There it is seems endless choices when it comes to games. Thanks to increasing backward compatibility, the trend of remastering old games and a host of new titles coming out every week, there is always something new. This can make it difficult to decide what to play. And that can make it even harder to choose which titles are worth keeping in rotation.
But here’s the problem: I’m really bad at going back and picking up games I stopped playing. And I’m probably not the only one. The ghost of Tsushima was a great game that I only reached about a quarter of the way through because something else piqued my interest. Immortals: Fenyx Rising? Reached it all the way to the last mission and got a siding. My list of unfinished games can be compared to the list of completed titles – and growing.
However, there is one game that defies all of this. A game I keep coming back to after months of idling: Nice Grove.
This game has given me some hard times, but it is not nostalgia or gratitude that makes me return. It is the fact that it does not shame me to leave it alone for long periods or demand more of me than I am able to give.
Nice Grove also artfully avoids all my problems with control memorization – it’s so simple, so easy, and so intuitive that there’s never a re-learning curve. Whether it has been a day, a month or a year, I will never forget how to play. The quest view is also comprehensive and easy – there is never any confusion about where I have gone, where I should go next, or what I should have done. I loved Spirit dangers, but it requires players to keep too much information in their brains during the game. I never pick it up again because I have no idea what I was working on when I stopped. The journal in the game is unfortunately quite basic.
That said, Nice Grove is not alone. There are many games that have this kind of easy control mechanism, detailed quest log and ongoing history to help you fall back into a game after a long time away—Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes to mind. But when I tried to go back to it with the latest DLC, it did not stick. The game embarrassed me to be absent, right down to the comments of my villagers and the cockroaches in my house. Guilt is not a game.
The grades in Nice Grove also keep me connected. The starting point of the game is that you are a Spirit Scout sent to an island to help a flock of ghost bears move on to the afterlife. While I’ve been running errands for the bears (how many damn fish do you need, Captain Snout?), I’ve gotten to know them. I have come to worry about them and their stories and I want to know the truth behind each of their travels.
It’s bittersweet and even sad, but it’s surprisingly rewarding, considering you’re just collecting a lot of fruit and sticks and stones a lot of the time. Honestly, I would have it awful not to see the story through, because at this point I’m invested in these bears finding a closure even though it’s all fabricated.
The bottom line is that Nice Grove works as I need it and demands no more than I can give (or remember). It feels like the perfect game for my weird little brain, and it’s nice to know it’s there when I need it.
Excuse me, the bears call my name.