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  • svgNov 9, 2023Reviews

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    Witchy Life Story is a vibrant visual novel where you play as a sassy witch sent to save a town’s harvest festival. You have exactly two weeks to work your magic (literally) and help the residents of Flora with their problems so they can make the festival a success. Reside in a small house outfitted with witchy items, and tend to the small garden attached to the house. Collect plants and flowers from that garden to use in your spells and rituals. Your choices matter, too. Take time to get to know the villagers and carefully help them, or perhaps cause some chaos instead! And who knows, you might find a little love in your short stay. 

    The Story and Characters

    I am absolutely enamored by Witchy Life Story. It’s a short little game, but it is abundantly clear the developers put a lot of love into it. The story is sweet and simple, but so engaging. The characters are  wonderfully crafted, too. Your own character is sassy and witty, with an outgoing personality. You’ve been sent to Flora because their “I’m a genius” attitude has gotten them in plenty of trouble. You need to prove to your teacher, aka grandmother, that you are worthy of finishing witch training. 

    Your dialogue throughout the game proves just how salty you are about this predicament. Additionally, the different characters with their own, varied personalities and it makes for a really fun visual novel experience. Some are lovable, some are reserved, and others have anxieties and troubles that make them super relatable. Witchy Life Story blends the fantasy witch life with real-life problems like a lack of confidence in your leadership abilities, or worrying over all the work that you need to get done by a deadline. It brings a sense of familiarity while still making things magical and fantasy. 

    I enjoy the choices that can be made throughout the game, too. During your conversations with the villagers, you can pick responses. These responses and choices shape the path you take in Witchy Life Story. Run through the story playing the contrite little student witch and put all your effort into appeasing the villagers. Conversely, cause a little chaos like the mad genius you really are! Better yet, do both. Run through the story a few times to discover some fun differences as you sow chaos in the village, and even romance different characters. 

    Final Thoughts

    Aside from the wonderful story and great characters, Witchy Life Story really nails the art, too. It’s beautifully enchanting. The village is equally charming and inviting. The character designs are cute and everyone has their own personal style. There isn’t much to do outside of tending the garden, crafting spells, and talking to the villagers. It’s a visual novel, after all. The story is the focus, and it really shines in this game. Overall, it’s a gorgeous, heartwarming experience that I’d recommend everyone play! I can’t recommend it enough. 

    Overall, I give it a:

    You can find Witchy Life Story on Steam!

    Coffee Talk 2 is another great visual novel you should take a look at!
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  • svgOct 18, 2023Indie Highlight

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    dotAGE has you playing as the Elder of a village who has had visions of a doomed future. You take a handful of your villagers, called Pips, to seek out a new valley to settle in the hopes of overcoming these dooms. You need to guide them in working hard to prepare for what these dooms have in store. 

    With worker placement mechanics inspired by board games, dotAGE’s turn-based roguelike survival has you building a brand new village to suit your villagers’ needs and their survival. Each turn you can assign each Pip to a specific task like collecting food, chopping wood, or healing ailments. You can also train them in different professions as you upgrade your buildings to bigger and more useful things. You need to be careful and thoughtful in how you place your buildings as managing resources is imperative to survival. Once you end your turn, the Domains will take their turn and unleash increasingly powerful events on your village! 

    Can you survive them all and find out what’s causing the apocalypse?

    Simple, but Wildly Engaging

    When I say this game is addictive, I mean it’s addictive. It’s one of those games where you can pick it up and put it down at any moment because it regularly auto-saves, which makes it great for killing a few minutes of time. However, I’ve sat down fully intending to pay dotAGE for all of 20 minutes, and find myself still playing two hours later repeating “just one more turn” to myself. 

    Visually and game-play wise, it’s a really simple game. dotAGE has a cute pixel graphic style and simple sound effects. Plus, you navigate the research menu to unlock new buildings to build. Navigate the build menu to pick what to build. Click an already existing building to assign a Pip to a job. Then, click End Turn to advance the day. That’s it. There is the Agepedia which logs the different buildings, events, Pip traits, etc that you come across while playing, but that isn’t necessary for playing. It’s not a super complicated game, but succeeds in holding my attention for chunks of time! 

    And if you’re a fan of ActRaiser? Then perhaps you should try out this game. It has a very similar feel to it with the city building aspect.

