By combining the puzzle dungeons from Legend of Zelda with the gardening and fishing chores from Animal Crossing, Ogre Pixel presents the casual puzzle-meets-lifestyle sim Lonesome Village. Equal parts charming as it is peaceful, Lonesome Village is a combat-free adventure about a coyote called Wes rescuing the townsfolk from an evil tower that has sprung up in the middle of town. Although easy to play and beautiful to look at, Lonesome Village is dragged down by numerous bugs and inconsistent design choices that make for a needlessly frustrating experience.
To kick off Wes’ adventure, a flying fairy fox gifts him with a magic magnifying class. This is Wes’ main tool, and as Lonesome Village has no fighting in it, Wes uses it to reveal clues to solve the puzzle rooms on each floor of the evil tower. Each solved puzzle frees a cute villager, who in turn gifts Wes with hearts that he’ll need to ascend further up the tower. Liberating the cast of cute anthropomorphic animals also comes with the added perk of restoring the bank, shops, the florist, and much more. Eventually, Wes is given the keys to his own home, which you can decorate with furniture, art and other such knick-knacks.
Lonesome Village has loads to do. You can grow food and flowers, mine ores and rare gems, collect an aquarium’s worth of fish, play magical musical instruments, find buried treasure, and take photographs. You will need to master all of these activities because you will be doing them ALOT. When you’re not conquering dungeons you’re an errand boy, running around town delivering tulips, puddings, wooden toys and all manner of things. Most of it feels like work and never feels like you’re investing your time building a life, which is something Animal Crossing is able to achieve despite holding your patience and time hostage. Grinding for supplies is extremely quick in Lonesome Village, and destructable objects like trees and rocks will respawn within a few minutes, so it’s much more rewarding to those players who just want to get on with the sidequest at hand. Although the grind is quick and easy, there’s no room for improvement. It’s impossible to upgrade your tools and the size of your backpack, so chopping down trees and watering plants one and a time will soon become monotomous and boring. Even the fast travel requires you to play a musical instrument and watch 2 hand-animated cut scenes before reaching your desired destination.
An idea obviously borrowed from Legend of Zelda is being able to name your silent protagonist before the game begins, yet despite being able to call the coyote whatever you like the coyote is still referred to as Wes by other characters, which begs the question as to why you can name the furry little guy in the first place. It adds no value to your experience and almost strips away all personalisation.
The title Lonesome Village doesn’t make sense within the context of the game because it takes place in Ubhora Village. Well, that’s at least the truth when characters aren’t calling it Ubhora Town. It’s confusing and difficult to get a grasp of where the game actually takes place because apparently not even the inhabitants of the world know where they live.
The user interface is one of the most problematic inclusions in any game you’ll ever play. It feels like it’s been designed for touch screens because trying to use an analogue stick to flick between your options feels like groping for a doorknob in the dark; often, whatever you have selected is indistinguishable from what you haven’t selected, and so you’re constantly hunting for a slight colour change to reorientate what you’re trying to click on. However, the main culprit that makes the UI so awkward is when you’re using the inventory and storage box. It’s difficult to explain without seeing it in motion but when you’re in your storage box there are tabs that organise the type of items you have. The problem is that they’re difficult to click on because you first have to juggle your way across your inventory to line yourself up with them, and it feels like a battle every single time. Yes, this complaint may come across as pedantic but when coupled with all the other bizarre UI decisions (like having to press the elevator button 30 times to reach the top of the tower instead of simply being able to select Floor 30) it’s hard not to find it annoying.
The number of times the game crashed was a huge issue too, and it should not be ignored. The game would often freeze during menus. Sometimes menus would be stuck on-screen after exiting, allowing you to continue playing but not being able to see what you’re doing. On one occassion plants wouldn’t grow, and on another trees and rocks wouldn’t regenerate. There was even a time when the entire inventory dissapeared. After completing the last dungeon and the credits had rolled, none of the action buttons would work. Thankfully, all of the bugs righted themselves by restarting the game but because you have to save manually it was always a toss-up where you would find yourself starting at.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when a fetchquest character would not accept the items she was asking for. At that point, what does the game expect of you? Not more of your precious time, that’s for sure.
Should you play it? No
Why… The reality is Lonesome Village has more flaws than it does perks, and a game that crashes so frequently isn’t helping anyone’s anxiety.
But… If you want to quickly rattle through 30 non-challenging puzzles (which is arguably Lonesome Village’s greatest achievement) you will get something out of it. If Lonesome Village was more laser-focused on its puzzle elements maybe it would have been a game worth suggesting.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X/S
Developer: Ogre Pixel
Publisher: Ogre Pixel
Playable on: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Released: 1st November, 2022