Virtual Cottage Review (PC)

Lofi beats to chill in your cozy cottage to

When I have a stressful day, I turn to video games. When I have a really stressful day, I turn to soothing, calming games. It’s not enough for me to turn on nice music, as I tend to tune it out — there’s something about having a game running, even in the background, that settles my soul. For a long time, I used Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to) to get the effect I needed, but the problem was that I found myself very distracted by it. It’s still 2019 GOTY material and I’m grateful for the title, but I couldn’t stop myself from writing letters to other players or clicking on all the paper airplanes. As much as I still genuinely love Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to), I needed something less.

Something like Virtual Cottage.

Developed and self-published by German indie team DU&I, Virtual Cottage is less a game and more of a chill application. Available on Steam for the low, low price of free.99, Virtual Cottage offers more than the viral YouTube sensation lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to yet pares down a game like Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to). A happy medium between two beloved lofi standouts, Virtual Cottage has already racked up 1,382 positive reviews at the time of this writing, receiving the coveted Overwhelmingly Positive rating on Steam. And only after a few hours of having it open, it’s pretty easy to see why that’s the case.

Virtual Cottage

Getting Virtual Cottage set up is simple — first, input the activity you’ll be doing while you have the game open. For the time I’ve spent with Virtual Cottage, it’s mostly been working, but I like to break it down to individual tasks to see how long they’ll take, like writing an article or answering emails. After that, there’s a timer to set followed by the option of playing a sound after time’s up. I definitely prefer having that timer, as it mentally forces me to try to beat the clock when it comes to tasks.

After everything’s set up, you’re literally placed in your virtual cottage. It’s very cozy here — a girl is seated at a desk, moving her head to the beat as she presumably works or studies at her computer. A cat sits by her feet, its tail tapping gently alongside her. A loft is situated to her right, a comfortable, soft bed encompassing the entire half floor. Back on the first floor is a quaint little kitchen underneath the loft, complete with an empty food dish (perhaps that’s why the cat is close by). There are lots of little lively touches, like plants, books, and rugs, that make the space feel much more like home. It’s warm here, no matter what time of day it is, and I’m immediately calmer visualizing myself being here.

Virtual Cottage

Of course, the music helps set that relaxing mood; these lofi tracks definitely sound more like what you’d hear on the YouTube channel than Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to)’s tracks did, which, depending on your preference, either makes a difference or doesn’t. I personally found the music more energetic and upbeat than what I was expecting, but that’s okay — it’s all good here. One thing I did wish for was an ability to modify the tracklist, like muting songs I didn’t enjoy as much so that I could hear the ones I loved the most as the songs tend to repeat instead of cycling to the back of the playlist, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. I think one thing that would help the game more would be additional songs over time, but considering the game is free, it’s not like I’m being shafted here. Overall, the OST is soothing, and that’s what matters most.

The best thing about Virtual Cottage is the ability to add or remove rain effects. With the click of a button, the weather changes from bright and sunny to a lovely rainy day, complete with the visuals of rain drizzling outside. I thought it was particularly clever to be able to adjust the intensity of the rain from the main menu, a slider allowing a spectrum of a light sprinkle to a legitimate storm. In fact, you can even pause the music and just listen to rain sounds, and since you can’t really hear the loop’s cut, it certainly reduces the blood pressure.

Virtual Cottage

If I have one real complaint — which I find myself somewhat hesitant to talk about considering the game is free — it’s that there might be too little to do. I understand the point of it is simply to have a game version of the hit YouTube channel, but when there isn’t much to do in terms of interaction, there’s a real question as to why even bother with the game if the channel has a wider song selection. I would have loved to see some movement on the cat, or maybe an option to personalize the cottage with color swaps or different items. Small changes throughout the day, like an empty cup of tea or hair slowly coming out of the bun — something — would have really set the game more apart from the channel that inspired it. Anything more would have been so lovely, but, again, with a free game, it’s hard to ask for much more than its existence.

Despite my minor complaint, I genuinely love Virtual Cottage and can see myself sticking with it as a productivity tool for quite awhile. I’m using it as we speak to write this article, setting a timer of an hour and already seeing an increase in my general output. In that sense, it’s already done its job without the need for extra stuff; still, I won’t lie — I would have paid for a more complete experience if it meant being able to customize or see more action. In the very least, I’m just happy to feel less stressed and more productive.

Virtual Cottage may have slipped under your radar this year, and I’m here to tell you that it would be a big mistake to continue to ignore it. Free on Steam, there’s really no reason not to download this wonderful and wonderfully soothing little title. It may feel a little limited to those expecting an interactive game, but for those looking for a chill experience, you’ll absolutely find it here. If you enjoy lofi hip hop radio and want to study/relax to its game counterpart, download Virtual Cottage today for free and watch your productivity go up while your blood pressure drops.

Final Verdict: 3.5/5

Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: DU&I; Developer: DU&I; Players: 1; Released: October 7, 2020; MSRP: Free

Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of Virtual Cottage available for free on Steam.

Heather Johnson Yu
Born at a very young age; self-made thousandaire. Recommended by 4 out of 5 people that recommend things. Covered in cat hair. Probably the best sleeper in the world. Still haven't completed the civil war quest in Skyrim but I'm kind of okay with that. Too rad to be sad.

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