    Final Thoughts

    There are difficulty levels you can choose from, which really makes dotAGE great. I’ve been playing an Easy campaign and still having a hard time keeping up with the dooms! However, it’s a great place to start to learn how to play the game and get a feel for what it’s like. Then, as you become accustomed to it, you can move to the harder difficulties. It’s perfect for testing your resource management and survival skills and challenging yourself! 

    There are games that I play through and remove from my computer to free up space. Many of those games I’ve loved, and will likely play again. Stardew Valley, Terraria, Core Keeper, and Raft being the main ones. Then there are games that live on my computer indefinitely because I can, and will, pick them up randomly to play. They’re essentially immortalized in my head and on my desktop. dotAGE is now one of those. I struggled hard to finish my first campaign, having up to 31 Pips only to end the game with 8, but I loved absolutely every second of this game.

    Overall, I give dotAGE

    You can find dotAGE on Steam now!

    Heard of the Story? is another city builder you ought to checkout! There’s also Fabledom, The Wandering Village, and Gourdlets!

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  • svgOct 12, 2023Reviews

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    If you’re unfamiliar with APICO, it’s a laid-back beekeeping sim game. You can find bees, breed them to create new types, and release them into the wild to repopulate the world. There’s even some resource gathering, home building, and exploration involved. Plus, you can use honey the bees produce to make other fun items to sell, like Apicola (honey soda)!

    Starting Out

    APICO is super laid-back, but can feel a little overwhelming at first. Instead of implementing forced, unskippable tutorials, the game uses a set of books you can access at any time at the bottom of the screen. The first one, “Grandpa’s Guide”, contains 46 chapters. These chapters are tutorial pages that explain what to do, and reward you when you complete it. These pages of explanations can be accessed even after completing, which is great for those of us who are forgetful. 

    Graphics and Bees

    APICO is SO cute. Seriously cute. Its pixel graphics lend a sense of nostalgia to it, but it’s beautifully colored, too. There’s no overwhelmingly bright colors and nothing is difficult to look at. Nevermind that the little beehives and different wild bee species are adorable, too. Plus, each one of those has their own specific color so it’s easy to determine what type of bee it is at a glance. To make it easier to determine what kind of bee you’re looking at, it’s labeled with a three-letter abbreviation. Rolling your mouse over the bee will pop-up a small window with more information about it, too. 

    As for breeding the bees, Grandpa’s Guide walks you through setting that up really well. Then, “Beelia’s Almanac” further discusses each species. It also rewards you for discovering different types of bees!  There are 45 different bee species for you to discover, making for a good amount of playtime as it may take a few rounds of crossbreeding to produce new species. Plus, you can use what your bees produce to make things like Apicola to sell in order to advance in other areas of the game. 

    The World

    The world of APICO is fairly small. There’s the mainland you start on, swamp biome, tundra biome, and the Hallows located at the center of the map. There are also some fishing spots in the ocean, and a few coral reefs which were recently added in. So, while exploring is a part of the game as each biome has its own unique species of bees, it’s not the main focus. Each biome has been lovingly crafted, though, and offers its own resources.

    At first, the map feels too small, but it’s honestly perfectly sized for a game that isn’t adventure-focused. It’s easy to get to the different biomes with the boat to get resources or bees, and be back home quickly. It’s not a chore going anywhere, especially when you’ve turned on the Walk Through Trees accessibility option (which I recommend using; it makes playing so much easier). It also places the focus solely on the bees and breeding them, which is perfect. And you can terraform! So you can make space to suit your needs. Create the perfect bee garden with a little work!

    Final Thoughts

    APICO is an otherwise relaxing time. There are no time constraints to complete things. You can explore how you wish, even swimming through the shallower waters around the islands. You can terraform and build and decorate how and when you wish (items are unlocked via completing quests and such, but otherwise done at your pace). There are NPCs you can talk to,  but they aren’t adamant and annoying about needing interaction. They also act as the shops of the world, offering useful items. It’s a great little game that’s perfect for learning about bees! And if you’ve done everything in the game, it not only supports, but encourages modding so you can get even more out of this sweet little game!

    Nevermind that upon starting up the game, the main menu has links to the wiki! That’s a wonderfully useful piece of the internet that I used a few times as I played. There’s also a link to a charity that helps our real-life bee populations! So, not only is APICO a cute little bee game, it endeavors to support our real-life bee preservation efforts. I couldn’t love it more.

