There are few things more personal than art. That is, the art produced by an artist. Obviously. Even in its most commercial, populist form — including when it’s a small part of a much larger product — the work of an individual artist is ultimately recognisable, whether from obvious sweeping traits or tiny little consistencies that come to define them. Chicory: A Colorful Tale’s extremely difficult job is to translate that sense of ownership, the pocket creative universe of the artist, into… well… a video game. It’s not the most efficient medium for this kind of individuality, for creating and owning something one-of-a-kind, but Chicory – against all odds – manages to pull it off. Surely, though, it can’t also be a charming adventure game on top of a paean to, and canvas for, creativity? It can! It is!!
You play as a little dog creature who happens to be gainfully employed as the janitor of the elusive Wielder, they who, er, wield a magic paintbrush which you’ll be unsurprised to learn ends up in your own hands. One day, the present Wielder – the titular Chicory – appears to have gone missing and left the Brush behind. More pressingly, indeed, all the colour in the world appears to have vanished. Your player character, Double Sausage and Egg McMuffin (they’re actually named after your favourite food, so this handle will vary), takes up the Brush and sets out into the world of Picnic to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
In practice this is a Zelda-ish top-down sort of thing, but that’s only on the very surface. There’s no focus on combat, here, though boss battles are present. Indeed, these sections reminded us of Nintendo DS titles in the way they had you juggle moving and touching. Yes, brilliantly, Chicory’s Switch incarnation includes (optional) touch controls for painting, which absolutely feel like the way the game was always intended to be played. See, with the entire game being in black and white for narrative reasons, it’s your duty and privilege to colour everything back in.
What this means is you’ll be solving puzzles – almost all environmental, traversal-based stuff entailing the painting of your surroundings. You start off with just a standard, resizable brush and a handful of basic colours with which you can draw life into the world via strokes, taps and holds. Touch controls aren’t mandatory, though – you can also use the right stick, shoulder buttons and triggers to produce your drawings. Sometimes this way is more efficient than the touchscreen, but mostly we found we’d stick with our index finger.
The ability to freely paint all over each “screen” means it’s always very clear where you’ve already been and – consequently – where you need to go next. Even if you somehow get lost, you can simply have Double Sausage and Egg McMuffin call home from a phone booth to receive both hints and direct solutions. It’s all very easygoing stuff, but it really does absolutely ooze charm. And paint.
Everyone you meet in the world is unique and each of their predicaments feed into the central theme of what it really means to be an artist; and not just an artist, but an artist with the weight of expectation behind you and control of the most prominently visible works in the world. This is the genius of Chicory – by making every screen a work of art in itself that you draw, every copy is, ultimately, bespoke. It’s exceptional. When characters judge or chide your character, they’re really talking to you. Ditto when they praise your efforts, especially when you’ve overcome their initial scepticism to do so.
The beautiful Lena Raine soundtrack marries perfectly with Chicory’s thematic clarity and chill atmosphere, though it (and the game itself) aren’t afraid to get a little heavy when they need to – it’s pretty much guaranteed to make any committed artist see themselves in the game on some level, and they might not like what they see. In its own way – and without wanting to lurch into spoiler territory – it’s quite a confrontational little thing, despite being overtly family-friendly throughout.
As an adventure game, Chicory is quite sincerely up there with the very best of the genre. There’s plenty to see and do and a full completion run will probably take you 25-30 hours. The characters and their travails are rich and likeable, the game’s sense of humour is generally inspired, and it’s all very sweet without being sugary-twee and talking down to the player. It’s also an affecting little tearjerker that will definitely strike a chord if you make art, and almost certainly will even if you don’t – so long as you’re capable of pretty basic empathy. Chicory is simple to play but impressively long and complex, with perfect controls, performance and visuals. Throw yourself into painting the world and you’ll be left with a game that’s very much your own and speaks to you directly – a beautiful marriage of mechanics, themes and visuals.
Definitely one to pick up. How can colouring in ever become samey?
Have this one on my wish list and look forward to picking it up at some point. Have too much to play as is though so I'll probably end up just waiting for a sale like I do with most eShop games these days.
I'm looking forward to playing this but it'll need to wait until I've finished CrosscCode and Eastward.
Thanks. Does it not have motion controls?
This is going to be the game I pick up with holiday gift cards. It seems to hit the sweet spot of sincerity, puzzles, and story that games like Paper Mario had.
Colouring becomes samey? That's like saying jumping in Mario becomes tedious!
