It’s no secret: Stardew Valley is my favorite cozy game; it’s possibly my all time favorite. I’m eagerly, and impatiently awaiting the release of Haunted Chocolatier, too. Until then, I’m always on the lookout for the next great farming sim. There are some great ones out there, and many more coming out that have potential. One Lonely Outpost was definitely one I’ve had my eye on for a while. Cozy farming sim where you restore the dying planet to its lush former glory and establish a brand new colony of people? Sign me up! Except, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
You can find One Lonely Outpost on Steam, and it is undoubtedly cute, and getting to restore the planet, while watching the flora and fauna slowly return is heart-warming. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment from rebuilding the world into something liveable for my character and the NPCs. Getting to live on a planet that isn’t just some carbon copy of Earth, but actually feels like a surreal, alien planet is perfect. It immerses you into the story more, and makes the game just different enough, but with familiar elements.
What I really enjoyed was that sprinklers unlock early game. I can ramp up my farming almost immediately because of this, and ended up building a sprawling farm. There’s no endless struggling to complete tasks for in-game months while fighting your tiny amount of energy. Plus, it doesn’t feel like an end-game condition or after-thought. I can’t express enough how happy I was to get those sprinklers early.
I know I just praised the sprinklers, but I have to also express how clunky they are. You have the sprinkler itself, which only waters crops within a specific radius of the sprinkler head. That’s normal and common in farming games. However, One Lonely Outpost also requires you to have a water pump placed near a water source, which will then provide water for the sprinklers to water crops. Then, you need solar panels to power those pumps. And each item has a specific range, so to cover a wide area, you’ll need multiples of each. Luckily, you can place a water pump by a water source, then place another water pump within the area of the first, and daisy chain the pumps to cover an area. However, if you’re wanting an aesthetic farm plot, it’s going to take some real planning.
The map is another problem for me. It’s SO low tech. You’re over here crafting food processors, forges, and water pumps from parts, but your map only shows you a broad overview of the One Lonely Planet world. It doesn’t zoom into the specific spot in a region you’re in. It doesn’t have visuals so you can find the paths to other regions. You just have to guess, and really commit the place to memory. Nevermind not having icons for the NPCs, which is fine. Stardew Valley does the same, and that was workable. It just feels a little silly that we’re building a brand new colony with solar panels and cooking stations we’ve crafted, but the map is basically useless.
Fishing is usually my least liked activity in farming sims, because they’re often just annoying. Stardew Valley, for example, has got to be my least favorite fishing activity. It gets easier with practice and new items, but it’s often the skill I ignore when I play. However, the fishing mechanic in One Lonely Outpost is perhaps worse than that. You get this cool little fishing drone that you release into a body of water, which initiates a minigame.
You control the drone by moving left or right, and dashing forward to catch a fish. Then, you play a little minigame where you click when the indicator is inside a tiny bar that moves. Sometimes it’s fast, and sometimes you do this up to three times, and this is what determines if you catch the fish. Unfortunately, the drone maneuverability is not on par with the fish. It’s slow and cumbersome, while the fish are swift and swim away if you approach too close. You also need to resurface before the battery runs out, or you lose your drone, forcing you to buy a new one or make a new one. They’re not that cheap, either.
You can buy drones and other items from Linny. Except, Linny is the new Marnie. I think I successfully caught her in her shop twice, maybe three times since she moved to the planet. I imagine she has a specific schedule I just wasn’t able to suss out, but it sure did make buying necessary items from her unduly difficult.
What really bothered me was the glitching. Most of the time, using my bug catching drone bugged the whole game. When it’s out, it shows an area on the round so you can see if you’re close enough to catch a bug. If I had the drone out and walked to a new region, that area disappeared and I just had to guess. Then, it morphed into only showing up when in one specific region. This issue also caused the areas shown for sprinklers, water pumps, and solar panels. So, I struggled to rearrange my farm unless I did it first thing when turning on the game and before I ever used my bug catching drone.
