Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Developer: Greg Lobanov, Lena Raine, Em Halberstadt, Alexis Dean-Jones and Madeline Berger
Genre(s): Adventure, Puzzle, RPG
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available on PC and PlayStation)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 15/12/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Colour Me Interested
I’ve had Chicory: A Colorful Tale sitting in my Steam wishlist for quite a while, after seeing it come up on Twitter. What caught my eye was the illustrated animal characters and the focus on painting powers, seeing as I like to illustrate myself. Not wanting to spoil any more of the game, I added it to my wishlist in the hopes of returning to it when I had the money.
You can then imagine how excited I was when a code for the Switch popped up, and I was on it in a flash! Launching a good six months since its initial PC release, I was intrigued to see if the Switch was a good home for this title. Expecting a cute design and characters with colourful gameplay, what you get is so, so much more. So, what makes it so unique and how does it exceed expectations? Keep reading this Rapid Review to find out.
A Penne for Your Thoughts
You begin the game by answering the question ‘what is your favourite food?’; not really knowing why, I answered honestly with pasta. Turns out this is the name of your main character, since the whole world is foody themed! This was really fun and charming, since each character was named after a food which strangely matched their personality. The world of Picnic contained places such as Gulp Swamps and Luncheon, creating this unique environment. I have to say too, after kicking myself for putting pasta, it grew on me and became endearing, morphing into a name itself separate from the delicacy!
However, the world of Picnic is in danger. A wielder with the power of a magic brush is to protect the province and bring colour, but current wielder Chicory is in trouble, the world is in black and white. Your character stumbles across the abandoned brush, starting the journey to bring colour back to Picnic. It sounds not too dissimilar from your average RPG, becoming the hero who has to save the world. You fight bosses, explore the map and solve puzzles. But the story actually largely focuses on the relationship between your character and Chicory, alongside mental health.
I was not expecting the story to be so hard hitting, and I think a lot of us will be able to relate to both Chicory and the protagonist’s fears. There’s a particular focus on creatives too, so being an aspiring illustrator myself it hit even closer to home. It is done so masterfully, allowing us to see the pair’s deepest thoughts as they open up more to each other over time. It touches on depression and anxiety in a way that is real and raw, which totally pulled me in and made me forget I was playing. I was completely invested in their survival and friendship, which to me is a sign of a great game.
Though a lot of the story in Chicory: A Colorful Tale is intense, it is balanced out well by the gameplay. The puzzles take your mind off things and are actually quite challenging at times. The mechanics are so inventive as well, since you use your paint powers to affect the environment around you. For example, drawing patterns on grids will open up new pathways, or tapping on these certain flowers which send you flying in a burst of paint could take you to a higher platform. Being able to control the world around you was really impressive and kept gameplay stimulating throughout.
The main purpose of these puzzles was to travel through the map, reaching your next objective or the next boss. Speaking of the boss fights, they are eerily stunning and not what I expected at all. Contrasting from the world of colour you create on the surface, you venture into inverted, dark spaces with frightening creatures. The boss fights weren’t particularly difficult, since upon death you spawned straight back in continuing where you left off. I liked this since I’m someone who would rather develop the story than be stuck on the same boss for ages!
You had to remember patterns and avoid their attacks, making your own attacks when possible. I did find having to use the left joystick to move your character and the right for the brush a challenge. Good co-ordination was key! The controls in general weren’t too hard and were just a case of spending time with the game to learn them. The only issue I ever had with them was pressing A instead of RT to draw sometimes when doing portraits, and almost triggering completing them instead.
Just Call Me Da Vinci!
Your brush powers weren’t just for defeating bosses and puzzles, but for painting too! At some stages through the main story, you would have to produce portraits. You could have probably drawn a line and continued with it, but I took this very seriously. The controls weren’t really designed for intricate lines or detail so I worked with what I had and came up with these…masterpieces.
They were a fun way to add something new to the game, and part of a side mission to fill a gallery allowed you to do more in your own time. Using the brush in general was fun, since you gained more abilities over time. Collecting brush styles let you paint the world in stripes, squares and various textures to add your personal touch to the map. Each boss fight also strengthened your bond with the brush and unlocked new mechanics. This included being able to swim through paint, which was extremely handy for traversing, and worked smoothly too.
Before I move on from gameplay features, I have to add that the hint system was amazing! If stuck, you can go to a phone box and call your parents, where your mother would answer. She would give you a general hint, and if that wasn’t enough help, she would pass the phone to your dad. He would then pretty much tell you exactly where to go! I loved how naturally this was done and having the levels of hints keeps every player happy.
A Work of Art
From the offset I liked Chicory: A Colorful Tale‘s art style but experiencing it in game was such a joy. I adore the line art which has a playful air to it, and the little details that went into the environment design. Each animal character was not only insanely cute but had their own personality in the way they stood, the way they dressed and even the way they spoke. Even the speech font differed between each character.
I liked that each area had a certain colour palette too, so every place really was unique particularly as you had the power to design it. There were around four colours you could use for each one, so while not a lot, it gave identity to the environments. At times the colours were clashing and bright, but in a way it matched the protagonist chaotically being thrown into this new power.
The soundtrack accompanying your journey was absolutely stunning and professionally polished. Composed by award winning Lena Raine, who is best known for her work on Minecraft and Celeste, it is incredible and truly a masterpiece. Every place you go and every cut scene has a new track, and there is no song I disliked. They fit perfectly, conveying the atmosphere and feel of the current situation. The OST actually features 60 tracks, which shows you the work that has gone into it. Ranging from subdued piano to electronic beats, you never knew which style you’d hear next. My favourites were Appie Foothills, reminding me of The Legend of Zelda, and Dessert Mountain.
A Pizza My Heart
It took me just under 12 hours to complete the story, however there are an abundance of side quests. Collect items of clothing to dress up your character, pick up litter, rescue lost kids, deliver mail… the list goes on! It’s a great way to keep you coming back to the game once finishing, and ideal for collectible hunters. I can’t wait to return and do these quests, as well as uncover every inch of the map.
It was ideal to play on Switch too, as it was something you could pick up in handheld and get cosy with! It looked great both handheld and docked, with minimal performance issues. There were some frame drops when loading up the game, and it crashed once when approaching the final boss. Luckily, everything had saved and there were no other problems.
If you couldn’t tell by now – I loved Chicory: A Colorful Tale! With inventive, fun mechanics, a surprisingly hard hitting story, adorable art and a masterful soundtrack, it’s a recipe for success. It really did blow all my expectations out of the water, and will stay with me for a long time. An absolute pleasure to play, I would recommend this to anyone looking for something unique.
Rapid Reviews Rating
5 out of 5
You can purchase Chicory: A Colorful Tale from the Nintendo eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.