@GrailUK Thats like if breaking pots in Zelda becomes boring
@BirdBoy16 Hahah good one!
Definitely on my wishlist. In fact I may go for it today! It looks really sweet.
That artstyle is so good. Kinda reminds me of Yoshi's Island, how it's sort of a childish artstyle (not in a bad way).
If a physical materializes, will probably get it, I love the look of it
@Bunkerneath Limited Run is licking its proverbial chops.
Chicory dickory docked, amazeballs. That must have taken as long as the review (which is also great).
Will be getting this as soon as it goes on sale.
"Chicory dickory docked." So good. I actually laughed out loud. Keep up the great (and entertaining) work!
Will be getting this (again) after I beat Later Alligator and Toree 2, two other great indie games.
This looks great - good review too. I'm heading off to YouTube to see if I can watch it in action (sorry NL, but I do see other sites from time to time).
@StuartGipp "Chicory dickory docked". You've earned pun points! XD Great review!
@BenAV I'm in the exact same position. So many amazing choices, so little time.
Easily my favourite game of the year, glad the game is getting some of the attention it deserves on Switch. Having painting as the main mechanic is also such a great tool for knowing where you have and haven't properly explored in the world map.
@Jango-Forest Motion controls ARE an option if you are playing on the TV. Just need to turn them on in the settings. I tried them for the first time last night and they work pretty well.
Got this on PS4 back in June and thoroughly enjoyed my time with it, but all the way through was thinking this would be perfect on the Switch. And finally here it is! If I knew this was coming, I would have waited, but as it is, I'll definitely play this again on Switch. Not right away, as I have a lot of other games to play at the moment, but it's in my Wish List.
So I did pick this up today and I've given it a go....
It's really really really good so far, I'm quite loving it. Seeing who made the music was what made me fully decide on getting it and I'm loving every second of it so far, it's such a cute game! Didn't think I'd enjoy it as much as I have so far.
Sounds almost too good to be true! And I love that the game length is around the 25hrs, not a 5hr adventure.
Will certainly be purchasing.
@Longondo How you getting on with Eastward? I have it for after I play through Crosscode.
@Indielink Are motion controls Joy-con only or do they work with the Pro controller?
@OorWullie Looked like it was Joy Con only. When I turned it on, the game immediately asked me to place the right Joy Con on a flat surface.
Motion on TV actually works really well. I found it to be very comfortable.
This game was robbed in the game awards, I dont understand why it wasnt even nominated to best family game.
Meh, if what a friend of mine said about the writing is true then I’ll more than likely skip it since I couldn’t even finish Steven Universe: Save the Light a while ago.
And forgive me if I’m wrong about the situation, but. didn’t this game suffer some controversy for including a certain unsavory someone’s OC as an NPC?
@ZebZed just found out about this and was like "how???" but its because it turns out they were replaced, lol; going to assume it was a kickstarter reward thing
I really wish the art style was different, it's so unappealing & basic looking to me. When art is the main theme, i think i would probably need to at least appreciate the look of a game I'm expecting to spend 25+ hours with, but with this game i keep thinking everyone speaking so glowingly about it has to be looking at a different game than what the screenshots show...? Oh well, maybe I'll snag it on sale.one day.
At least i learned a new word today (twee, which my phone tells me is misspelled, or doesn't recognize either, lol).
@Indielink Thanks, I think they'd be my preferred method.
This game is like a hug! So welcoming and full of charm!
It's like Link's Awakening and deBlob had a son, and it somehow inherited all the cuteness of Kirby's Epic Yarn.
And the painting mechanic works brilliantly with the Switch's touch screen (i still have to give the motion control option a try). This feels like the best version of an already outstanding game.
@Jango-Forest yes the game have motion controls. Also the dev have put HD Rumble. Each paint sounds have a different rumble. 😁
@somebread It was definitely a Kickstarter thing, I remember seeing them on Twitter complaining about having their character removed and their $600 USD pledge refunded.
But as far as the "how?" is concerned it's in large part due to the devs not doing any background checks on people and the whole "Pay-X-Amount-To-Get-Your-Character-Into-The-Game" rewards being a bad idea in general.
This says a normal playthru is 8.5 hrs, yet 100% run can be 20 hrs... How can so many people say such different things about the length? Is it padded by the "optional" coloring of the environment? Is that what takes only some people so long?
@Longondo i heard this too, but this says 8.5 hrs...
Game was meatier than I expected. Got the platinum trophy on PS5 in 40hrs. Great game and worth every cent.
It’s on sale now!
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