One of childhood’s greatest pleasures is the blank slate of a fresh coloring book and a brand new set of crayons. This was an easy and natural way that allowed young children to express themselves. Chicory: A Colorful Tale brings the wonder of art, color, and more through a unique puzzle adventure.
Story – The Next Top Wielder
Chicory starts off by cheekily asking for your favorite food, and using it to name your avatar in the world filled with interesting buildings and characters – but devoid of all color. As the next wielder of the magical brush, it’s up to you to unravel the mystery. As you let loose your brush across landscapes, two stories unfold – Chicory’s disappearance from the wielder role and your journey as the new wielder.
The world has been plunged into a colorless canvas, and evil is creeping at the edges. It was surprising to see how the charming and pleasing main game was, that the parts where you confront the enemy become even more impactful.
Despite the cute and cuddly aesthetics, Chicory delves into more complex, unexpected themes. This is not your typical Disney story. Self-esteem and imposter syndrome issues are explored in a world that regards art very highly. The player character – whose real occupation is a janitor – lack of art experience is justified, but the cast around them is encouraging. This makes you your own worst critic during sections that require you to make your own designs.
The writing and story work so well with the gameplay, offering a tight narrative that makes all its elements read the intended end-product: a sweet game that is personalized to each player. After all, it’s your drawings and your paint choices that persist on each screen. You probably won’t be painting any more screens too often after the first few hours of gameplay, but it’s still a nice way to leave a signature in the world.
At 15-20 hours for completion of the main quest, the game counts as an epic, but the emotional and time investment pay off so much at the end of the experience that it never feels like a timesink.
Gameplay – A Surprise in Every Corner
You start off the game with a mere paintbrush and a paltry palette – but boy, was I surprised about the number of things this game lets you do. Your arsenal of brush tricks ramps up and the environments introduce new elements that you use to solve puzzles and navigate the interesting world.
One thing that I love about Chicory is that the tutorials are very short and not linear – you learn to do things by trying. A lot of “eureka” moments abound when you test out all your new tools. This also goes for the coloring you do on the side – palettes and brush shapes challenge your creativity. Players are rewarded for their curiosity as they color every piece and sneak into every corner of the map. Sidequests here and there reveal more about the cast of characters and fun, humorous things about the world.
On the PS4, I found the painting to be a bit of a bother with the controller thumbstick. It gets the job done, but you will probably get more precise paintings (if that’s what is important to you) on PC.
There is no combat in the game, but you do have boss battles. These sections are bullet hell-styled minigames – the battle felt like something right out of Okami and the final boss of Undertale. At first, it felt out of place, but these anxiety-riddled battles become something you prepare for, an exciting respite away from the typical puzzles and exploration.
The co-op feature also includes a new kind of multiplayer experience. When playing solo, you control your character and your brush. but you can hand over the reins on the instrument to a player 2. This is able to create a unique cooperative experience where you figure out where to go next. The drop-in feature makes it accessible for non-gamers to play even for just a little while.
The accessibility options available for the player are also a great addition that allows even children to play. The flashing lights did do a number on my eyes, so I was glad they put in the option to take it out.
The PS4 version has a bit of a framerate issue, with some of the animations stuttering. However, these were just inconveniences that didn’t ruin the experience.
Audio and Graphics – Cute, Cuddly, Colorful
Upon beginning the game, I was called back to childhood days when I would receive a fresh new coloring book. The thick blank line-art is begging to be filled with color, and even without your interference, the art is charming and detailed.
I enjoyed the well-designed cast of characters, and how they fleshed out the game even more. The wide cast of characters offers lots of different perspectives, making the world feel very lived-in and alive. Each has a name, a personality, a goal, and even an appropriate font and speech used for their dialogue. Even the little animations that our hero and their friends are filled with personality – a real delight to see.
Chicory also packs a standout soundtrack and excellent sound design. Every stage is accompanied by beautiful music, appropriately changing to set the mood and prepare you for what’s coming next.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale was reviewed on the PS4 with a code provided by ICO Partners.