Equilinox is a relaxing nature simulation where you can build your very own diverse ecosystem. You’ll start by placing a variety of plants. Having more plants will make your land more fertile and will encourage wildlife to flourish. You’ll also place a number of different types of animals to take care of and nurture. Each plant and animal has their own life-cycle, behaviors, and requirements, and you’ll need to make sure each species is satisfied with their environment. Of course, happy and healthy animals will live longer, breed more, and earn you points!
The points you earn from happy animals in Equilinox will be used to genetically modify the different species. This lets you manipulate behaviors and traits that can then be passed onto future generations. And as you advance in the game, you can evolve your animals to unlock more plants, trees, and creatures.
While you can complete tasks and play Equilinox through its natural gameplay progression, there is a sandbox mode. If you prefer a more creative approach, you can also engage the fully sandbox mode is for you. This mode lets you create beautiful landscapes without regard to the needs and requirements of the plants and animals. Even genetically modify animals to your heart’s content! Create hordes of rainbow sheep or brightly colored wolves, or whatever else you can think of!
Embark on an adorable culinary adventure in Fruitbus, where taste is everything. Travel across each island of the Gustum Archipelago to discover new fruits and vegetables. Even learn new customs and how to cook meals the locals will enjoy. You’ll eventually build a following of loyal customers, while getting to hear their unique stories.
Take time to forage your ingredients from the wild plants you find in Fruitbus. Use what you find to inspire new dishes you’ll sell in ancient glades, secret groves, and forgotten grottos. You’ll also get to decorate your food truck with bright colors and fun accessories like racing wings! And of course you get to upgrade your kitchen to make it fit your play-style.
Fruitbus currently has a demo available on Steam. Full release will be sometime in 2024.
Play as Percival “Percy” Bilkin in this beautiful adventure puzzle game, Bilkins’ Folly. Percy is a treasure hunter on a mission to find out what happened to his mother and grandfather, both of whom mysteriously disappeared years ago. The problem is, his ship just got wrecked in a major storm, and now he has to find a new ship, reunite with his crew, and then resume his investigations. And of course, dig up hidden treasures along the way.
Bilkins’ Folly is a lovely narrative adventure that follows Percy and his trusty dog companion, Drayton. You’ll team up with your canine friend to uncover the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Percy’s family. Spend quality time with Drayton to level up your bond and earn points to spend on new skills. These skills can be used to clear puzzles. Also use Percy’s cartography skills to customize your map. This will help you solve puzzles, some of which you might need to come back to later in the game!
Socialize with the inhabitants you encounter, just remember they’ll remember how you treat them. Recruit aspiring sailors to join your crew. Fish for fun sea creatures and even enter treasure hunting contests to earn rewards. Play a number of different minigames in Bilkins’ Folly, too, like sheep herding, lock picking, and more!
Critter Cove has been on our radar for a few years now. In fact, we’ve been keeping an eye on it since 2019! You can find them all here to read about the game in case you haven’t heard of this super cute life sim. In this game, you get to rebuild a whole island. Discover and invite new citizens to move in, too, ultimately creating a vibrant place to live. Even explore a colorful and handcrafted open-world to collect resources and more!
Thanks to the developers, I got to play the Critter Cove demo a little early, and I had an absolute blast. The world is beautiful. It’s so colorful and lovely to look at. Plus, that character creation menu allows for some fun designs and choices, too! Choose from a human, cat, birds, lizards, even snakes. Hairstyles and colors, and even pupil shape can be changed to personalize yourself.
You even get to choose from several of the abandoned buildings to set up as your house. I picked the one with the fun umbrella and light display above the walkway. It makes the neighborhood feel pretty magical. Add in Critter Cove’s sassy characters with some scathing dialogue, and you get a living, breathing island full of interesting areas and people to interact with.
And now you get to try the demo, too! It went live on Steam recently, so now you get to experience the fun I did.
The full release of Critter Cove is projected for Q1 of 2024, so not too far away! You can find it on Steam. It’s also coming to PlayStation!
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.
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.
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.
Tiny Life is an isometric pixelart style simulation game that seeks to capture the essence of The Sims. Like The Sims or the upcoming Little Sim World, you control a group of people and take care of their needs, build their skills, forge new relationships, or whatever you want to do. Have them lead perfectly normal lives, or cause chaos and totally upend their lives. It’s up to you, really!
You get to create your own characters using a number of different options. Tiny Life lets you choose personality traits and skills. Plus, there are over 100 clothing items and thousands of colors for you to pick from. There’s even age groups that you can pick, each with its own unique interactions and gameplay possibilities. Craft each of your Tinies exactly how you want them.
Then, build houses and community spaces like parks and cafes for your Tinies to explore. Tiny Life has hundreds of furniture, wallpaper, tiles, roofs, and more so you can create a beautiful town. You’ll even be able to share all of your creations with the community, as well as use mods to add additional content to the game!
You can find this fun simulation game on Steam now!
Fantastic Haven takes place in a world where magic has been gradually fading while technological advances take over. These advances threaten the balance, and your role as the Elders means it’s up to you to help rebalance the world. You need to save the magical creatures people like to hunt. Use diplomacy and teach people how to live in harmony with these fantastic creatures!
You’ll start by choosing the perfect starting spot. Pick from a number of different areas in Fantastic Haven, each coming with their own challenges, and begin building basic infrastructure. Unlock new research and buildings as you play to be able to welcome the magical creatures to this new haven you’re creating. Even send your mages out into the world to find new creatures, negotiate with hostile populations, and more. Every choice you make can impact how your future turns out, so choose wisely.
As you find the magical creatures of Fantastic Haven and bring them back to your refuge, you’ll place them in the quarantine facility. Then, you can place them in an existing biotope (enclosure) or create a new one. Either way, you’ll need to respect its needs, as well as its compatibility with other creatures to find it the perfect home. Your goal is to take great care of these creatures before returning them to the wilds, so meeting their demands is important for restoring magic into the world!
You’ll find Fantastic Haven on Steam and GOG next year! There are plans for releases on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox sometime after that, too.
Veil of Dust: A Homestead Game is a farming simulator seeking to turn the genre on its head. Inspired by the likes of Stardew Valley and Don’t Starve, this game is a historically-grounded fantasy homesteading and survival game with a more adult-oriented gameplay. You’ll play as the Callahan siblings, Shane and Áine, as they learn to cope with loss and learn how to survive life in the desert of eastern Oregon.
With a more task-centric focus, and less grinding, Veil of Dust sets you on an adventure to explore magic, intrigue, small town politics, and more. You’ll farm, forage, and hunt to scrape together the resources and food necessary to survive. Overcome challenges with tools you craft, and fill bellies with different recipes you’ve scraped together, as well as forge relationships. Survival isn’t just about finding food and shelter, after all. Life needs to be worth living, too! Experience deep characterizations and explore realistic, relatable scenarios that touch on heavier topics.
Veil of Dust isn’t devoid of humor and fun, though! Guide Shane and Áine as they search for answers as to why mysterious monsters attack their town and livelihoods. While defense wasn’t always a priority, you might need to protect your homestead from them. The homestead you’ve carefully made your very own by lovingly choosing the perfect colors, turning your inhospitable dirt patch into a comfortable home.