It has potential, and some of my complaints are more personal preference than a problem with the game. However, there were enough problems that I just didn’t vibe with the game. One Lonely Outpost is in Early Access, though, so there is hope that it has the wrinkles ironed out and it improves. I truly hope it does, too, because I enjoyed the atmosphere of it. Until then, I rate it:
Aside from the sales Steam puts on throughout the year, Next Fest is probably one of my favorite times of the year. Steam Next Fest happens three times a year and is often the first time a demo is available for a game. Plus, it’s always chock full of various demos to grab, and this round has been no different. I think I downloaded over 20 different demos! I won’t bore you with all of them, though. Instead, here are my top five favorite demos I played.
Moving In is a cozy, relaxing interior design game. You’ve just moved to a new house, all of your belongings are out front by the moving truck, and now you get to take them inside to arrange them however you wish. Arrange the bedroom to make it comfy and perfect for sleeping. Decorate the living room to be as inviting as you can. Even load your groceries into the fridge! With item locking, surface snapping, item rotation, and a variety of decor items, Moving In offers a place where you can let your creativity flow. And, with no challenges to complete, no specific goals to meet, and no timers to compete against, it is the perfect game for just hanging out and decorating a home.
I enjoyed the simplicity of Moving In. You pick up an item, you put it where you want. Maybe rotate it some to get a better angle, but that’s it. You’re not pigeonholed into placing things in a specific way to meet a goal. You aren’t rushing to do it as fast as possible. You just get to decorate and relax. Even the color palette is pleasing. It’s not too dark or too bright. Everything works together to make a beautiful game.
Heading 2: Everafter Falls
Everafter Falls is a humorous little farming and life sim where you awaken in a new town. You’re surrounded by anthropomorphic animals, who explain to you that the past life you remember was all a simulation. You’ve supposedly been here before, but you have no memory of the place. That’s ok, though. Your neighbors are more than welcoming, and patiently explain things to you, including how to restart your farm!
With the help of your pet, till the earth, plant some seeds, water them, and eventually you’ll have crops to sell. You’ll even be able to employ the help of drones to automate your farm, too, so you can adventure through the dungeons with no worries about your farm. Of course, you’ll be able to fish for a variety of fish, which you can donate to the aquarium to revitalize it. Or, go forage for a number of different items to use. Maybe complete some quests while you’re at it, too.
I found Everafter Falls to be just gorgeous and adorable all at once, but what really drew me in was the humor. It immediately throws out hilarious dialogue and cements the animal townspeople are quirky and entertaining. It helps set it apart from other farm and life sims. Of course, the beautiful scenery and cute villager designs help set it apart too. Having a demo is a great way for people to decide if they like the game and will buy it, but not all demos achieve greatness. Heck, I played some that left me bewildered and unimpressed. However, Everafter Falls quickly made its way to my Wishlist with its refreshing characters, but familiar gameplay. I’m always chasing that cozy farm sim feel that Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley left me with.
Little Kitty, Big City
Little Kitty, Big City is about a little black cat who gets lost in the big Japanese city it lives in, and they’re trying to get back home. You play as this adorable kitty as it explores the charming neighborhood alleyways and the bustling thoroughfares of their city, all while trying to make it back home. Befriend other animals and complete quests for them. Nuzzle up to strangers or even trip them and steal their phone! Hunt down cute little hats to wear, and knock over people’s potted plants. Cause chaos or simply find your way home, the choice is yours.
I have been impatiently waiting for this game for a while now. Unfortunately, it’s not set to release until 2024, but I’m so excited that a demo has released for Steam Next Fest. And it was awesome. Wandering around the streets between homes, finding vending machines and a busy walkway full of business people was all very nostalgic. It is exactly how I remembered many areas of Japan when I lived there. Nevermind that this game gives Untitled Goose Game vibes, but you’re a mischievous little kitty. I had an absolute blast with this demo.
Next up on my Steam Next Fest list is Paleo Pines, another game I’ve been anticipating for a long while now. You’ve recently moved to a charming little island called Paleo Pines, where you find a small town alongside herds of friendly little dinosaurs. Of course, you’re not unfamiliar to people living alongside dinos. You have Lucky, your trusty parasaurolophus. With Lucky at your side, you’ll not only revitalize your rundown farm, turning it into a lush dino paradise, but you’ll explore the island and uncover the mysteries of Paleo Pines. Make friends with the quirky townspeople, as well as the friendly wild dinos, while you’re at it. Each dino has a skill that can be helpful to you on your farm.
