Kamaeru: A Frog Refuge is one of the more unusual cozy games I have come across in recent years and, while the demo is just a glimpse of what the game is promising to bring forward, it seems like it could be an interesting way to pass the time. That said, while the premise itself is unique, there doesn’t seem to be any particularly new or exciting features or mechanics which make me want to pick the game up when it launches.
While Kamaeru is dubbed a farming simulator it feels like more of a decoration and collection game. Though there are some elements of farming in the demo, they are basic at best and most of the actual gameplay comes from placing furniture in order to attract different colors and breeds of frog.
The demo doesn’t really show off much of the furniture and what is there is fairly basic. A wheelbarrow, a wooden box, a simple bed and armchair: nothing especially fun or unique, however I can see how there is room for some more interesting pieces to come about. These can be purchased from a cute little stall which is located on the refuge itself.
The actual frog collection part of the demo also seems fairly rudimentary, and there is not much explanation as to how the furniture impacts which frogs you attract, if it does at all. Instead, different variations of the frogs appear on the individual pieces of furniture, seemingly at random, and your only real job is to take a photograph of them and befriend a couple when you can. They can also appear in ponds in the wetlands, which was an unexpected but nice surprise since it makes way more sense for a frog to appear in water than it does a double bed.
According to the Kamaeru’s Steam page, there are over 500 different frogs to collect and catalog in your frogedex – the equivalent of a journal which can store different photos of the frogs and what they like to eat, for example. Feeding the frogs is the way to their hearts and befriending them is important to be able to breed new species.
Frogs can be bred through a rather strange game of tic tac toe where you can select traits from two frogs and attempt to create a line to give the new frog that trait. If you don’t make three lines of three when playing against a computer then you will have randomized traits to make up for it. This is not as straightforward as it sounds and I found it hard to get more than one line at any given time. It also wasn’t especially clear whether or not breeding the frogs actually does anything. It didn’t seem as though they were automatically added to my journal, though it is possible I missed it, but it was hard to tell if they were appearing in the world either.
My favorite part of Kamaeru, however, actually had nothing to really do with the frogs at all. As part of the frog refuge project, you are tasked with restoring the wetlands, which has dried out and withered away. This is done by placing ponds, bushes and other plants around the area to revitalize it. The wetlands restoration allows for two other aspects of Kamaeru to come into play, bug collection (to feed your froggy friends) and farming. When you plant reeds, bushes and cattails around the water, they attract bugs and produce byproducts like berries.
The main, and possibly only, way to make money in Kamaeru is to cook jams and other basic recipes using the byproducts from the wetlands. This is fairly straightforward though there is a very small mini game involved and the possibility to generate extra portions if you time some button presses correctly. I was a bit disappointed to see that the mini game was the same for every recipe and was hoping that it would be slightly different, however it is nice having something to do when cooking that isn’t just clicking a button.
I think Kamaeru: A Frog Refuge is going to shape out to be an interesting game in concept, however based on the demo I think it may struggle to be especially unique in its execution. It would be great to see more happen with the collection of frogs, some kind of museum or frog nursery perhaps, and some additional or more in depth farming mechanics would be great to see. Overall, I look forward to the full release and seeing what additional features the full release will bring but am hoping for something a bit more substantial.
Megan played the demo for Kamaeru: The Frog Rescue on PC with a review key.