In the sports world, every once in a while a team is formed with an absolute powerhouse of players. What usually happens is complete and utter domination, and (if you are a fan of that team at least) it is a complete joy to witness. In the video game world, mainly due to contracts, schedule conflicts, or lack of common creative vision, this concept doesn’t really happen all that much. Sometimes though, the planets align (or some similar over-dramatic phrase) and the “dream team” is able to come together. Such seems to be the case with Chicory: A Colorful Tale.
When I first saw the announcement of the title on Kickstarter, I was already interested in the cute and colorful looking header image. When I saw who was working on this, well you could say that they had my full attention. The studio is comprised of director and writer Greg Lobanov (Wandersong), composer Lena Raine (Celeste), Sound Designer Em Haldberstadt (Night in the Woods, Wandersong, and the upcoming Untitled Goose Game), and newcomers to the industry Alexis Dean-Jones and Madeline Berger heading up the art department. If you haven’t heard of any of the titles I just listed, you should stop what you are doing and go play them; but if you have, you probably see why I was so excited for this new project! Now, just because they have all of this talent in one place, it doesn’t mean that their project is guaranteed to be a home run – but I really do think they have something wonderful here.
In Chicory, you play as a cute little dog named Pizza (or in my case Burgers, because the character is actually named after your favorite food). They are the apprentice/housekeeper/biggest fan of Chicory, the town’s artist who is responsible for adding all the color to the world. One day, while sweeping up a room, all of the color suddenly disappears – and mysteriously, so did Chicory! Picking up her brush and venturing out into the land of Picnic Province, you must try your best to restore color and hope to all the locals, all while hoping to find out what happened to Chicory!
From a gameplay perspective, Chicory initially seems like a Zelda-esque adventure game, but really it doesn’t have a lot in common with that series. While there is exploration, puzzle solving, and local townspeople that need help, the main gameplay revolves around painting. I actually was reminded more of games like De Blob or Paper Mario: Color Splash with its emphasis on recoloring a black and white world.
With Chicory’s brush, you are able to alternate between three colors and different brush stroke sizes to paint over the different objects and characters in the world. Objects react to paint differently, expanding or shrinking on contact, which opens up many different puzzle and platforming opportunities in the world. There is a bit of combat thrown in as well, with characters becoming vulnerable to a paint stroke after they attack. This was a very minor part of the demo I played, however, and the emphasis was (rightfully) on the puzzles, exploration, and painting.
The gameplay was very fun and satisfying from what I played, but the real draw to me was the visual and sound design. Visually, this game is just so darn cute. The artwork, design, and aesthetic look they come right out of an adorable children’s coloring book, and I love it. On top of that, being able to color all of the characters and trees and houses exactly like I wanted made me feel like I was adding my own mark on the game world and it’s visuals. There is just something so simple and pleasing about the look, and I cannot wait to see what further characters and locations will look like!
Just as good, if not better, is the insanely charming sound design. Firstly, the text sound that plays with dialogue sounds like little bubbles popping, or some other cute Animal Crossing thing like that. Other sound effects are similarly soft and easy to listen to, with nothing being rough or annoying. The real champ already, though, is the soundtrack. Lena Raine knocked it out of the park with Celeste, and this one seems to be another winner already. There isn’t a ton of music yet, as it is early in development, but what there is just fits so well with everything else. Whimsy, adventure, and a sprinkle of darkness and sadness flow through the score, hinting at what is to come – and I cannot wait to hear the full thing.
Maybe this game is just marketed specifically for me, or maybe there are others of you out there like me that appreciate indie games like this! I love when a game overflows with charm and fills me with happiness – and Chicory looks to be another such game to do so! August 2021 is pretty far away from now, but based on what I’ve played so far and that talent involved, waiting two years for this game will be more than worth it.