Paleo Pines seems to be all I’d hoped for. It’s adorable, it’s beautiful, and there are friendly dinosaurs, who have a function beyond just getting to look at them! I absolutely adored this demo, and getting to see a hint of what’s to come. The island has some breathtaking views and easy gameplay, making for a perfectly cozy, relaxing play through.
Sticky Business is the perfect opportunity to run a sticker business without the pitfalls of running your own real business. And it has the added intrigue of character stories! In this game, you get to design different stickers from thousands of design elements, including sparkles and holo effects. Set a specific niche for yourself, or go wild and sell all kinds of different types. Each sticker attracts all kinds of different customers, and each of those customers have their own stories and backgrounds to discover. Once you’ve designed your stickers, print them out, and lovingly pack them up for each order. Listen to your customer’s story as you choose the perfect paper and filling to keep the stickers safe in the mail.
The demo for this game was wonderful. It’s calming, relaxing, and has an easy to use interface. Designing stickers was as easy as dragging and dropping elements onto the design area. Even packing orders wasn’t stressful. You see how many of each sticker you have, how many stickers an order wants, then get to choose from several different paper colors, as well as filling options. I’d love to get the full game so I can see the upgrades you can buy, and what goodies there are to add to each box!
Want To Give Them a Try?
This round of Steam Next Fest is currently going on, and will be until June 26th. Head on over to Steam to grab the demos for these games, and so many more. And while you’re at it, add your favorites to your Wishlist to get notifications for them.
Welcome to Everdream Valley, an inviting and cozy little piece of the world where your grandparents have a farm. Unfortunately, Grandma and Grandpa went on vacation for a while, and the farm has fallen into disrepair. They need help restoring the farm, and your parents have volunteered you! You’ll get to spend the whole summer with your grandparents, restore the farm, take care of adorable animals, and experience the magic that comes out at night!
An Abundance of Animals
I’m not sure I’ve played a game with quite so many animal options. Stardew Valley has a handful of the barnyard staples, Wylde Flowers has recently added more options, and so on. Everdream Valley, though, has a heavy focus on the animals, and I love it. There are pigs, cows, chickens, horses, ducks, deer, geese, alpacas, sheep, bees, wild boar, magpies, beavers, frogs, beetles, butterflies, mice, snails, and different kinds of fish. Nevermind the different variations of the farm animals. Each one has several different breeds, which makes for a colorful barnyard. Nevermind that they’re round, and you can pet them. You’ll even get to choose from a variety of dog breeds, and have a cute little kitty running around
At the time I played this beautiful game, the only way to get new animals was by visiting the merchant, then pet them to make them follow you, and run to the farm. Chickens you can carry, thankfully, as petting only makes them follow you for a whole 20 seconds.
Pair the 20 second time with the fact that they’re essentially feral unless they’re on your farm with their wooden sign. So they run if the 20 seconds is up, and you need to chase them to pet them again. This mechanic made some of the quests where you fetch critters, well, annoying. However, the Everdream Valley team listened to the constructive criticism and introduced a magic flute that makes animal following SO much easier. Play the flute and they’ll follow. Play the flute again and they stop following.
The map is HUGE… and lifeless. There are quite a few areas to run around and discover new animals, useful items to grab, and bushes and trees to take back to your orchard. From a beautiful forest, to lush fields, and winding rivers, Everdream Valley has a beautiful atmosphere, but the map is almost too big. You can’t walk through the rivers (which look more like shallow streams), so you’re stuck using a single bridge to access each area past the farm. Unfortunately, the bridges are usually not in a convenient position, so trekking across the map is a time-consuming undertaking. It is nice to just wander around and take in the beauty of nature, though.
