There’s been a rising trend in video games as of lately. We are starting to move away from having rushed and exciting action packed experiences to offering slow and relaxing experiences. Games that don’t test the skills and reaction time of the player, but rather their patience. The players aren't being pressured to reach a goal and follow complex steps. They just atone to the gameplay loop and feel relaxed. Yahtzee Croshaw coined a term recently, “The Cozy Game,” and there hasn’t been a better name since. The goal of a video game to remind you is to escape reality. Forget about the problems in life and transport yourself into a mythical realm to fulfill a fantasy. It doesn’t matter what and where you are, but that you were able to escape. To immerse yourself into the role the developers wanted and live the dream they set up for you. The fantasy.
However, we should tie the fantasy offered by a majority of video games back to “Cozy Games.” What happens when there is too much separating the player from living out the destined fantasy? What happens if too much is being required of them or the steep difficulty curve is too much to handle? What if the simulation that was supposed to help them feel relaxed and escape reality is another factor adding pressure onto their already stressful life. What if they want a game that is purely designed to serve comfort and not offer a power fantasy with requirements? Enter the “Cozy Game,” or what I like to call the comfort games. Normally I’d be critical of those unable to adapt and appreciate the artistic vision of visionaries who know challenge is needed to enjoy their games to the fullest, but I’m giving it a pass this time around. I’m starting to understand the purpose of comfort, because I myself am slowly being hooked into these games.
I’ve grown dreadful of sticking my face into a grinding stone and hoping my hard work and effort would go somewhere only to see it got me five percent through the game. Not saying I was bored or wanted to give up, but that it would get annoying once a certain amount of time has passed. Titles with longer runtimes and content have become a hassle for me to critique now, because it’s easy to see where the quality of content rises and dips. Longer games aren’t bad, I mean one of my favorite games is Persona 5 for lord's sake, but you have to ask yourself if that runtime was truly needed. Did a game like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt need to be fifty hours long or was it there for padding? Trying to justify the sixty dollar price tag at launch by cramming more stuff in. Critics are more harsh towards shorter games now, because they lack the content and runtime of bigger titles. However, I’d say short games are far better than long games. While they lack the size and content of bigger games what they do have is quality and consistency. Making the most out of what little they have and delivering something memorable. You can especially see this in the indie scene, where smaller teams of devs and solo developers try to execute themes and ideas while a limited budget restricts them. It’s less easy to see where the quality dips up and down, because there aren’t as many to be found within a well paced five to eight hours of runtime.
How is the appreciation of shorter, smaller games connected back to the idea of comfort games? Coming up on the runway we have Chicory: A Colorful Tale, one of the most charming games I’ve played recently and fulfills the requirements of a comfort game. In fact, it goes outside the comfort zone of a comfort game and addresses one of the hardest things a modern day individual could deal with now. Poor mental health and feeling like your actions are taking you absolutely nowhere. I’ve actually been keeping a keen eye on Chicory ever since it was revealed, and it wasn’t untilI I learned it was being made by Greg Lobanov that my excitement grew higher. The same dude who made Wandersong, an absolutely enlightening game I’m a huge fan of. So my expectations were high. I didn’t want him to outmatch Wandersong, but deliver more wholesome which the industry could use more of. Did he deliver? Yes, he did. Chicory is exactly what I hoped it would be and at times it exceeded the expectations I had. My time with the game was short, but they were well spent as it ultimately led to a satisfying conclusion. Today we’ll be talking about why I loved Chicory: A Colorful Tale and why it deserves your attention.
Our story takes place in the colorful world of Picnic, a place inhabited by numerous cute little animals named after different types of food and meals. At least it was colorful until a terrifying event caused all the color in the land to disappear. The being responsible for giving color to the land is The Wielder, a master artist who holds the legendary Brush which can generate any color they imagine. The Brush has been passed down from generation to generation, and with it the legacy of The Wielder is carried on. The current Wielder of Picnic is a rabbit by the name of Chicory who lives within the Wielder Tower as all previous Wielders have stayed. Sadly we don’t play as Chicory. Instead we follow a short dog with stubby legs who serves as the janitor to the Wielder Tower. We can name the dog after any food we love, but in this case we’ll use the default name which is Pizza. Anyways, Pizza was busy cleaning the storage room within the tower until the colossal event causes all the glistening colors in the room and the rest of the world to disappear within an instant. Wondering what could be wrong, they go outside of the storage room to investigate what happened.
Pizza scurries down the hall to find the Brush lying outside of Chicory’s room. They notice the door is locked and Chicory won’t respond when they ask to come in. Not knowing what to do, Pizza decides to take the Brush which is usually only prohibited to the Wielder and take it to someone who knows exactly what to do. They journey to a forest lying southwest of Luncheon, the town they live in, and meet Blackberry who was the previous Wielder before Chicory. Pizza then discovers a dark tree lying in the middle of the forest and upon entering it she encounters dark beings. These monsters hellbent on erasing the color in the world and bringing upon what could be the apocalypse. Before Pizza could be consumed they are pulled out by Blackberry, and are questioned if Chicory passed the Brush down onto them. Pizza admits the truth and states she took the Brush. Blackberry is disappointed such an event could happen, and demands Pizza to return the brush immediately to its rightful owner.
