying task and searching for food isn’t enough to keep you interested, the story probably will. As a human camper from another realm, the player is in a unique position to help the ghostly bears, who share very human stories of loss, regret and fear. Their stories are written in funny dialogue that only serves to make them even more beloved – not to mention the sweet symbolism of the way they are illustrated, cast into cube shapes and mixed with items from their past lives.

As Edery said during a press conference Cozy Grove: Camp spirit, the games are not necessarily for children. In the new game, developed by Spry Fox and published by Netflix, an NPC talks about their struggle to communicate with their immigrant mother who speaks a different language. Another struggles with deep betrayal by his business partner.

Bunch says, “Look at that!  The image of my past is starting to take shape.”

Bundle shares about their past.
Image: Spry Fox/Netflix via Polygon

However, the gameplay is largely the same between the two games Camp spirit includes many new elements and mini-games, such as hosing down dirty buildings – and Edery said the studio plans to continue updating Camp spirit because it learns more about how people play the game. (It has no plans to keep the original Cozy grove currently updated, for the record.)

Spry Fox certainly accomplished what it set out to do by expanding the game while fixing some of the original engine’s quirks that led to limitations and bugs. Camp spirit for example, includes several buildings – not just your own tent, which was the only interior Cozy grove.

“By taking the time to rebuild large portions of the Cozy Grove codebase, we have unlocked the ability to add more interior spaces and even entirely new islands to the game, should we choose,” Edery wrote in a email to Polygon. Those interiors, like the inside of Orsina’s caves or the wrapped remains of Kumari’s failed business, leave room for new artwork that you wouldn’t see in the rest of the game, which takes place outdoors.

Kumari is standing in her business, which is located in a tree trunk.  Cardboard boxes and a conveyor belt decorate the room.

The inside of Kumari’s company.
Image: Spry Fox/Netflix via Polygon

The updated code also makes something possible Cozy grove players have wanted: multiplayer for years. While I wasn’t able to test the multiplayer before launch, the game introduced me to its mechanics through NPCs. Players can see their friends on their islands asynchronously (for example, you can team up with them to collect better items at any time, not just when the other player is online).

There are still a few of those minor issues that occurred in the original game, such as the occasional frame skip. But the biggest problem with Cozy Grove: Camp spirit has nothing to do with the game at all; it’s about the platform and the publisher.

The only way to play Cozy Grove: Camp spirit currently this is done by downloading the game from your app store and logging into your Netflix account when the app is launched. If you don’t have a Netflix subscription, you won’t be able to play the game.

There’s little point in criticizing Spry Fox for this – Netflix acquired the studio outright in October 2022 – and Edery described the relationship as “a safe haven in the storm” of the current games industry. According to Edery, the Netflix deal meant that the developers and designers didn’t have to worry much about things like marketing the game – a huge win for what was once a small indie game.

But the way Netflix has decided to launch the game means it’s currently only available on mobile (iOS and Android). To play Cozy Grove: Camp spirityou must first download the Netflix app and log in. Then go to games and click Camp spiritand download the game, logging in to Netflix again.

I tested Camp spirit on my iPhone 15, using my touchscreen as a controller. Often things go well. It’s also often tight, if not occasionally frustrating. My finger covers the grid when I use Decoration mode to place items, and the UI overlaps itself during certain actions, I assume due to the size of my screen.

Cozy Grove: Camp Spirit UI shows the backpack open and a mole taco image overlapping with the task management bar.

The UI becomes busy during certain actions, such as learning a new crafting recipe.
Image: Spry Fox/Netflix via Polygon

The optional zoomed out view makes this a bit better as you traverse your island, but it bugs me that I couldn’t choose from the start to launch my game on Steam for a larger screen and WASD controls. (For what it’s worth, this is coming from someone who plays mobile games every day.)

“I can say that we absolutely want Cozy Grove to be available on all platforms where Netflix is ​​active, which of course includes TVs and PCs/Macs in the long term,” Edery told Polygon.

In terms of input, Edery says you can play with any controller compatible with your mobile device, or even an Apple Pencil. In the past, Polygon reporter Nicole Carpenter has posited that the original game was actually better on mobile, and Edery said the numbers back that up: “Given how well Cozy Grove did on Apple Arcade, I think a lot of people are I’d rather play with touch on a phone.”

These complaints aside, I can’t stress enough that if you already have a Netflix account, you’ll want to play this game. The grind-to-fun ratio is excellent, and there’s so little pressure to log in that it actually motivates me to log in more — I just think about my bears organically, instead of stressing over whether I’ll finish each daily task before the end of the day.

In that sense, mobile is a suitable platform for this Camp spirit, because the game isn’t supposed to take up hours of your life (try me, Spry Fox). “We are a game that fits into your life – you have many other obligations,” said lead designer Alicia Fortier during the Camp spirit press event.

Instead of playing to your starved dopamine receptors like many other mobile games do, Camp spirit is not so desperate for your attention. The feeling I get while playing the game, whether I’m standing still and listening to the music while writing game reviews or frantically searching for a lost item I’ve been looking for all day, is that the island exists , whether I’m there or not, but the bears really like it when I’m there.

Cozy Grove: Camp spirit was released on June 25 on Android and iOS. The game was played on iOS using a pre-release download code from Spry Fox. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions on products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy can be found here.

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