That said, things feel a little empty, too. There’s you, Grandma, Grandpa, and the merchant at the farm. That’s all you have to interact with, besides the animals. It makes for a lonely experience, though it does allow you to focus on farming and quests instead of running around to build relationships with people. So, maybe it’s more of a nice little break from the norm.
Every night you dream of a talking scarecrow who shows up with a handy roulette wheel. Spin the wheel to see where your dreams take you. Perhaps you’ll be a duck fighting to get her ducklings in a row, or a goat jumping across an obstacle course, or even your trusty dog defending the farm from thieving wolves.
The way these minigames are used make for an interesting change from the usual. What minigame you play will be different night to night (unless you have bad luck like me), and you can even skip them altogether. You forfeit any rewards you would have gotten from them, but I really enjoy having the option to just not do the minigame when I’m not feeling like completing them. Some of them are a little annoying, too
I’ll admit I’m not the most dexterous gamer, so maybe it’s on me, but I felt like the goat minigame was difficult when simply walking knocked over obstacles, which reset the game. Or the magpie game was difficult to maintain an appropriate flying height without crashing to the ground. My biggest complaint is the wolves not only stealing your sheep if you don’t chase them off in the dream, but they break SO many fences. I dreaded spinning that minigame, but much like the addition of the magic flute, the Everdream Valley team listened and added a mode that made the wolves a lot more lenient.
I know I brought up a few issues I had with the game, but overall the game is nice. There’s no pressure to complete quests as soon as possible. Run around and explore, farm, and decorate your treehouse whenever you wish, and complete those quests as you feel like it. And we can’t forget Grandma and Grandpa. Aside from giving out quests, they’re not just there for random conversation. Every morning Grandpa actually gives you crops and animal products they’ve collected, which you’ll need to sell to earn money to buy more animals.
What’s really great about this game is their development team. It’s not a perfect game, but instead of ignoring player feedback, the devs accept it graciously, then actually implement changes. From the magic flute for easier animal following, to the more lenient dream wolves option, Everdream Valley has seen quite a few excellent quality of life changes in their recent update. There’s now object rotation to make decorating easier and better. You can now turn off animal breeding, too, if you’re being overrun by babies. And for those of us who get motion sick, a crosshair has been added to give us a visual anchor for smoother, more enjoyable gameplay.
There’s a LOT of great work going into this game, it seems, and I’m excited to see what new features get added.
Roots of Pacha is an absolutely adorable farming and life simulation game by developer Soda Den and publisher Crytivo. Players get to customize their very own character and be a member of a thriving stone age community. Discover ideas to improve the village, grow and harvest crops from seeds you find in the wild, befriend a variety of cute animals, get to know your fellow tribes mates, and much more.
Build Useful Tools and Meaningful Relationships
There’s no doubt that Stardew Valley really rocketed the farming and life sim genre into the limelight, though we can’t forget Harvest Moon in that either. There’s nothing more relaxing than taking control of your life and just farming the days away, after all. Following the success of both games, it’s only natural that more and more farm and life sims popped up to fulfill the desires of players, and not all are made equal. Then there’s the charming Roots of Pacha.
Set in a stone age where technology is rudimentary, you get to explore new ideas and invent new tools with the help of your fellow villagers. Discover the “solar dryer” for drying meats, fruits, and veggies, as well as the “smoker” to cook fish and meats. Or simply go to the kitchen and whip up a tasty salad or flavorful soup.
Of course, you get to befriend your fellow tribe mates, as well as romance some of the men and women. Deliver different gifts to discover each person’s likes and dislikes. Increase your relationship levels to unlock cute cut scenes, as well as the ability to dance with others as a sign of friendship. It’s a wholesome system of interactions with a cast of characters featuring a variety of personalities and quirks.
Farming, Animal Husbandry, and Fishing
What I truly enjoy about Roots of Pacha is the farming and the animal husbandry. Your grandfather shows you how to farm, then leaves it all to you. It’s your job to explore to collect seasonal seeds from wild crops. Those seeds can then be planted and eventually harvested. What I find really fun is that the whole thing is a blank slate. In Stardew Valley, the time it takes for a crop to grow is readily displayed, but here you don’t know. Each time you harvest a crop, your knowledge level about that crop increases, unlocking information like how long a crop grows. It adds a really fun bit of discovery to the game.
