Developer: Peachy Keen Games
Publisher: Whitethorn Digital, Maple Whispering Limited
Genre: Casual, RPG, Simulation
Age Rating: Everyone
Release Date: 15/12/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
I Love Cats, I Love Every Kind of Cat…
The latest Indie Showcase for Nintendo Switch revealed that Calico was coming to the handheld console. Though I didn’t watch it myself, another member of the Rapid Reviews team instantly branded it as a “Chloe type of game”, and he was not wrong! I had actually played the demo on Steam, had the game in my wishlist and followed its development on Twitter.
At almost the same time as this, I had an exciting email from Steam saying the game was now available to purchase! I am very grateful that we were given a Steam code to review shortly after, and I was eager to play. For context, I am obsessed with cats and adorable animals. So a game about running a cat café, making furry (and feathered) friends, and magical girls was made for me! But what did I think of the full game after playing the demo? Let’s find out.
A Dream Job
After designing your character, you find yourself outside your soon-to-be cat café with the town Mayor. Instantly, the pretty pastel and magical vibes are evident, with cherry blossom trees all around you and the Mayor with her galactic . As the new owner of the café, it is up to you to fill it with stylish furniture and not just cats, but a variety of cute animals that are scattered around the island.
Restoring the café to its former glory is the overarching story in this day-in-the-life sim, but the gameplay consists of multiple things. The main story revolves around unlocking all parts of the star-shaped island, each section a different sort of biome. They are all blocked off in one way or another, whether that be a boulder, construction cats or something a little bigger…
Unlocking these areas follows a series of tasks, collecting and delivering items between the different NPCs. These make up the side quests too, doing jobs for your friends and being rewarded items or money in exchange. It sounds a little repetitive, but when the world is so pretty and there is an abundance of animals scampering around, it’s a joy to do!
All Creatures Great and Small
What makes it even better is being able to ride any sort of animal, pick them up and even wear them as a hat. It’s ridiculous, silly, yet so charming and giggle-inducing! This does mean more controls to get used to, however, all the controls are clearly labelled on the screen. These can be toggled with H, which I had to use quite a lot to remind myself as there is a fair amount to learn. Calico does recommend it’s easier to play with a controller, but I stuck with mouse and keyboard. It was a little more fiddly, but not too much of a challenge.
There are a variety of animals to find on the island, from polar bears, capybara, rabbits, birds, ferrets, dogs and of course cats. I liked that they weren’t all conventional or stereotypically cute like a pigeon or a boar! I enjoyed searching every inch of the island for new animals to meet. You could either let them roam free, have them join your party or send them to the cat café. It was adorable seeing them follow your every move in your party, and going back to visit them or swap them out at the café. Some of them were named after Kickstarter backers’ pets too, which is a nice touch.
Spice Up Your Life
Though the general gameplay of delivering seems quite menial and not much different than day to day life, it’s the world and the features that make it a form of escapism, and so relaxing. As well as the critters, you unlock potions throughout Calico to add even more magic. Turn yourself into a cat, change the time of day, summon a broom or make any animal bigger. Though mostly cosmetic and a bit of fun, it just adds to the charm and fantasical element.
A café wouldn’t be complete without sweet treats and beverages, so there’s also a cooking mini-game! Buy recipes from the shops in town or earn them through tasks. Then, you are shrunk and run about on the kitchen worktops, throwing ingredients into a bowl. And bon appetit, you can fill the café with your NPCs’ favourite food and drink! Again, it’s a small thing but adds to the escapism and is strangely addicting.
Pretty in Pink
When I first saw the visuals for Calico ages ago, I wasn’t quite sure if I liked the graphics. The thin black outline of characters and objects seemed like an odd choice. However, upon playing the game they have definitely grown on me! It makes everything appear soft and fits with the aesthetic. It’s not the best looking game I’ve ever seen, but it has its own charm. The illustrations in the loading screens and the time indicator were also simple yet cute.
I loved the natural setting and all the areas that came with it in varying colour palettes. The white and icy blues of the mountains with falling snow almost made me shiver, and the lush greens of the forest leading to the glow in the dark mushroom area looked gorgeous. I just adored the focus on nature, the NPCs designed distinctly often in petals or mushrooms and with their own personalities, body shape and appearance. I particularly loved girlfriends Blossom and Sunny who tended their garden together. The soft, fairy vibes were right up my street, as a girl once obsessed with fairies, mermaids and unicorns!
While playing I just wanted to jump into the screen and wander barefoot (or riding a giant red panda) across the island! I enjoyed visiting the shops each day for items of clothing and furniture. Furniture comes in themed sets, like cute, rad and spooky. I went for the cute and succulent theme, but you are free to mix and match any furniture you wish.
Music to Match
The main theme song is so catchy and stood out for me when playing the demo. I was pleased that the rest of the soundtrack was just as good! Each area has its own music, which differentiates both day and night. Each track fit the mood or environment, the city for example being more jazzy and chilled, and the forest areas more mystical. If the soundtrack is available to listen anywhere, I’d love to get my hands on it.
So far, I’ve had nothing but praise for Calico but it is by no means perfect. The glaring issue of the game is the number of bugs and glitches players have experienced. I haven’t had an awful lot, but they have been noticeable. When talking to NPCs you can choose a response, but most of the time multiple boxes would have the same text. One time my red panda would trigger the jumping into water animation and would disappear, its shadow following me on the ground as if it was swimming beneath the grass!
The most amusing one was a baby polar bear spawning behind me every time I walked somewhere. It also seemed as though animals that were in my party would sometimes be lost. Animals in general have rag-doll type physics, so would often by glitching inside each other or through walls. In a way it fit well with the game, as you pick up an animal and wiggle him around watching his limbs wibble-wobble like jelly.
Though the bugs I experienced weren’t game breaking and made me laugh, it does seem like perhaps Calico wasn’t quite ready for launch. The devs have luckily been active in acknowledging bugs, issuing patches and fixes almost daily at one point. I am glad they are listening to the fan base and it shows they care about the game. But the amount of bug fixes in the patch notes raises the question whether it should have stayed in development a little longer.
A Game to Get Your Paws On?
Calico is relaxing, adorable and just the perfect escape from reality. Though there isn’t a massive or lengthy story (the main story took me around 4 hours), the gameplay of completing delivery tasks, baking, and designing your café takes your mind off things. I spent most of the time grinning and gasping at the cute animals, immediately running to pick them up or ride them! Plus, who doesn’t want a game featuring the ability to put a cat on your head while riding a giant cat whilst cats follow you?
There are also still quests to do once you’ve created the main story, and a fair amount of Steam achievements to have you coming back to the game. For me, it’s full of all my favourite things. Animals, nature, magic, and all things pretty, as well as being inclusive!
But, I have to remain unbiased and think about it from the perspective of others. I do think many will not be pleased with the bugs and won’t be as lenient in waiting for patches, which is what affects my rating. Personally, I am happy to play the game earlier and watch its development. However I’m sure some will be upset at a game that isn’t quite complete, and maybe disappointed that it isn’t that long.
If you’re willing to overlook glitches and recognise that the devs are working hard on it, and a lover of cute animals, pretty design and magic, it’s worth picking up for £9.29. But, if you want a fully polished game, maybe hold off for a while. What I can say is that it’s a well-needed escape from the world right now!
Rapid Reviews Rating
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