    I give this game:

    You can find APICO on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation now!

    Check out some of my other reviews! I’ve covered Lonesome Village, Innchanted, and even Garden Story!

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  • svgOct 11, 2023Reviews

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    It’s Steam Next Fest time again! Last time, I found five cute and cozy games to play and wrote about them here. This time around, there are 10 games I thought fit the bill. These games are a fairly wide variety, so hopefully you’ll find one you love, too! One has combat, but the rest are perfectly relaxing and stress-free, so perfect for kicking back for some fun. If you haven’t tried any of these demos yet, I suggest you do it!

    Bug & Seek

    First up on the Steam Next Fest list is Bug & Seek! Once the lifeblood of the town, as well as the center of its economy, the Insectarium now stands abandoned. Someone stole all of the bugs and displays in the dead of night one day. Now, it’s up to you to restore the Insectarium, and even solve the mystery of the Great Bug Heist! Catch over 175 real-life types of bugs. Use those bugs to fulfill requests, as well as restore the Insectarium to the once fantastic bug display it used to be. 

    This demo was much shorter than I expected, and left me wanting more! With its charming pixel graphics and simple gameplay, Bug & Seek promises to be a perfectly relaxing game.

    Coming this year to Steam!

    Cupid Island

    Cupid Island is a cute life simulator all about bringing together couples and nurturing their blossoming relationships! You play as a Cupid, and it’s your job to explore the human world and make couples. Once coupled, you can bring those humans to live on Cupid Island where you’ll collect their Love, Joy, and Passion which will help expand the island. Build and customize absolutely everything from your own home to the looks of your couples. Farm, fish, dance, and even play soccer in your down time. And who knows, maybe you’ll find your very own true love!

    This was another short Steam Next Fest demo that I really enjoyed. It’s adorable, charming, and just so positive. It definitely will give you the warm and fuzzies!

    Coming to Steam January 2024!

    Vexlands

    If you enjoyed Forager, give Vexlands a try. You’re a lone survivor deep within a cursed land and you need to explore the world by unlocking surrounding tiles. You do this by gathering resources that appear around you, sell them, and use that money to unlock new tiles. Those tiles will reveal more resources, loot, dungeons, monsters, and even disasters! Unlocking a tile also cleanses it of the mysterious curse surrounding it. Craft gear to help you in your adventures, and even build your very own home base with decor. You’ll also unlock the ability to raise animals as you grow your home base. There’s even cute hats to collect!

    Coming soon to Steam!

    Manitas Kitchen

    In Manitas Kitchen, you play as Trexito, a Tyrannosaurus who has a dream to make pizzas! Your short little arms make that difficult, though. Under the supervision of a tiny, rude boss, however, you’ll gather a team of other dinosaurs to make up a kitchen full of the best cooks. With a humorous crime drama narrative, you’re sure to have a ton of fun with this one. You’ll learn to make pizzas and get to unlock new recipes as you buy ingredients from the store. 

    I found this Next Fest demo to be quite a bit of fun. You get a little bit of story and a little bit of gameplay to get a peek into the whole picture. I did find Trexito to feel a little slow, and the movement felt a little clunky. However, this one seems like it’ll be a ton of fun once released!

    Coming to Steam and PlayStation this year!

    Snufkin: Melody of Moomin Valley

    Snufkin: Melody of Moomin Valley is a charming game with a classic storybook art style. It’s easy to play and easy to navigate with a compelling storyline. You play as Snufkin, who’s returned to the valley after a long winter, only to find a series of parks has popped up. These parks ruin the natural beauty of Moomin Valley, and Snufkin’s determined to get rid of them all. Explore the beautiful valley as you remove ugly signs, knock over unsightly statues, and dismantle grotesque park fencing. Complete puzzles and gain friendly help using your trusty harmonica. Even sneak around park patrols to restore the beautiful valley to what it once was! 

    I loved this demo. It’s an absolutely gorgeous game. I felt like I’d been dropped down into one of my childhood storybooks. Plus, it’s easy to learn how to play. It’s perfect for relaxing after a long day, and great for adults and kids alike! 

    Coming to Steam and consoles early 2024!

