Chicory: a colorful tale (REVIEW)

Developped by: Greg Lobanov
Published by: Finji
Release: December 15, 2021 (Nintendo Switch)

Chicory: a colorful tale is a beautiful and emotional game. Chicory was originally developed and released in June 2021 for PC and Playstation. The game was released on Nintendo Switch in mid-December. The moving story and charming world feel right at home in the intimate setting of portable play on the Switch. While Chicory is released in 2021, it will remain poignant for anyone struggling with mental health issues or who finds their place in the world. Chicory’s tale goes deeper than the aesthetic in her coloring book seems. Therefore, it is a moving and engaging experience.

Chicory’s game director Greg Lobanov has already released Wandersong. Character designer and animator, Alexis Dean-Jones. Lena Raine, the composer of Celeste, is behind the excellent Chicorée soundtrack. The combined creative team and character designs give Chicory a timeless feel. Their work not only creates one of the best games of 2021, but a game that will remain relevant and moving for future players.

Story

The player is Chicory’s janitor, the current bearer of magic brushes in a long line of brush holders. When Chicory disappears, it’s up to the main character to find them. At the start of the story, the main character (each player can name the character) discovers a darkness seeping into the world and removing the color provided by the brush bearer. This obscurity is something all brush bearers have struggled against and comes to represent both a physical and an emotional threat. Mental health issues are treated tactfully in Chicory and become part of the central story. The main character struggles with self-confidence and impostor syndrome. While Chicory struggles with depression. As the game progresses more layers are added to the two characters and the complexity reflects our social and cultural issues of mental health and well-being.

Gameplay

Chicory is played in a top-down view similar to traditional The Legend of Zelda games. Each screen connects to the next to map a congruent map. The only fight takes place during boss fights, and these have unlimited tries and assists as needed. The developers even include the ability to skip boss fights for photosensitive players. Environmental puzzles abound and are the main element of gameplay. Through the use of the magic brush, players paint the environment to grow, shrink and activate the landscape. Much like a real adventure game, there are many environmental areas that a player can see that require additional abilities to access them. Fortunately, these abilities unlock as the game progresses. The brush illuminates the caves. Painting the landscape ultimately allows that player to move around in the painting or on the cliffs. These sets of movements open up new areas to explore.

In addition to environmental puzzles, the main character interacts with a variety of the world’s population. The side quests offer unique dialogue and explore more of the personalities of the main character and those they meet. On top of all the exploration and interaction, the world is an empty canvas for the player. Painting the world can be a calming change of pace. Or paint can create notes and cues for the player. I frequently selected specific color palettes for areas that I couldn’t access. Then, looking at the map, I had clear markers for where to return and explore as new abilities opened up.

The game includes a built-in hint system where the character calls home for advice on the next step. Even by encouraging the character to watch online if they are blocked. All of these systems lower the barrier of entry and reduce friction for players of all experience levels.

Graphic

A living coloring book is in praise of Chicory’s graphics. The game exists in black and white and allows the player to color the world as they wish. Fortunately, this approach reflects the value of the self-expression that the story explores. Painting requires an investment of time. However, the game provides this creative space for players to engage with however they want. Coloring is required for some puzzles and side quests, but just as art is subjective, so too is in-game graphics. I created lush colorful spaces. And I created horrors that clash.

Ring

The soundtrack and Lena Raine score is something I have listened to outside of the game. It’s beautiful and uplifting at times. Bewitching and emotional towards others. It captures both the joyful and optimistic moments of exploration and the self-doubt experienced by the characters.

Concerns

As a reviewer I often push through a game to finish the review and get the opinions back to the audience. Chicory encouraged me to take my time and express myself in the world. Therefore, one of the outcomes is this delayed review. But another result is a deep appreciation for the world and the characters created by the developers. Plus, it took an emotional journey not just for the main character but for myself as a player. Many of the emotional questions raised throughout the game will be identifiable by players. Chicory gives players of all experience levels the space and encouragement to keep going and believe in themselves.

Chicory a tale for today

Ultimately, Chicory: A Colorful Tale is an affirmative narrative journey of personal growth and discovery. Messages of self-esteem and self-confidence are invaluable to any player. Chicory’s clever approach to graphics and great soundtrack fosters a creative environment for players to explore and express themselves. Players who take the time to invest in the world will find value in adventure and art. Chicory is a timeless classic that deserves to be experienced.

Rating: 9.2

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