With these gloomy, rainy days rolling in and the nights getting longer, we all need something to help us feel cozy and a little warmer. What is one thing that screams cozy and warm to you? I really hope you said tea because that’s the answer I was looking for. There’s nothing quite like sitting down after a long day with a mug of tea. It’s basically a hug in a cup. I’ve never been one to enjoy a standard milky tea, but herbal tea has always got my back.
So whilst the weather outside is far from something to bask in, Little Pond welcomes us with open arms for a foraging adventure. Bundle up, get cozy, and let’s explore together.
Story: Let’s get this par-tea started
Our foraging adventure starts with Teacup. A very nervous frog who has planned a tea party for her woodland friends, but disaster has struck. She has run out of tea. In a panicked state she sets off traveling around the map of Little Pond, tea encyclopedia in hand, in order to gather what she needs. Every character has a story to tell or a vital part in this adventure, so Teacup doesn’t shy away from talking to them all.
From salamanders to pangolins, Teacup has it all. As someone who has absolutely adored animals all their life, having such an adorable array of them dotted around the town honestly made my heart swell. The one word I can think of to perfectly describe this game is “wholesome”. From start to finish, Teacup is a heartwarming, adorable adventure.
No one gets left behind
In order to receive help from the townsfolk of Little Pond they will ask a favour. These tasks range from having a race across the water to gathering magic dust to prevent flying carpets. It’s a wonderful mix of adventure and minigame and it all ties together perfectly. I felt as if these minigames were a great addition to the story. They’re completely necessary to progress, but they make the journey seem more worthwhile. If our froggy protagonist could’ve just walked to the market and bought the leaves she needed it wouldn’t be anywhere near as engaging.
I won’t lie either, some of these minigames are not easy. In return, once these games are completed, you get to cross a tea off your list and the page in your encyclopedia gets coloured in. Not to mention the adorable sketches Teacup does of the critters that helped.
The story of this title revolves around Teacup beating her anxieties of leaving her comfort zone, and is supported by something she loves. It’s a wonderful message and after the last few years of everyone being locked up inside, a huge amount of people are feeling similar. Teacup’s story is a gentle encouragement I think we all could benefit from. I know I certainly did. I’d definitely argue that although the title’s appearance and story is simple, any age could benefit from playing through.
Gameplay: a peaceful path to success
Teacup is a very simple game. From the moment you start, you set off on a journey, and you don’t really get to know the characters until you start interacting with the environment. The controls are very simple and explained without a tutorial. All you need to learn is how to move and how to interact. Other controls are introduced through the minigames, such as a Dance Dance Revolution style of button sequences. But all in all, it’s a very easy going title. I loved that the minigames were a bit more challenging than I expected. For example, one involves you memorising a sequence of directions before you have to recite them.
Now, my memory is a little dodgy at the best of times, so when I had to memorise upwards of five directional movements in little time, I was definitely put to the test. It’s elements like this which I find to make a simple game far more exciting and enjoyable. Without these minigames, Teacup would still be cute, but I don’t think I would be anywhere near as in love with it. Or even if the minigames were super simple. It just wouldn’t be as good. I also adored how the games increased in difficulty as you progressed through the game. The most challenging game is right at the end, and I spent more time than I like to admit trying to figure it out. I shall keep the context of it secret though. You’re going to have to fend for yourself I’m afraid.
Little Pond and its big personality
The game runs fairly smoothly too. There were a few instances where it felt a bit shuddery, like when Teacup stops to speak to an NPC but is standing on the wrong side of them. There’s a frame rate drop and a little shudder before she walks around to the other side. This unfortunately happened more times than not when trying to chat and doesn’t really slip by unnoticed. Aside from that, I don’t really have any faults with Teacup and how it plays.
There is a lot of back and forth, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea (pun completely intended). But if you’re used to games like Stardew Valley where you have a single map to explore then I am sure you’re used to it by now. Plus, in the land of Little Pond, there’s always something you missed. Even in the starting area. So keep your eyes peeled at all times.
Luckily for us, every area of Little Pond is beautifully designed and very easy to navigate. There are so many gorgeous elements to Teacup so hopefully, like me, you won’t be frustrated at getting to experience its beauty time and time again. Each NPC has a few lines of dialogue which they cycle through, but they all help you discover the next part of your adventure or provide hints and tips for where you need to head. This title is very user friendly, so there’s no hours of repetition involved. Teacup is very linear within its design. Even if you incorrectly attempt a minigame, it’s a forgiving restart rather than a disappointing one. The last thing you want if you accidentally misclick is the disappointment of an already anxious frog.
Audio and Graphics: undeniably beautiful in every sense
As I have already mentioned, this title is beautiful. It’s a perfect collection of all things cozy and autumnal. I grew up with the forest very close to my heart, so games which encourage woodland exploration will always have praises sung by me. But I can’t emphasise enough how genuinely absorbing the nature of this game is. Obviously, as a frog, you are quite small. But Little Pond isn’t much bigger than you. Character design is very accurate as well, with animals and their real life characteristics being followed through in Teacup.
A perfect example of this would be the pangolin/armadillo who stands outside the post office. In most media, these critters are always generally anxious and stand with their tiny hands together. Teacup also encourages this idea and there’s something about it which is just too precious to put into words. After a conversation with the local fortune teller, he opens up about bad luck. The fortune teller told him that his luck is going to improve, and he admits to falling over when walking away. He quickly turns this into a positive as things can only go up from there. How precious is that? This game really focuses on how creatures around us are perceived, and brings all these wonderful attributes to life.
An adventure for all to enjoy
Accompanying our adventure is a piano-based soundtrack. It’s quiet and dainty, just like our main character and her story. It is just a well rounded, perfect experience for anyone looking to go on an adventure not too far from home. Despite Teacup being a short game, it is definitely compelling. By the end of my time with it, I fell in love with the characters and I felt genuinely proud of Teacup and her generous journey to make her tea party a good one. It explores everything anyone struggling with anxiety would face, and is such an important message to spread.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by The Indie Bros.