    Nom Nom: Cozy Forest Cafe

    Ever wanted to escape city life and run a cute, cozy little cafe out in the woods? Now you can in this Steam Next Fest demo, Nom Nom: Cozy Forest Cafe! This game is a relaxing cafe management game where you complete simple rhythm minigames to bake tasty treats. Serve a variety of adorable animal customers, and even talk to them while they enjoy their food. Even decorate the cafe to your liking with different wall colors, flooring options, windows, signs, and more! You can also design custom t-shirts to give away to your customers as a thank you. 

    This demo was WAY too short. I got to experience a single customer, made one item for that customer, and decorated the cafe with a few options. I wanted more! What was there was so, so cute, though. Definitely keep your eyes on this one!

    Coming to Steam soon!

    Time to Morp

    Time to Morp is like Pokemon meets automated machine production, and I’m all about it! You’re in charge of building up this planet, starting with making use of the cute little creatures name Morps. Build them suitable enclosures, and feed them different materials to watch them transform and produce resources! Explore a vibrant, colorful world in search of new Morps, new resources, and exciting new biomes. Then, settle in and build a network of pipes, pumps, wires, tubes, and more to create an automated system. Use it to feed your Morps, or direct them where to go, and more! 

    This demo was a lot of fun. The colors are super vibrant, but work really well within the game. The Morps are fun to take care of, and exploring is interesting with the wild variety of terrain and plants. Plus, the people you interact with are quirky, which makes for fun dialogue. This game doesn’t take itself too seriously. 

    Coming to Steam early 2024!

    Horticular

    Next up on my Steam Next Fest list is Horticular! You’ve been magically summoned by gnomes to restore a garden that’s seen better days. You’ll engage in a fantastic world where you have total creative freedom. Build and expand your garden. Use hundreds of unlockable surface types to create lush grasslands, lavish pond habitats, and ornate rivers. Decorate with a variety of items and plants, too. Create inviting habitats to attract back animal friends in order to restore the ecosystem. Just be sure to maintain the magic elements as magic will help you with unhappy animals, garden decay, and corrupted agents sent to sabotage you! 

    I really enjoyed this demo, too. It was relaxing, even though there were objectives to complete. There wasn’t a rush to complete them, and I could rearrange and redo my garden however I wanted. Plus, the sheer number of items promised in the full game, just makes me more excited. This will be the perfect game for designing gardens! 

    Coming to Steam soon!

    Chill Town

    Chill Town promises to be a soothing blend of idle game and life sim. And really, it reminds me of ACNH, but people instead of anthropomorphic creatures. You run around collecting resources on a beautiful island. Catch bugs, visit the shops or town hall, fish, farm, and tame cute creatures. Unleash your creativity in build mode and create your perfect home using a variety of different decor items. Even add your personal touch to the outside of your home with benches, light posts, and more. Even take care of your very own furry friend! 

    This demo was super cute. You got to interact with some of the townspeople and get an idea of what they’re like, while learning how to fish and collect items. I’m thinking this will be a great alternative to players looking for more ACNH-like games! 

    Coming to Steam soon!

    A New Leaf: Memories

    A New Leaf: Memories is an adorable new farming sim where you wake up on a mysterious beach with no memories of how you got there. The mayor has graciously gifted you a plot of land, and the townspeople helped equip you with the necessary tools. Grow a number of fruits and vegetables on your farm, and sell the produce or use them to cook fun recipes. Explore the island to find a network of caves where you can gather resources. Even take a moment to fish in the different bodies of water found across the island. Plus, raise farm animals, complete quests and build relationships, befriend an adorable cat or dog, and decorate! You’ll be able to customize your look, as well as change your clothes. And of course decorate your home to create a cozy escape from farm work! 

    I’m sure we’ve all been eagerly awaiting A New Leaf: Memories, and thankfully they released this demo during this Steam Next Fest, because boy was it adorable. The demo shares just the basic first steps, but it was beautiful to run around and explore. Plus, the plot of land you get for your home is massive! I can’t wait to see all of the fun farms people create! 

    Coming soon to Steam

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  • svgOct 5, 2023Reviews

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    Lonesome Village is a relaxing puzzle-solving life sim where you play as the adorable Wes, a coyote. Wes is looking to solve the mystery of this empty village and the tower that popped up. You’ll enter that tower to complete a number of different puzzles in order to free the villagers trapped on each level. As you do that, the story of what happened will unfold, and it’ll be up to you to stop the evil that threatens it all. 

