Immersive Sims are difficult games to get right. The rooms should have an incredibly tight design so it feels fun to explore and many ways to get around. And one of the best games of the year happens to be one that makes it expert. Stop it, Deathloop? What are you talking about? No, no, the really best immersive sim this year is of course co-open by lowpolis!
The concept of co-open is simple: you play as a child on their first solo grocery trip. Your grandmother hands you over, gives you a phone number, and then the supermarket is your oyster. Oh, and all of them are anthropomorphic birds, and the majority of the characters are LGBTQIA + in one form or another. The surroundings spring up, with bright bold colors, and every micro-location feels incredibly defined. All the character models are 2D, stylized in a way that makes them look like acrylic racks.
It is not entirely true to say that it is a completely immersive sim. It’s more inspired by the genre, as the developers themselves say. But that does not mean much to me. Vorogda Community Store (the name of the store) is one of the best realized spaces in a game this year. Although it is not a large space, it feels like one. Because you play as a child, your field of vision is quite low to the ground; everything seems bigger than you for the most part, and so everywhere it feels like a mountain to conquer. There are secrets to be found galore, a stranger visitor to befriend and balls to return to friends. Of course there is also shopping.
More than anything else, but what makes the game so special is its uniqueness. It’s simply your regular supermarket, inhabited by all the locals in the town you live in. They all feel like real people (birds?), Especially because the game is rude queer. Characters have their pronouns shown next to their names, with some characters even having neopronomins. Most mainstream games do not contain that kind of thing, and so even though it should not, it made the co-open feel much more special.
There are no major tasks to take care of at any time. Yes, there are some mysteries to solve, but only the kind a child would find any interest in. And yet, each mini-story arc was just as compelling as the next because of how charming everyone is. The game is, of course, a stylized notion of real life, but that does not mean it is not real life. There’s an underground cave you can explore covered in snow, with some teens running on snowmobiles, as you might think, “hold on, it definitely is not genuine. “Other than that it is! It is the strange little things that contribute to the charm and reality of it all.
Of course, co-open may not be the most replayable game of the year. It’s more about the little stories you can unpack at your own pace, and there is no complicated mechanics at any point. It’s just that no game has been released this year that is so … nice? If a game could be described as having fun under a warm blanket, hot chocolate in hand while the TV shows your favorite movie. And there is honestly no better compliment than that.