As for animals, you also find those in the wild while exploring. Using your flute, you play a short rhythm mini game to build a friendship with the animal. It takes a few days to tame an animal, but once you do, you can invite them to live in an animal hut in the village. Some animals are strictly pets and can live in your hut with you. The animals who live in the animal huts can produce various products like milk, eggs, and fur that can be used in food recipes or crafting items.
Roots of Pacha also has fishing, and I thoroughly enjoy it. Instead of trying to line up a bar with a a fish, you hover over the shadows of fish. Wait as the bar fills up and turns into “Catch now!” to successfully catch a fish. You can attempt to catch before that message appears, but risk losing the fish to your hastiness. This mini game allows for a relaxing fishing experience, I think, and I much prefer it to other fishing systems.
I don’t want to spoil everything as it’s worth it to play and discover your own, but Roots of Pacha has so much to offer. It’s not solely on the player to contribute and build up the village, which my be my favorite part. Improvements aren’t strictly on you to make, as it should be! Looking at you, Animal Crossing.
After certain amounts of Clan Prosperity are reached, villagers will complete beautification projects that really make the village feel alive and lived in. There’s also a cave system to mine in that holds some fun secrets and puzzling mysteries. Being able to decorate your hut and farm are absolutely a plus, too
Overall, Roots of Pacha takes common farming sim elements that people love, but improves them. Not to mention, there’s multiplayer, so you can play solo or with friends. It’s an adorable game with beautiful scenery and amusing activities. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for another farm and life sim to add to their library.
Ooblets, a life simulation and creature collection adventure game from developers Glumberland, is an outstandingly adorable game. Players customize their own character and move to the run-down little town of Badgetown. There, you’ll learn all about the cute little creatures called ooblets. These fun and whimsical little creatures come in all shapes and colors, and can even help you on your farm where you’ll grow crops as well as new ooblets! Join an Ooblet Club, have dance battles with other trainers and their ooblets, and complete quests to liven up the town. Also decorate your home, buy new clothes to match your style, open your very own shop, and much more.
The Ooblets and Dance Battles
If you’re familiar with Pokemon, then you’ll be familiar with the idea behind collecting Ooblets in all their shapes and colors. Some are rarer than others, of course, and each town and biome you visit will feature their very own types of ooblets. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock more ooblets for each area, too.
What really tickles me is the use of trainer battles, but instead of trying to hurt and knock out the other team, you compete in a dance battle. Dance battles involve a deck of cards that have certain abilities on them. The contents of your deck (and your opponent’s) depends on the ooblets you’ve chosen for your team. Each ooblet type has certain abilities, and as they level up, you’ll unlock new abilities and cards. For example, dumbirbs add in a card that lets you add “trepidation” to the opponent’s deck, which is adding useless cards to their deck so they’ll draw blank cards. That makes them unable to gain points, which are needed to win. The first person to the point total (which depends on the size of the group you are battling), wins.
Ultimately, it’s a simple little change to the usual creature collection battle style, but it’s wildly successful for a cozy game, in my opinion. The music used is fun and upbeat without being annoying. The dancing animations are adorable. The use of cards to choose moves is creative, too. Plus, when you win, kind words and congratulations are given to the opponent. It’s heartwarming.
Aside from the battles, your little ooblet friends are useful on the farm! Build them small Oob Coops, assign them specific jobs, and they’ll help with the farm chores. They can water crops, pick crops, battle weeds, break up rocks, and harvest logs so you can focus on dance battles and quests. Don’t forget to dress them up in the cute ooblet accessories you’ll collect from completing quests. Make them even more adorable than they already are.
The Overall Game
Glumberland really nailed it with this game. Aside from the adorable creatures and fun dance battles, the humor is just spot on. Overall, the game is goofy. There’s a wide cast of characters with wildly varying personalities and dialogues. Some are scathing, some sweet, and some just don’t make sense, adding to the silliness of their image. Items have weird names (like the sprinklehot or the dribbly can). People’s names aren’t standard, every-day things either. You’ll meet people like Churles who runs the clothing store, and Rugnolia who’s the local scientist (think Professor Oak). Whatever I’m doing in the game, it usually succeeds in making me giggle at least once here and there at its cute absurdity.