    The Pros

    There is no doubt that Lonesome Village is uber adorable. The art is wildly cute, and each character you save is some variety of animal. Each has a great individual design. Even the main character, who’s a little coyote character dressed like Link. Even the overworld designs of each area you can explore are cute. Overall, this game is visually great. 

    The puzzle tower is a fun concept. You’re tasked with rescuing the villagers of the world, and to do that you need to complete a puzzle on each floor. Completing the puzzle releases villagers from the statues they’ve been encased in. Sometimes it’s just one character, sometimes it’s a whole family of characters. The puzzles aren’t super hard, which is perfect for having a relaxing game play experience. Some of them make you think harder than others, but none of them had me stumped for too long. I enjoyed the variety of puzzles, too. It wasn’t repetitive rehashing of the same ones over and over. 

    The day/night cycle doesn’t affect things like sleep, either. I found that to be a nice touch. It adds ambiance and life to the world, but doesn’t lock you into a specific way to play. There’s no running to bed to beat the inevitable 2am pass out, like some other life sims!

    Coronya and Quests

    I’m afraid that despite mostly liking Lonesome Village, my cons list is longer than the pros. True to early Legend of Zelda vibes, you’re equipped with a mirror item that allows you to talk to your fairy companion, Coronya. This is a great way to have a reminder of what you were doing as far as the story goes, as there is no quest log. However, she likes to pop up from time to time at the shrine levels of the tower. These levels require you to find the item the shrine requests and place it there in order to open the door to the next floor of the tower. 

    Coronya likes to pop up on these levels to talk to you about what the item is and how to get it. That’s cool, and often useful. However, she then returns to wherever she comes from, and must discuss EXACTLY what she just said, word-for-word, via the mirror. She’s also adamant about telling you that you must save everyone in the tower, so don’t forget to do that! It’s all so unnecessary. The point of the game is to release people from the tower. And I certainly don’t need an exact repeat of what was just said, right after it’s said. I would have preferred a quest log. 

    Which brings me to the fetch quests you get from villagers. Lonesome Village’s newly released inhabitants will have quests for you to complete. It’s how you’ll earn hearts to continue through the tower. Talk to a villager and they immediately launch into their quest, then it immediately opens your inventory so you can complete the quest, even if it’s your first time hearing about the quest. Just be sure to write down what it is you’re looking for if you go accept multiple quests. Again, there’s no quest log to keep up with what needs to be done. It made for a frustrating time when I’d pick the game back up and had to go around talking to people to figure out where I was in my fetch quest endeavors. 

    There is No Autosave and Storage is Lacking

    I repeat, there is no auto save. Maybe I’m spoiled by modern games, but I expect autosave to be the standard in games these days. Having the ability to also save at will is great too, but autosave has saved me so much trouble over the years. Lonesome Village doesn’t even have the sleep to save mechanics like Stardew Valley. Instead, you have to visit one of the statues scattered across the map to save. I don’t have words for the frustration I felt when I thought I’d saved, but hadn’t and closed the game. I was set back several floors of the towers, and several villager quests. 

    Backpack size is woefully tiny. Access to the storage chest isn’t super convenient. There’s a chest in your house, your tent, and in the tower elevator. Sifting through storage is fiddly, at best. Everything shows up in a line that you have to scroll through to find what you need. The backpack is the same way when turning in quest items. Plus, there is one hotkey slot, so you have to go into your backpack, choose the item you want to hotkey, then use the item. It makes switching tools cumbersome and slow. 

    Final Thoughts

    I’d still recommend this game overall. It’s cute and chill. There’s no rush to complete things, so you can play at your own pace. Plus, there’s no stamina drain or health to lose, adding another layer for a stress-free experience. 

    I’d rate Lonesome Village:

    You can find Lonesome Village on Steam, Epic Games, GOG, Switch, and Xbox now!

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  • svgOct 4, 2023Reviews

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    Yaruul’s family inn has been stolen by the evil wizard landlord, Colin. You must reclaim the family’s legacy by managing the inn solo or with your friends. Brew potions, dispel curses, catch fish, cook food, and fight negative influences. Prove you’re a better innkeeper than the evil wizard by making the inn a success! Innchanted is a heartfelt and hectic adventure set in a fantasy universe inspired by Indigenous Australian tales. 

