Cuddly Forest Friends Review: For the Little Critters (Switch)

Cuddly Forest Friends is a cute and cuddly pet simulator, made with the simple goal in mind, happiness! However, that joy might be more for the younger ones this time. From their squeaks to their tiny paws, get ready to care and play with nine adorable little friends. Will it be enough to keep you coming back though... find out in this review!

Cuddly Forest Friends Review: For the Little CrittersWhen I was younger, I always wanted to raise cats, dogs, and even sometimes dragons! That being said, I never expected to look after nine, adorable forest friends to help grow a mystical tree. In Cuddly Forest Friends, the cuteness doesn’t stop from these little guys! from their tiny skitters to their crafty activities. Boost their happiness, grow the tree, and maybe something wonderful may happen! Should you come back often, though, is another question.

From playing games, giving head scratches, and helping build their forest, all seem fun at first until it gets really repetitive pretty fast. It’s a perfect game for those looking for a casual and cozy experience. But, $40 is quite a lot to ask of someone. So this time, the game may be better for the little ones, much like our little animal friends. 

Cuddly Forest Friends is available on Nintendo Switch for $39.99.

Cuddly Forest Friends - Official Social Media Trailer

Story – Magical Tree You Say?

Past the trees and down the lake, we find our nine fuzzy friends and learn about their peaceful living. They scavenge food, craft fun toys, play lively games, and rest blissfully at night. One day, however, a letter drifts by in the wind, landing on an animal who was sound asleep. Sealed inside contained a small seed and a note explaining something wonderful may happen once the nut grows! The seed doesn’t need water but instead the “happy feelings” from others around. The animals collectively dream of the magic the nut holds and eagerly plant it in the ground, agreeing to work together to help their sapling blossom with hopes of wonders.

Yes, I know, the story sounds pretty wholesome and cliché but honestly, the mystery intrigued me. The creatures were just so adorable, plus the secrets revolving around the seed kept me briefly interested. Not to mention, the game actually sprinkles in short but delightful cutscenes to keep you entertained as well. It also gives a nice reason as to why we play with these little ones which I can appreciate.

Although, the game has a funny internal question to it. If the animals were fine by themselves, even having a set schedule and thriving in the wilderness, why do we suddenly have to take care of them? In fact, they don’t really acknowledge your presence in the beginning cutscene. You just randomly appear in their life, similar to the letter and seed. It’s not a perfect story, but it does hold up for its target demographic of kids and casual players. However, while the seed’s mystery is compelling, it just wasn’t enough to keep me coming back. 

Watch the tree grow as you care for the animals!

Watch the tree grow as you care for the animals!

Gameplay – Happiness is Key

The gameplay itself is rather simple, revolving around the premise of raising all nine of our friends’ happiness to grow the sapling. To do so, we do a variety of things, like feed them, play minigames, give them gifts, etc… We also get to assign them tasks like crafting and scavenging, which in turn helps with creating presents such as decorations for the forest or cute little accessories. Keep your friends happy and keep the tree growing, all with the goal of seeing what happens when the evergreen finally blooms.

Day-to-Day Schedule

The game actually reminded me a lot of an old classic, Nintendogs. But unlike Nintendogs, Cuddly Forest Friends plays by a schedule. After completing the simple tutorial, your day goes as followed: Search for materials, craft new items, spend the afternoon playing games and caring for them and sleep at night. It can get pretty repetitive quite fast, not to mention the game doesn’t really let you just watch the animals, which is one of the main selling points of pet simulators. It’s always on a constant timer, sometimes even moving on without you. Thankfully you won’t be penalized too hard, but it’s still a bit jarring to leave for a few minutes and come back to a new day. 

Have them gather materials to create new items.

Have them gather materials to create new items.

Skitter and Search

Beginning each day, you start off with the little guys asking for new toys. However, you’ll need some materials to create them. So you as the player get the job of tasking animals to search different locations for supplies. How many items you receive can depend on a couple of variables, such as where you send certain animals, if they’re tired or not, and if you cheer for them, which prompts an easy minigame. Though, I do find the whole team-making mechanic to be a bit confusing at times.

Ideally, you would want to send certain animals out to specific places to maximize your reward. The game tries to indicate where they’re supposed to go by the island’s picture glittering, indicating better rewards. You also want to assign as many animals as you can to a location as well to further this effect. However, these two gimmicks tend to break each other.

Assign them perfectly to maximize your rewards.

Assign them perfectly to maximize your rewards.

One minute you’ll have a squad that causes the glittering but end up losing it because the last animal you added for better rewards doesn’t work well there. As you grow friendships with the animals, they’ll tell you where they’re best at in the records section, but it’ll never have a proper indication of so during the team creation phase, forcing the player to remember it. It’s a bit clunky, making team building just a random guess and check at times. While it does say you can shove animals in randomly and they’ll gradually get better at the task, it still doesn’t necessarily help to alleviate uncertainty.