Ooblets uses a beautifully vibrant color scheme without being painfully bright. Plus, each area features its very own look and introduces a new unique biome into the mix, allowing for some fun exploration. Add in a variety of quests, home renovations, farming, and ooblet dance battles, there’s a lot to do and love in this game.
I don’t know if I adequately captured the silliness and beauty of Ooblets, but perhaps it’s better to just experience it first-hand. I cannot recommend this game enough. It is adorable. It’s funny. It’s cozy and relaxing, too. Ooblets is a great addition to the farming sim genre, and should be added to your list of games to play
DREDGE is a short, but fantastic fishing adventure with some creepy and sinister undercurrents. You play as an unnamed fisherman and captain of your very own fishing trawler. Take your little fishing boat out into the open ocean to fish up over 100 different types of fish. Explore the beautiful, but mysterious archipelago to unearth some mysteries.
Conduct research on new parts for your boat. Buy upgraded engines to move faster, purchase new fishing poles and trawl nets to fish better, and collect building materials to make your boat better able to hold more items. Don’t forget to stop by and speak to the residents of the islands. They may have some quests or pieces of knowledge to impart. Someone even wants you to dredge up artifacts from the past, but can you truly trust them?
Just don’t get caught on the open sea at night. Nothing good happens at night.
The Overall Game
Black Salt Games really did well with the atmosphere and spookiness of DREDGE. The game isn’t meant to be overtly scary, just have hints of eeriness and an underlying sinister feel to it. And it achieves that.
The archipelago is plagued with secrets and mysteries. The art is beautiful, but really builds that creepy atmospheric feel. The NPC portraits depict tough, weathered people. Some are craggy and aging, some are youthful, but haggard, proving that life in tiny fishing villages isn’t always easy.
The dynamic lighting really helps set the scene, too. The main island, The Marrows, has clear seas and bright, beautiful skies. It lulls you into a false sense of security, but as you adventure around, things aren’t quite so safe. The dark hidey holes of Gale Cliffs hide some interesting fishing prospects, but also something a little more ominous. Stellar Basin with its bioluminescent creatures and white sands looks like a sweet beach getaway. At first. The yellow swampy haze of Twisted Strand hides some haunting mysteries. And Devil’s Spine, an island with volcanic vents and rivers, bathed in a fiery red light, holds an even more grim story.
Along with the unnamed nighttime terrors and the mysterious behaviors of the man who tasks you with uncovering the past, it all adds up to achieve that eerie spookiness without being an absolutely terrifying experience.
It’s a Simple, Easy Game
There is not a lot to DREDGE. You don’t control a character, there are no 3D NPCs to visit, no walking through villages or across islands. You only control your little fishing trawler while out to sea. When in port, it’s a simple 2D menu-type interaction. Your options for buildings and people are set out in front of you, and you simply scroll and tap the button to choose which option you want. I honestly liked it a lot. It simplified things. Do I need to visit the fishmonger to sell a load of mackerel? Slide over and click. Is a visit to the Shipwright for new fishing poles in order? Scroll and click. No mindless running across town to get to different people because I forgot something.
There’s also no over complicated crafting systems or gameplay in DREDGE. You explore the different islands in different biomes, you collect information and quests from the handful of people you come across, you dredge up items from the depths, and you fish! It’s perfect for those days when you don’t want to play something complicated, but want to play something.
There are 125 different types of fish to catch in DREDGE, and they all live in different areas. From the shallows of the main island to the deep dark depths of a volcanic island, and even the swamps of a totally different island. There’s no shortage of fish.
The fishing system is easy to use, too. The game implements a few different types of catching mini games, but they’re all essentially the same. You click a button to reel in the line when the timing is right and the necessary zones are lined up. That’s it. It can get repetitive, but it doesn’t hinder the enjoyment of the game, I think.