    The Levels

    Pick from four different, adorable playable characters and cooperate with your team or even an AI companion to run this magic inn. Innchanted’s AI can be assigned to serve customers, refill potion stations, or defend against thieves. Serving customers includes cooking meat or dispensing potions, too. They’re quite useful for filling in when you’re playing solo or even with a second person. The AI is a little slow moving, as they can’t dash like player characters can, but that only adds a little bit of challenge without overwhelming you, I think.

    Plus, the layout changes every day, so you never know what obstacles you’ll face! You’ll encounter different challenges across Innchanted’s 50+ unique levels while serving patrons. One level may be wide open and easy to navigate, while the next has counters that move every so often meaning the level layout changes while you play. And don’t forget about the thieving birds waiting in the tree outside for the opportunity to take off with a slab of meat. Don’t leave your items unattended for too long! 

    The Inn

    Use your hard-earned shells to upgrade your inn. Make grills cook faster. Increase your team’s efficiency. Even unlock decorations to beautify your inn. From fun wall flags to pretty rugs, you’ll find over 60 decorative items in Innchanted to beautify your inn to give it that personal touch. And at night, take time to unwind, speak with other characters, make important choices that will affect your next day, and practice new mechanics you’ve learned. 

    Final Thoughts

    Innchanted is a challenging, but fun adventure akin to Overcooked. It’s perfect for playing with friends! It doesn’t present the same frenetic, frantic player experience as Overcooked, though. It feels a little more chill and laid back, while still being silly and fun. It’s a cute little game that I’d recommend to anyone for some fun, though. 

    I give Innchanted a:

    You can find this fun co-op game on Steam now!

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  • svgSep 27, 2023Reviews

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    Garden Story is a wholesome adventure where you play as Concord the Grape. Tasked with the care of the kindergarten, where new townspeople are born, you quickly discover something’s not right. The vine that produces new people hasn’t done so in a long while, and it’s actually dried up. Then you’re thrust into the job of guardian, and tasked with saving The Grove. Adventure through 4 different areas to complete tasks and requests, forage a variety of items, fight off the Rot, and solve the mystery of why the rot are there and why the vine is dying!

    Quests and Tasks

    This is a very simple, easy to learn game and is pretty laid back. You can complete Garden Story at your own pace. So, if you want to rush through and finish the story line, then circle back to do some repairs and decorating, you can. Or maybe you want to complete a little of the story, then work on decorating, rinse and repeat, you can do that too! I love that about this game, because I often flip flop between the two play styles. 

    You will have main story related tasks to complete, but you’ll also have up to three daily tasks for the town you’re in. Completing these tasks will level up different stats for the town, which will unlock things like more weapons upgrades. Those weapons upgrades will become valuable later on. That said, I never completed a full line of upgrades on any of my weapons and was able to complete the story with no problems. 

    The main story is wholesome and compelling. You’re a tiny little guy who’s never seen the world, but suddenly you must venture out into and help everyone! Overcome the Rot and what’s causing it, help the villagers, and more. I didn’t think I’d ever care for a bunch of produce as much as I came to love and care for those in Garden Story. It’s carefully crafted and clearly has a sense of love embedded in the game.

    Combat

    That said, there IS combat. Your first weapon is a cute little item called a pick. It looks like a toothpick, and acts similar to a sword. It’s perfect for fighting off the blobs of grossness called the Rot. You’ll receive other weapons as you progress through the story and venture into each of the 4 areas of the island. Now, combat against the Rot isn’t particularly hard, especially as you upgrade your weapons. It’s also not always necessary. There are some instances where you need materials they drop, or a daily task wants you to defeat so many. Otherwise, you can just ignore them and walk on by. 

    Speaking of combat, there are boss battles. These boss battles are necessary to complete the story line, so if you dislike fighting in games, maybe skip this one. There are only 4, and they’re not wildly difficult. I did struggle with one until I upgraded my weapon, but after that it was easy peasy. You also get a shield that’s useful against ranged attacks. 

