Immersive Sims are tricky games. The rooms need to be incredibly tight design to be fun to explore and there are many ways to get around them. And one of the best games of the year is one that does this expertly. Wait a minute, deathloop? What are you talking about? No, no, the really best immersive simulation of the year will obviously be opened jointly by Lowpolis!

The concept of Co-Open is simple: you play as a kid on your first solo shopping trip. Your grandmother drops you off, gives you a phone number and then the supermarket is at your feet. Oh, and everyone is an anthropomorphic bird, and the majority of the characters are LGBTQIA + in some form. The environments pop with bright, bold colors and each micro-location feels incredibly defined. All character models are 2D, stylized to look like acrylic stands.

It is not entirely true to say that this is a completely immersive simulation. It’s more genre-inspired as the developers themselves say. But I don’t mind that much. The Vorogda Community Store (that’s the name of the shop) is one of the best-designed rooms in a game this year. Even though it’s not a huge room, it feels that way. Since you played as a child, your field of vision is quite low; everything usually seems bigger than you are, and so everywhere feels like a mountain to be conquered. There are secrets galore, a stranger to befriend, and balls to return to friends. Of course there is also some shopping to do.

What makes the game so special, however, is its quirks. It’s quite simply your normal supermarket, where all the locals of the city you live live in. They all feel like real people (birds?), Especially since the game is blatantly queer. Characters have their pronouns displayed next to their name, with some characters even having neopronomers. Most mainstream games don’t have that sort of thing, and while it shouldn’t, co-open felt so much more special.

There are no big tasks to be done at any point in time. Yes, there are some puzzles to be solved, but only the kind that would interest a child. Yet each little storyline was just as compelling as the other because each is so charming. The game is obviously a stylized conception of real life, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real life. There is an underground cave to explore covered in snow with some teenagers snowshoeing that make you think, “Hang on with that definitely It’s not real. “Except it is! It’s those weird little things that add to the charm and authenticity of it all.

Sure, Co-Open might not be the highest replayable game of the year. It’s more about the little stories that you can unpack at your own pace, and there are never any complicated mechanics around. It’s just that there hasn’t been a game released this year that is so … beautiful? When a game can be described as cozy under a warm blanket, hot chocolate in hand while the television shows your favorite movie. And honestly, there’s no better compliment than that.

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