Cozy video games remain as popular as ever, with many titles offering new twists on features typical of the genre. Sometimes, similar themes appear in subgenres like cozy fantasy, which often evoke relaxing or comforting feelings within high fantasy settings. Lil’ Guardsman, developed by Hilltop Studios, is a comedic adventure game that mixes puzzles, storytelling, and deduction in a cozy, fantasy kingdom. It also includes features seemingly atypical of the cozy gaming genre, offering a unique slant to the definition.
Game Rant recently spoke with Hilltop Studios’ co-founders Artiom Komarov and Scott Christian about the various comedy inspirations behind Lil’ Guardsman. Komarov and Christian also explained how Lil’ Guardsman mixes comedy with coziness as a game with dark and adult humor. This includes emotional storytelling and other distinguishing features from the comparable point-and-click title, Papers, Please.
How Monkey Island Games Have Evolved Over 30 Years
From popularizing point-and-click games, to being one of the best pirate games around, the Monkey Island series has earned its legendary status.
Lil’ Guardsman’s Comedy Inspirations And Tone Of Humor
At first glance, Lil’ Guardsman might seem like a game only about making people laugh, something which games do with varying success. However, its tongue-in-cheek style could appeal to many players, especially fans of point-and-click games like Monkey Island. When asked about the comedy inspirations for Lil’ Guardsman, Christian cited Monkey Island, Sam & Max, and Day of the Tentacle as beloved titles. These manifest in various ways such as with a fun tool named Wicket3000, while one character even does a musical ode to ‘A Pirate I Was Meant To Be’ from The Curse of Monkey Island. While a completely different scenario, its hero selection scene also seems reminiscent of the three Pirate Leaders in Monkey Island‘s Scumm Bar.
That said, Christian pointed out Lil’ Guardsman‘s humor also includes adult and dark themes, which might seem at odds with the cozy genre. Of course, cozy games can have a dark side because what’s cozy is as subjective as comedy. As Christian explained,
The fact that our game is funny and cute sure makes it seem cozy. But a lot of the humor is outrageous, and the story can be intense and deal with adult subject matter at times. Some of the choices can even be life or death (thank goodness for the generous rewind mechanic!). All of this seems to put us outside the cozy genre, but like with comedy, ‘cozy’ is so subjective. I think the fact that Lil’ Guardsman is non-violent, doesn’t require fast reflexes, and has a lot of heart will make it a great fit for a lot of gamers.
Lil’ Guardsman’s Cozy Visual Vibes And Emotional Storytelling
Aside from the desire to entertain, the developers also spoke about Lil’ Guardsman as a comedy game with heart and emotional storytelling. Christian described this approach as “emotionally impactful and epic.” Both developers also emphasized how they want players to care about the characters. As Komarov explained,
We knew the two most important ingredients in our storytelling would be humor and heart. No matter how funny our game was going to be, the player needs to really care about Lil, her family, and friends.
Komarov also pointed out Lil’ Guardsman‘s visual differences, something he added gives “a very distinct tone” and another way of offering a different take on Papers, Please. For instance, this seems apparent in Lil’ Guardsman’s cozy-level design, lighting, and color schemes. Where Papers, Please‘s somewhat cold visuals ideally match its oppressive themes, Lil’ Guardsman‘s abundance of string lighting, lit fireplaces, and candles look to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Although Lil’ Guardsman is not foremost a cozy video game, its combination of cozy elements and comedic, emotional storytelling could delight many players.
Lil’ Guardsman releases January 23, 2024, for PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.
MORE: Indie Games With Fantastic Stories