    As I’m writing this, I’m seeing there’s a “perish prevention” mode listed in the gameplay settings. This mode lets you forgo the stresses of combat. This mode also helps you with getting past difficult enemies and boss battles. I wish I’d seen that while I was playing. I bet that mode makes the whole experience SO much more cozy. So, if you want to play this game, but dislike combat, use “perish prevention”!

    My Chief Complaints

    Garden Story is one of those games where saves happen when you sleep for the night. Sleeping to save isn’t my favorite mechanic, but what I found really frustrating was that you can only go to sleep in the evenings in this game. Sometimes I just want to skip a day without running around all game-day, but that’s not possible here. Trying to sleep too early gives you the message “Concord isn’t tired yet”. Concord might not be tired, but I am! 

    This might just be me wanting to check out from using my brain when I play cozy games, but there was a lot of dialogue. It is how the story is delivered, but it felt like a little too much dialogue all at once. Some conversations were fairly long, I felt. Granted, those conversations deliver a heart-felt, heart-wrenching narrative that made me feel sad and hopeful for a bunch of produce! So they’re absolutely well-written and interesting. You get a good sense of the different personalities of the villagers you talk to, there’s just a lot of it.

    Final Thoughts

    Garden Story is absolutely adorable. I mean, you play as a tiny little grape named Concord who’s suddenly the guardian of all the islands. A tiny dude thrust into big things makes for a pretty compelling story. The graphics are cute, too, and there’s a nice, pleasing color palette. Plus, the background music is ambient and repetitive, but not annoying. 

    Overall, I’d give Garden Story a:

    You can find Garden Story on Steam, Epic Games, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox now!

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  • svgSep 6, 2023Reviews

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    Coffee Talk 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is the second episode in the Coffee Talk series. In it, you play as the proprietor of a cozy little coffee shop that’s only open at night. Set in an alternate present-day Seattle, join a cast of fantasy friends and serve up some delicious hot drinks as you explore the world by listening to their stories. Even use your phone to follow their lives outside of the coffee shop via social media, and return lost items to further influence story outcomes.

    The Story

    I’ll be honest, I did not play Coffee Talk. I have only played Coffee Talk 2, but I don’t feel like I missed out on anything vital to the story. I’m sure meeting the characters in Coffee Talk would have made their stories richer, more fleshed out. However, it was easy to settle into the story, overall. The characters are interesting and diverse. They have varying personalities that you get to experience through the conversations you have with them. Each person struggling with their own real-feeling issues, as well as sharing their joys and achievements with you really adds a beautiful, personal touch to the game. You’re more than just a barista at their favorite late-night hangout. These characters feel familiar and real. Nevermind the sass and sarcasm that’s thrown around. You’re genuinely a friend to everyone, and it’s heartwarming.

    Setting the Scene

    Besides the fun characters, the setting is nice and cozy, too. Set in rainy Seattle, the ongoing rainstorm provides a wonderful sound backdrop. Pair that with the lofi chillhop beats that play and Coffee Talk 2 really has a great, relaxing environment. The overall color palette is pleasing to the eye, too. Some characters wear some bright colors, like Lucas in his bright yellow hoodie, but it’s not overwhelming. The coffee shop is decorated in neutrals and muted colors, too. It’s an easy-to-look at environment that still offers a great variation in color so it’s not boring. It is the perfect cozy environment.

    The Drinks

    Figuring out what people want to drink via hints (mostly) was an interesting game play element. It not only gives Coffee Talk 2 a sense of replayability so you can discover all of the drinks and outcomes, but makes it a little bit more than just a reading experience. Correctly, or incorrectly, guessing someone’s drink gives you just a touch more immersive play than if you simply read the pre-written dialogue and picked pre-made drinks. Now, you can influence the conversation and other game outcomes by serving drinks. Plus, the latte art portion is fun. I’m by no means good at it, but it’s fun to play with and see what you can make. I made a palm tree once! Accidentally. 

    Final Thoughts

    This was a chill, relaxing game. It was fun serving drinks, and interesting reading the conversations with everyone. There’s no rush to complete things, and you can save in the middle of a day. Coffee Talk 2 is the perfect cozy visual novel, really. I can’t recommend this enough for anyone looking for a relaxing, no stakes, no pressure game to play. It’s perfect for curling up on a comfy couch, cozy blanket on a rainy day.

    I give this game:

    You can find Coffee Talk 2 on Steam, Epic Games, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox!

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