Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a new RPG-like adventure game where you have to restore color to an otherwise black and white world. Chicory is the legendary wielder of the brush, but you are the simple janitor. However, an opportunity has presented itself to grab the brush and imprint your design onto the world around you.
Chicory immediately grabbed my attention. It’s cute, the characters and the world are well designed and appealing, and the whole game is pretty relaxing. It’s very therapeutic going around and painting houses, trees, clothes, all kinds of things. Much like Animal Crossing came along at the perfect time at the start of the pandemic, it feels like Chichory has done a similar thing, allowing us to release some of the pent-up pandemic frustration through painting, exploring, and going on a heartfelt adventure.
From a story point of view, you start out in a world full of color, where a long line of master painters wield ‘the brush’ and maintain color in the world. Unfortunately, all the color has drained from the world, and Chicory is missing. The main protagonist is called upon to save the day.
You can personalize the hero, which you can call what you like, prompted at the start of the game to fill in your favorite food… which is how my main character ended up being called Bacon. It’s more than simply saving the world and restoring the color though, this is a very touching story, nearly unmatched in 2021.
The game deals with some heavy-hitting topics, without being too direct about it. It’s a very fine balance to strike, but it is masterfully done here. Given what the whole world is going through right now, people are down, this game deals with these kinds of topics. Much like Celeste or Spirit Farer, who did a similar great job with the topic of mental health, Chichory walks the tightrope very well. It understands the world isn’t a very nice place, and the people in it too, without being downright depressing.
As you navigate throughout the world your main character has frank and direct conversations with the NPCs, but they are never too deep into depressions, anxiety, etc. it raises awareness and strikes the right tone while bringing the story along at a nice gentle pace, which is important for the game. It’s masterfully done, and hats off to the developer for a great job.
In terms of the gameplay, it’s a top-down Zelda-like, similar to A Link To The Past. There are boss fights, but other than the big bosses throughout the map you are painting, exploring, and helping out the other characters in the game. There are puzzles to solve, collectibles to find, missing kids too. Throughout the game, you need to find power-ups for your brush and also platforming skills.
Boss fights are good fun and include some great mechanics where you have to dodge out the way of paint attacks. Each time you encounter a new boss they change up the attack patterns in new and inventive ways, which is very cool and keeps you on your toes.
To help you out in gameplay there’s a decent hint system, so if you get stuck at any time you can call upon a useful hint. This starts off subtle, but will just give you the solution if you need it. This is a nice touch, and there’s been too much chatter around this topic recently. This is an accessibility option, and not everyone can play to the same ability through no fault of their own. This is a great system that allows everyone to get through the game’s puzzles, and I hope more games do something similar in the future… no content should be gated for any reason and it’s awesome to see games becoming more accessible.
Chicory has components of Zelda games, it’s top-down, you’re on an adventure, there are collectibles and upgrades. However, the core gameplay loop is all about painting… and it’s gloriously relaxing. You are welcome to wander around the black and white world and leave it. Some characters will ask you to color in their house or design them a t-shirt. You start off with a small array of brush types, but as you progress through the game you can really start to paint masterpieces. It’s easy to get lost in Chicory and spend hours simply coloring in the landscapes, houses, and characters, so be careful with your time and don’t forget about the adventure and the main story.
The main story is fairly hard-hitting, although it’s hidden at first. Chicory is someone you look up to, ultimately want to be. Chicory though doesn’t appear to be happy and it’s hard to understand why, from your character’s point of view. She’s popular is the wielder of the brush and has plenty of fans… yet her world seems empty. Chicory talks down to herself seem to not even like herself and then hits out at people when they try to help or comfort her. It’s an interesting point of view playing as observing to the main hero, and the main hero has a kind of crisis. It’s not something I’ve seen before, and it’s great to have a deeper, more meaningful perspective giving Chichory many more layers than your first might expect.
Chicory is clearly depressed, or going through a tough moment and lashes out at your main character. This is parallel to real-life where friends, or family members who are going through a rough patch can lash out at those who are trying to help. Chicory tends to punish Bacon without meaning to, and Bacon tries to support the best they can. It’s a game that makes you look at some of the relationships you may have in real life either with friends or family.
It’s a heartfelt game that is complex if you go deeper, but it’s also uplifting and rewarding at the same time. This is more than any other metroidvania Zelda like I have played before, this game has true grit and heart and hits you with real talk, and I really enjoyed my time with it. It could be in the conversation at the end of the year for one of the best games of 2021, it’s that unique.
The audio is worth shouting out as the main composer on the game is Lena Raine, who also was involved with Celeste, so has an excellent track record with video games.
I would recommend it 100%. It’s available on PS5 and PC, it’s very reasonably priced at the moment at around £15 on Steam, and it’s a memorable gaming experience. I’ve played a hundred games that have great gameplay, fantastic controls, and heart-stopping moments, but Chicory: A Colorful Tale offers up something different. If you don’t like all the deep stuff, then the painting is very therapeutic and you can’t help love the characters in this game.
Developers: Greg Lobanov, A Shell in the Pit, Alexis Dean-Jones, Madeline Berger, Lena Raine
Publishers: Greg Lobanov, Finji
Platform: PC and PS5
Release Date: 10 June 2021