DREDGE is the first game for indie studio Black Salt Games, and it’s a good one. It’s a little short and slightly repetitive, but I think it’s worth a playthrough.
The spooky factor is just enough that the game feels creepy and a little off, but is pretty low-stakes. I’m a fairly anxious gamer, so it’s perfect for me. Even just hearing the music change in Breath of the Wild as a Guardian sees me is enough to get me anxious! It’s really why I like to mostly stick to the cozy games. Plus, the fishing is easy to do. There’s no fighting to match the bobber with the fish like in Stardew Valley. It can be repetitive, but it’s a fishing system I enjoy much more.
I also wish there was a little more to DREDGE. It has so many upgrades for you to get, but there’s really no use for a large portion of them. I want a reason to need those upgrades, other than personal satisfaction.
In 2017, indie game developers Sidebar Games dropped an absolute gem of a game called Golf Story. It took a sport that I (and perhaps many of you) never really liked, and made it fun. Through quirky characters, off-the-wall dialogue, and oftentimes unhinged quest line, there’s a lot to love about Golf Story.
If you’re unfamiliar with Golf Story, you play as an unnamed male character who gives up everything he loves for his last shot at accomplishing his dreams of becoming a professional golfer. Golf is central to the game, but not the only thing players get to experience. Players fight skeletons, steal snow from a group of bandits, and complete other silly quests. There’s so many odd antics to keep players involved and entertained.
Then there’s Sports Story, the long-awaited sequel.
Sports Story Brings Back the Staples
This highly ambitious sequel picks back up with Golf Story’s protagonist, who is tasked with investigating the suspicious activities of golf giant Purestrike, as well as the Iron Dragons yakuza. Sports Story brings back the quirky dialogue and oddball NPCs that made its predecessor such a delight. Players get to meet the feisty Iron Dragons, haughty sports royalty, and even pirates!
Of course the golf element is back. Players get to compete in and complete a variety of full courses, mini golf courses, putting greens, and other challenges. You’ll encounter any number of difficulty levels, too. Track down or buy new golf clubs, as well as find golf balls with different abilities to help complete courses. Level up your golf skills, aim well, and don’t forget to take the wind into account while you plan your shots.
The Other Sports
Sports Story branches out beyond just golf, obviously. In fact, it includes volleyball, cricket, soccer, BMX riding, fishing, and tennis, which has its own whole side story. I was incredibly excited about the prospect of other sports. Sidebar Games really did a great job on the golf aspect, so I thought surely the other sports would be just as good. I was wrong
Luckily, many of the sports are side items, though you do need to complete several in order to level up your license to move on to other quests and areas. I think I dislike BMX biking the most. You press A to pedal and B to jump. Which means, I’m holding the controller awkwardly, and having to struggle to hit those two buttons as needed. You also need to tilt the bike with the left joystick as you come down from a jump. Landing flat allows you to continue pedaling with minimal stopping, while landing poorly causes you to bounce and lose precious time.
All of the other sports in Sports Story were troublesome, too. The activities you need to complete with them were fairly dependent on direction, but there was no way to direct the ball. The soccer minigames were few and far between, but weren’t too bad. The tennis, however, was the worst. At some point you enter the tennis academy to complete that long, tedious side story. You learn four different shots that use varying strengths and speeds, but there’s no aiming involved. So, completing minigames where you have to hit paper balls into a trash can, or aim the ball at targets is all up to which direction the ball machine happens to shoot the ball.
Some of the Quests Were Disappointing…
As much as I love the return to goofy that made Golf Story so charming, it’s simply not enough to carry a game. It helped ease the blow of all the other sports being so mundane. However, Sports Story used a lot of fetch quests to move the story forward. I’m all for some fetch quests as they can be useful, but this was more like Fetch Story than Sports Story.
Between the numerous quests and the humdrum sports mechanics, I found the game tedious to play and complete. It felt like Sidebar Games packed Sports Story full to make it feel like a longer play, but failed to make it great to play. And don’t get me started on the ending! I won’t outright spoil it for anyone hoping to play, but the ending was unsatisfying. It made the point of going through the story unfulfilling as nothing happens. The powers that be just decide they’re ok with the status quo for now, and that’s it, roll credits.
