The debut game from solo developer LadyMeowsith, A Cottage Story tells the story of a changeling apothecary (with pickable name, pronouns, and appearance) as you see to the slew of fantastical creatures that inhabit Rossenward Forest, a task left to you by your godmother. Your day is just like any other until you’re visited by an unusual stranger with a dire and urgent need for your healing services.
From the start, A Cottage Story is dripping with a charm steeped in cottagecore aesthetic and fairy-tale fantasy. The art is soft and painterly with a storybook feel in earthy shades of green and brown. The characters have lovingly crafted and adorable designs with a panoply of endearing expressions. The characters themselves are extremely fun. They have strong personalities and unique voices, and the ability to pursue both romantic and platonic relationships with them is a refreshing little additional aspect.
Some Interesting Writing Quirks
It has a very interesting narrative hook at the beginning that I was hesitant on at first, but now I’m interested to see if and how it might play out in the full game. It was a different way of presenting the first inklings of the world the reader is going to be living in, and a very novel methodology of introducing the main character—namely, from someone else’s perspective. This sort of shifted perspective introduction, the way it leads into the next section of game, and supplemented with just a little direct exposition ends up being very good, compact world-building. The lore isn’t revolutionary, relying on a fairly standard “fairy-tale creatures are real” approach, but as the game progresses, the distinctive personality starts to come through. They way it intersects with the mundane world becomes clear, and all the little special bits and pieces build up organically over the course of the story.
Needs One More Round of Polish
This all being said, it’s still a little rough around the edges, as maybe to be expected from something still technically in a demo state. The story’s point of view, for example, feels like it slips a little bit on occasion. There are a few times where this is a clearly distinct writing choice, but at other times, it sneaks up on you. While ever so often I felt myself wishing a scene would pick up just a little bit, generally speaking it plays extremely well with its slice-of-life pacing so far. That said, because the central conflict is centered more on one specific character that’s also a love interest, it does make me hope this doesn’t result in the full game overly favoring that character in regards to screen time, because I enjoy the other romanceable characters so much.
The writing would also benefit from one more proofreading and editing pass, and it’s apparent that some of the sprites aren’t quite finished. This gap in polish, however, is to be expected from a game still in demo.
A Storybook Mood
The most compelling part of A Cottage Story is its excellent use of mood switching and a wonderful sense of comedic timing. It’s been exquisitely scored to strike perfectly on just the right story beats. It takes full advantage of screen shakes and its highly emotive character sprites to ultimately feel like a kinetic storybook with some cinematic pizzazz thrown in. It’s very fun, and a delight to experience.
This is the perfect experience for lovers of fairy-tale fantasy and gentle stories about identity, friendship, and a gentle approach to our own mortality. There’s obviously a lot of love put into it and a lot of potential in what the full game will bring.
You can download the extended demo now on itch.io. A full release is anticipated in 2021.