Title: Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Developer: Greg Labanov & Frriends
Release Date: June 10, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
There have been plenty of times where I’ve played a game of grand size and scale that left little to no impact. Chicory: A Colorful Tale decided to do the opposite of that and present something deep whilst being compact and cozy. Developed by Greg Lobanov, the developer for Wandersong, Chicory is a top-down adventure title full of love and color. While many other games in the market focus on doom and destruction, Chicory presents itself as a comfortable and earnest indie title that emphasizes creativity and expression.
You play the protagonist who works as a janitor for her role model, Chicory. Chicory is currently the wielder of a magical paintbrush, a tool used to paint and retain the world’s color, keeping away the encroaching lifelessness of the black-and-white. Yet Chicory is missing in action, so you decide to take the responsibility of wielding the abandoned paintbrush and bringing life into the colorless canvas of the world.
The realm of Chicory is quite whimsical and cheerful. You are slated to fill the world with hue, and the aesthetics work perfectly to present the concept to you. With a charming cartoon-like overworld, Chicory is reminiscent of a child’s coloring book, enhancing the themes of silliness and artistry. To complement this is the presentation of the dialogue. Much of the text has animations and font-size changes to emphasize the intensity of a message or add to a character’s identity. Tiny details like these are present all over the game, showing the love and passion that went into the nooks and crannies of this world.
The music is just as impressive, as the tracks change dynamically to match the atmosphere and narrative events of the game. Depending on the shift in tone, the soundtrack becomes heavier or calmer with great ease and transition. I had moments where I bobbed my head along to the tracks or felt a bit solemn during the darker events.
What starts as a cheery and upbeat adventure gradually becomes complex and personal, as the game presents hard-hitting themes over time. As you now bear the responsibility of the wielder, you must also live up to the expectations of this mighty hero. But, unfortunately, you learn that the tasks you must accomplish aren’t that easy, and your identity comes into question with each obstacle and error.
The biggest challenge for you to overcome is the feeling of impostor syndrome. You may have initially desired to help at first, but you keep questioning yourself if it was the right thing to do or if you’re the right person for the role. The moments of insecurity and conflict resonated with me as I related to the feeling of helplessness and self-doubt. The internal dilemma is surprisingly deep and layered, showing more to a character than what meets the eye.
For a game that’s only 10-15 hours long, it packs a lot of content and ambition. Despite the complexity and realness of the character conflict, there is a lot of wholesome and sweet content to provide warmth and relaxation. You get to express your creative identity in many ways throughout the game, and it does wonders to see the type of detail you get from the character interactions and feedback.
Outside of your character, the other characters in this game all have a quirky identity and personality. There’s not much depth for many of the food-named residents in Picnic Province, but there’s enough characterization to add life to each area. Though many characters don’t provide much detail, some are quite dynamic and liven things up with either emotional or wholesome interactions, keeping you engaged in random moments of the game. It was nice to color an area and come back to see someone appreciating the work you’ve done.
The gameplay meshes well with the story to show the power of creativity and self-confidence. The overarching narrative is that you must restore Picnic Province to its colorful self again, so you’ll be exploring and painting over the black-and-white environments in each area. With your exploration, you come to realize why the world even lost its color, to begin with, as the shadows encroach upon the affected areas, draining life away from the various towns and residences. As you restore the world with the colors of your choice, you help out the residents of Picnic Province with their problems, whether it be finding lost kitten children or bringing flowers to preserve the memories of a lost loved one.
What I appreciate about the adventure is how the exploration keeps adding variety to keep things fresh. You get to unlock different abilities with each chapter, such as “swimming” through the paint Splatoon-style or jumping across ledges. By doing so, you get to access new areas, giving the game a simple yet effective reward system.
Unfortunately, the core aspect of the gameplay, which is the painting, does have a small issue. The concept of coloring every area was cute at first but got boring really quickly. Chicory adds new painting methods in the world, such as quick fill-ins or different brush patterns to make it look more interesting. But it also doesn’t take long for the novelty of those to wear out as well. Luckily, you’re not required to color every single thing or area in, so the issue doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.
To add to the gameplay, you also get side quests and puzzles as you fill in the world. I think the simplicity of the side quests complements the aesthetic well, as the game does its best to assure you’re not overwhelmed. It hits a sweet spot of engagement without too much stimuli. For the puzzles, they were challenging enough to turn the cogs in my head but not enough to overwork the machinery, leaving me satisfied as I found my way forward.
The gameplay isn’t perfect, though, particularly with the smoothness of the controls. While moving the mouse around for painting is seamless, hitting the keys for the timing-based actions is clunky. You can use a controller, but that also makes drawing and painting significantly tougher. More polish for the controls would have done wonders to improve the experience.
Depending on the player, the game’s difficulty may either be a blessing or a bit underwhelming. There are creative and impactful boss fights for the game. There is a level of challenge when it comes to the difficulty of the fight itself. You do die after 3 hits. However, you revive immediately where you left off. It seems a bit odd to have a death mechanic if it doesn’t have any thread of consequence, but it’s a meager issue to harp on. The fights are still a wonderful look into the psychological depth the game has to offer.
Chicory provides an earnest and genuine adventure full of fun puzzles, charming characters, and cute aesthetics. With a surprisingly deep and impactful storyline, the game delves into realistic themes that may hit more than you think. Though controls are clunky and there’s a level of monotony to the painting, Chicory seamlessly weaves comfort and emotions into a strong narrative adventure.
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