Even having finished Sports Story, I still desperately want to love it. Sidebar Games really knows how to bring golf to life in a fun way. They’re also great at delivering punchy, quirky lines that make characters charming in a weird way. If the developers had managed to make the other sports better to play, and nixed so many of the fetch quests, Sports Story would be great. As it is, it’s merely ok in my book.
Perhaps there was more going on behind the scenes than just the game becoming more and more ambitious than originally planned, and that contributed to Sports Story being alright. Players found a secret dev room hidden within the game that pointed at troubles within the team or company. Sidebar Games has since released some patches to remove that information from the game.
Ultimately, I give it:
You can find Sports Story (and Golf Story) on the Nintendo Switch shop.
In Yum Yum Cookstar, you’ll join chef Yum Yum in the kitchen to learn and create a variety of wonderful dishes. Take time to learn different cooking techniques from something as simple as cracking an egg, to knife skills, and even frying or grilling. There’s not a shortage of cooking techniques.
Once you’ve learned the appropriate cooking skills, you can make a fairly large assortment of recipes. There’s fun rainbow-color desserts like Rainbow Waffles and Unicorn Cupcake Cones. There’s also some savory dishes to prepare, like Falafel Pita, Sushi Burrito, and Japanese Summer Noodle Salad. Then, you present your creations to the judges to receive a score. It is a competition, after all!
The overall gameplay for Yum Yum Cookstar is fairly easy. You get a few options on what controls to use on the Nintendo Switch, which I found useful. I used the touch screen and Joy-Con controls. So, mixing and the swiping mini games were done via touch screen, while others like rinsing used the thumbstick, and baking used the Joy-Con buttons. While my rhythmic abilities are lacking, the touch screen made it easier for me than trying to use the buttons for everything.
You’ll need to learn some cooking techniques before you can work on recipes. Then, as you complete sets of recipes, you’ll unlock more cooking techniques, which unlocks more recipes to cook. You can learn each technique in a tutorial level with an unhurried atmosphere and no pressure. You can also revisit the technique’s tutorial to replay it at any time if you need a refresher.
After you’ve finished learning the techniques, you’re ready to cook the real recipes! Both The techniques and recipes involve playing a mini game. Many of the cooking techniques are rhythm-based mini games, which is fun. There’s a playful and unique soundtrack for the game that’s both relaxing and upbeat. I unfortunately am not rhythmic, so I never scored perfectly!
I would have liked to see more variety in mini games, though. It gets fairly repetitive the longer you play, because the techniques are always done one specific way. For example, stirring is always swiping left and right, swiping up and down, and making circles on the screen. There’s no change in that, or the order it happens during the mini game.
The personalities of the judges are almost as wide an array as the different types of recipes. Max Picante is the fun, light-hearted judge who’s easy to please. Basil Wellington is the snobby restaurant critic who demands absolute perfection and will test your skills. Then, there’s ambrosia, the pop star who is the middle ground between the other two judges and gives a more fair assessment.
What’s fun is that National Lampoon is responsible for the lines the judges say throughout the game. And sometimes, they throw out some funny responses. The disappointment I’ve gotten when I’ve failed tasks has been entertaining.
Yum Yum Cookstar is bright and colorful, and a perfectly casual game with the choice to have a no-stress play through. Or if you like a challenge, there’s different difficulty levels to try. It did fall a little flat for me, though.
The cooking techniques were repetitive, though that makes it easy to practice the activities to get perfect scores! Sometimes the number of mini games per recipe made it feel like an eternity making that recipe. My biggest complaint, though, is the long loading screens that occur between each segment of cooking and each segment of cut scenes. That really made the game feel like it dragged on. There’s some really fun art to look at on the loading screens, though!
However, the variety of recipes Yum Yum Cookstar has is wholly welcome and enjoyable. The vastly different personalities of the judges made their scenes entertaining, and it gives the game a competition feel. Overall, it’s a pretty good game to just pick up and play when you have a moment to fill, or are bored but aren’t looking for something more involved.
Epic Chef is another cute cooking game to checkout!