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Developed By Hilltop Studios
Lil’ Guardsman – When Cozy Met Chaos 💗🔥
With a recent ‘boom’ within the cozy genre, there are more and more games available for fans. Which leads us to the question, what exactly is a cozy game? (We asked some wicked smart people who work in the cozy game space to find out!)
“The definition of cozy gaming is fairly broad. Basically, a cozy game is a game you can play that is relaxing, has cute elements to it, and isn’t too intensely graphic or technical in its gameplay. Think of this category as games you might play while it’s raining and you’re drinking a mug of tea curled up on the couch with your favorite blanket and your pets. Different people may find different games fit this niche for them, but cozy games typically fall into the simulation category, which has been popular since the early 2000s with the release of The Sims.” – Superjump Magazine, Cat Webling
“I think for a game to be cozy, it must give the player a certain level of comfort. This also means that the definition of a cozy game is subjective to a player– and I think if a game is considered ‘cozy’ by enough people, it is recognized as part of the cozy game genre.” – Saffron Aurora, Creative Director at Kitten Cup Studio
Using ‘Lil’ Guardsman’ as an example, some cozy game enthusiasts who have checked us out call it cozy, while others don’t. . While the genre, cozy, should have definition to it, its flexibility also plays into the cozy element. What some may find relaxing, others could find to be the exact opposite. Graphics, music and sound effects have a large impact on the overall vibe of a game, and can bring the cozy (or not!).
The community surrounding a game also plays a significant part in cozy games. A characteristic of many great cozy games is that the community/player-base is welcoming, inclusive, friendly and helpful. This creates a safe space for gamers to simply enjoy the game and their interactions with other players and game staff without toxicity, hatred or prejudice.
Although cozy isn’t the primary genre attributed to Lil’ Guardsman, the game incorporates elements that exude a cozy atmosphere. Although the core puzzle sees the player conducting interrogations at the castle gates as Lil (not cozy!), these are not timed, and there’s a generous rewind mechanic woven into the story (cozy!). Each level is a day in Lil’s life, which breaks the game up into manageable, discrete bursts of play. Additionally, the game features nostalgic references, embraces diversity and inclusivity, and boasts an art style characterized by a gentle and inviting color palette. Together, these elements combine to create a cozy ambiance that transports players back to the nostalgic comfort of tiptoeing downstairs to watch Saturday morning cartoons.
“As puzzlers go it’s not too difficult so it’s accessible for all player levels. LG also touches on nostalgia with its early 90’s cartoon vibe which I can see being a hit with millennial gamers. Evoking nostalgia through video games is comforting. Overall LG is an easygoing puzzler with plenty of laugh out loud moments.” – Wendy England, HerCozyGaming
Now there are also elements of ‘Lil’ Guardsman’ that separate it from other “cozies”, which include: scored decision-making, light violence and dark/adult humor. Some gamers may find the interrogation/decision-making more stressful than others, which may push it outside their definition of ‘cozy’.
Like other games where you play as a kid protagonist, at first glance, ‘Lil’ Guardsman’ may look like a game that is intended for younger audiences, but the humor, subject matter, game elements and themes are frequently aimed at an adult player. The game also draws mechanical inspiration from ‘Papers, Please’, which has very ‘non-cozy’ vibes to it. ‘Papers, Please’ dives into the moral and ethical dilemmas of immigration in a cruel, unforgiving world (based on a period of 20th century history) filled with propaganda, corruption and violence. Lil’ Guardsman is a fantastical, whimsical response to Papers, Please and is far less bleak. However, as the game goes on and your choices play out, the world events of the Sprawl become more intense and have higher stakes. The humor, light and coziness never fully disappears from our game, thankfully – our game is going for ‘fun’ over ‘bleak’!
As mentioned above, Lil’ Guardsman does have a secret weapon to combat the stresses of decision-making! You can rewind time with your trusty Chronometer3000, and in doing so, take a do-over on your decisions if things didn’t turn out the way you expected. Game design elements like this are what put us in the realm somewhere between cozy and chaotic. Yes, you may have just burnt a city down, but no worries, because with the press of a button, everything goes back to as it was!
At the end of your guard shift you are scored based on your interrogation and decisions. A 3-star score is considered great, while a 4-star is considered perfect. The goal was to make players feel successful upon reaching a 3-star rating, with hints at the end of every turn that guide you towards the 3-star outcome. If the player wishes to use the Chronometer3000 to try again for the 4-star rating or replay the game that is an option, and is a great way to uncover everything the game has to offer.
**WARNING: Next image includes small spoilers.
Outside of the core guardshed interrogation gameplay, players will be able to explore the Sprawl’s various locations like the docks, its Goblinball stadium, the tavern where the main character Lil lives and more. She does have a life outside the guardshed, ya know! Even after a long day at the office, the Sprawl can be a pretty cool place to walk around and explore.
Taking inspiration from games like ‘Night in the Woods’, which offer a relationship building component, ‘Lil’ Guardsman’ features an impressive cast of friends, zany residents and visitors to meet and interact with. Although Lil’ Guardsman seems to have humor at its core, the relationships between characters are at the center of the game – which gives it a lot of heart.
Just as ‘Night in the Woods’ brought the city of Possum Springs to life by allowing players to visit shops, video stores, churches and landmarks, Lil’ Guardsman provides a similar experience for players to check out local haunts within the Sprawl.
The jury is out – you will have to decide whether or not Lil’ Guardsman is a cozy game! Regardless, we hope you enjoy your time in the Sprawl. You can try your hand at Lil’ fist day on the job in the free demo that is currently live on Steam. We can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
We hope you are excited for Lil’ Guardsman’s full release later this year. In the meantime there are a few things you can do:
Versus Evil Community Manager – Rezza/Sydney