Create and Craft

The craft segments equally share the same problem but are rather easy. You take the resources found and select animals to create new decorations, accessories, and food. Then you proceed to either watch them work or cheer them on by doing a simple rhythm minigame that’s more than forgivable and finally finish crafting. In addition, through my testing I noticed the game to be extremely lenient. I only ever failed to make a couple of items the same day and that’s by starving most of my creatures and not letting them rest properly. Cuddly Forest Friends also gives you plenty of materials to start with, so as long as you keep them cared for, you’ll be just fine. 

The little ones are crafting new toys to enjoy.

The little ones are crafting new toys to enjoy.

Minigames: Better With Friends

Next on the daily agenda, we take part in minigames with our little friends. From there, you pick from a set of four games and a cute partner to play as. You then try to win to boost happiness and collect stamps to unlock more minigames. However, they throw out the stamp system pretty quickly. In fact, by my 2nd day of playtesting, I’d already unlocked all the games they had to offer. It’s not necessarily a bad thing so long as they’re fun, which I love to compare to a game with similar features, Pokémon Stadium for the N64. 

The games share many similar qualities. They’re both built with a main game in mind but have minigames on the side to play with others. However, Cuddly Forest Friends catered more towards children, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if they had included a difficulty. As it is, the game has no difficulty setting for the AI, making them serve as no real challenge to older players. They’re way too easy to beat, but honestly are fine for the younger audience.

I've won every single minigame in this mode without any difficulty.

I’ve won every single minigame in this mode without any difficulty.

Aside from that, the games themselves are actually quite enjoyable, especially with others. I played one of the few party modes they had with family and had a ton of fun. While the game would be better with more customization, such as rule adjustments, we still were pretty entertained.

Beyond that, I wish the minigame ending cutscenes were clearer about who won. The game doesn’t flat-out say “certain player has won” which has led to many moments of confusion between me and the other players. In addition, I wished they had online multiplayer to enjoy with friends anywhere with your own accessorized animals.

Caring for the Critters

Finally, the meat and bones and main appeal of this game: the pet simulator aspect. After all that searching, crafting, and playing, your little guys are bound to be tired and hungry! During this time of the day, the animals wander about free and you can check on them. We can give them food, talk to them, and even dress them up. We can also decorate the forest around them and watch them interact with the stuff you place, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be. 

I touched on this earlier but will go more in-depth here. Ideally, in these types of games, you’d want to care for them as long as you can and watch them play. In my experience though, I found the game limits this time to 5 minutes per day which is way too short to do anything. In fact, if your animals are hungry and you try to cater to all nine of them, you simply won’t have time as it kicks you to the night segment. It’s rather disappointing, you’ll hardly have time to watch them play with the decorations you placed, not to mention care for them.

Watch and care for them, but only for a short time.

Watch and care for them, but only for a short time.

The controls in this section are also a little weird. The animals will tell you when something is wrong by a bubble over their heads. However, clicking on them won’t bring up the proper care menu. All it’ll do is poke them, giving you a single happiness point, a cute but pointless feature. Instead, you’d have to bring up the menu of animals and scroll until you find the one you wanna see. It’s a minor issue, but still enough to bother me since a simple fix could’ve been done.

Graphics and Sound – Little Adorable Details for Little Friends

For a game that relies on its cuteness factor, it does it extremely well. From transitions that remind me of the classic Cooking Mama franchise, to the overall designs of everything, there is no shortness of cute. Not to mention, the way the animals just look so unamused at times but excited at others is just funny and adorable. Everything has been doused with cuteness and charm, even down to the animations sprinkled throughout the game. So if you’re looking for an adorable experience, this is not one to skip!

The sound design follows the same pattern wonderfully. For example, when you select something in the menus, instead of the typical select sound, it’s a bite! It even shows a tiny bite mark on what you picked which is an adorable touch. The tiny squeaks from animals are also delightful! Combine that with a soundtrack that makes you feel like you’re in an arcade, it’s quite a comfy experience. The game, even with all its quirks still is quite a charming experience with details that continuously brought a smile to my face.

Cuddly Forest Friends was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with a key provided by Reef Entertainment. 

Cuddly Forest Friends is a delightfully cozy experience with many adorable moments to be had. The animals are quite charming, the minigames are pretty enjoyable, and combined with the darling cutscenes all make for a snug time. Although, because of the high pricing, lack of difficulty, and repetitive gameplay, I can't recommend it to anyone but younger audiences or casual players.
  • Adorably cute details that keep a smile on your face
  • Fun minigames, especially with others
  • Mini cutscenes that lovingly give the animals cute characteristics
  • Accessories can be seen even in the minigames which is a great touch
  • Game plays by a constant schedule, limiting time to relax
  • AI has no difficulty settings, making minigames a little too easy
  • Mechanics and controls can be a little clunky
  • A bit too pricy for a repetitive experience

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