Art is a funny thing. You can see yourself in it, perceive your environments or reflect something much deeper. Chicory: A Colorful Tale starts as a game where you passively paint away at the ground around you, only for you to take a step back and realize what you were really painting - an intriguing and honest story about loss, your own ego, and the decay of the things you love. I love Chicory: A Colorful Tale and I can’t see that love decaying any time soon.
Chicory starts with you picking your name based on your favorite food, a cute little idea that adds a surprising depth to each character you meet. In games with lots of people, it can be easy to skip over names and entirely ignore people. This becomes much harder when you know this little tidbit about every character. There’s a distinct personality to everything in Chicory, a personification of even the environments you move through.
This is needed as you will find yourself moving through the same areas quite frequently. The game takes after old Zelda and Metroid games, having you go through sections to take on bosses, only for that to unlock a new way to see something you’ve previously seen. It could unlock new areas or illuminate puzzles you were stuck on before. This plays into the theming of the game in wonderful ways - the idea that sometimes in life, you need to go through experiences to fully understand situations or ideas. The idea that sometimes, you are blind to what really matters.
I had to introduce this concept before getting into the story as it really frames how engaging and interesting it becomes. You are cleaning the house of Chicory, a famous wielder (one who wields a paintbrush with the ability to paint the land) when, suddenly, all color in the land goes. You are greeted with nothing but the black and white outline of everything you could see just a moment ago. You pick up their paintbrush and bring it with you, in the hopes of getting it to the right hands.
Being in control of the brush, you can paint everywhere around you, including you with the analog stick or touchpad. You can make the brush a bit bigger or change up the texture and color with time as you develop into a better artist. This lack of color is indicative of Chicory’s relationship with the brush, or perhaps the way the land reacts to it or something much deeper. It deals with the genuine insecurities and imposter syndrome that come hand in hand with any form of art. That feeling that tells you “I should scrap this review and start again, it's meandering and pretentious. Just tell them it’s a good game”.
See, although it uses colors to tell its story, it's about something much more open and expressive, something human. Ultimately, Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a puzzle game. Its only real combat takes place between you and your own personal challenges. Everything else allows you to take a step back and think about it. The puzzles are varied and unique, leaving lasting impacts on everything around you. A clothing shop might want you to design a shirt for them, only for someone else to be found wearing it later on. Chicory is about leaving your mark on the world before you leave and it absolutely made its mark on me.
There’s this bristling creativity to every moment in Chicory. The central boss fights feel somewhere between a shoot ‘em up and that creative painter game you played beforehand, having you test your skills in an environment that isn’t as susceptible as everywhere else. They felt thematically consistent while having their own personality and unique fights, exactly what a game like this should do.
There's also so much to explore here, with tonnes of little secrets, extra quests, collectibles, and even a 2-player co-op mode where you can paint together. Chicory felt like it came out of nowhere to sucks tens of hours of my life and I find that incredibly hard to turn down.
This being said, it's not a perfect game. Controls can occasionally be a little finicky and some levels are more consistent than others but this is part of why Chicory: A Colorful Tale works so well. It is both glorious in its own self-actualization and self-aware of its own issues. I am going to be honest here, I am terrible at drawing, I always have been. Possibly the very worst thing about the game when I played it was the parts I touched. This being said, they are exactly what made me so attached. It shone a tiny flashlight on my own insecurities with art and made me love them.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale — Verdict
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a game that surprised me in many ways - its purpose and intent bending and changing throughout playtime. I went in expecting something charming and cute with just enough depth to keep me invested. It gave me so much more than that. I received a charming and engaging puzzle game that dealt with genuine human emotions of imposter syndrome, depression, what we do for our art and so much more. I received a genuinely brilliant video game.
- Empathetic and Real Storytelling
- Genuinely Creative
- Lots of Activities to do
- Occasionally Finicky Controls