Pizza knocks on Chicory’s door and asks to come in, which Chicory this time accepts. They find her room in a complete mess and Chicory is lying in bed depressed. They ask what is wrong and before they could ask more questions Chicory tells them they are fine. Pizza asks if she wants the Brush back, and Chicory tells Pizza that she should be the next owner of the Brush. Giving her a saddened yet somewhat official approval to be the Wielder. Pizza is then excited to hear this, because for her entire life she has dreamt of being a legendary Wielder much like Chicory. She then runs out of the tower to embark on an epic journey to rid the land of corruption and paint all of its color back. What is corruption and where is it truly coming from? What does it take to be a Wielder and the expectations thrown onto them? Why was Chicory sitting alone in her room? Sad even though she was given an important duty. Could someone have offended Chicory or is this sadness being produced by Chicory herself? Dozens upon dozens of thoughts floating around her head with no one to properly talk about them to, and with enough time those thoughts slowly become doubtful. Guess we’ll see.
A Colorful Tale plays more like a traditional adventure game where everything takes place from a top-down perspective, you have four to eight directions to move, and a big sprawling world to explore. A couple examples of these sort of adventure games include Hyper Light Drifter, Tunic, Unsighted, and most commonly known A Link to The Past. You’ll not be able to access every area in the world immediately, because you may need a new navigation ability or piece of equipment. This means either progressing through the main story or exploring until you stumble upon the item you need. It allows the developers to pace the player into the game. Present with interesting puzzles which test their early game abilities and save the more complex puzzles for later when they have better equipment to mess around with. It’s also not that hard to get lost as there are townships and key landmarks scattered around the world and you have a map to check where you are. Chicory is your average adventure game, but with a twist.
You carry around a magical paintbrush and it can be used to paint the environment and interact with certain objects. The whole game’s gimmick is to get the player to color and see how certain things react when paint touches them. Sometimes you’ll have a ball which explodes when you color it allowing for you to blow up frail rocks. You may have a plant which extends or grows taller, and the only way to make it grow is by touching its pedals or the pollen in the center. You may be a cave shrouded in darkness and the only way to see what lies ahead is to use paint on the floor and crystals to illuminate the way. If you paint on a surface you didn’t mean to add color onto you can always erase it. You also increase and decrease the size of your brush to change how much space you color in, and change what type of brush you use by unlocking new textures while exploring. One of the most important abilities you unlock early in the game is being able to swim in paint, and this ability expands later to help you navigate more complex environments. Swim up walls, in water, or through small gaps. It opens up the exploration by a long shot and adjusts to the ever expanding world.
You can spend dozens of hours coloring the world and sometimes it’s best if you do. Coloring landmarks will change how they appear on the map, and this may help you keep a good record of where things are and how to possibly get to them. Painting the world and environments isn’t the only thing you do in Chicory. You are occasionally presented with a minigame or a task along your adventure. Maybe you have to design a logo for a restaurant, draw a portrait of a character, or write your name onto a bus certificate so that you can fast travel around the world. Chicory reminds the player it’s a drawing game and puts their drawing art skills to the test. It doesn’t have to be perfect or look splendid, but all that matters is that they are proud of the end results.
Occasionally you are thrown into a dungeon or tricky platforming section, and this is where the meaty bits of the game lie. They utilize all the skills you have unlocked at the moment and present puzzles that keep you thinking. At the end of each dungeon there may be a boss and even though Chicory doesn’t have any combat they are still challenging and engaging. Seeing if you can dodge the numerous projectiles and attacks flying around on screen and strike the colorless foes with your brush. They are fun, easy to understand after a minute, and never so complex to the point where too much is being demanded of the player. Besides that there really isn’t much else I can say about Chicory. There are collectibles scattered throughout the world like hats, lost kittens, and trash you can exchange to unlock furniture and flowers to decorate your house and certain points in the world. Otherwise it’s a simple game to grasp. Hopefully you can fend off the corruption and figure out what exactly it means to be an artist.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is simple yet meaningful and executes all its intended ideas perfectly. By the end I looked back with a strong, positive impression and said that it absolutely loved up to the hype placed onto it. There is so much this game does right and any complaints I can come up with are mainly just nitpicks. It’s an absolute joyous masterpiece and the last time I felt this enlightened was with Wandersong.
The game itself is fun to play and makes full use of the core gimmick. Splattering my paintbrush everywhere was fun and sometimes I’d stop progressing to just slowly detail the environment. Change between colors and see if I could make the colorless world look a little more beautiful. This is a game that doesn’t punish you for taking your time, and takes all the time you want because at least every growing threat isn’t written in such a way where you have to deal with it immediately. The puzzles are well designed and never get too challenging nor easy. You can quickly pick up on what to do or how to solve a problem, but it takes time and patience to solve the puzzle properly. Each ability you unlock is an expansion to your arsenal of moves and by the end you can see how far you’ve gotten. Being able to navigate the world with ease and transform a five minute backtrack into a two minute backtrack since you no longer have to platform around obstacles and bottomless pits. The hats and other cosmetics may not serve much purpose to a majority of players, but I enjoyed collecting them along my journey. The puzzles and challenges to obtain taught me more about the mechanics, and I got to customize in unique ways afterwards. Bosses are never too hard and even if you get knocked out the game is extremely forgiving. There’s this one point in Chicory where you are told to go to four corners of the map and you can approach each one in any order you’d like. This is where the freedom of the world opens up and the story progresses no matter what you do in what order. Sure each of the last four chapters up until the final boss are short because these four trials aren’t that long, but that’s fine because if it were to drag out longer I’d get annoyed. Overall the game design is great.
I really like the art style of this game. Simple, but it allows you to familiarize yourself with the characters and world quickly. Every character is really cute and it’s made even cuter with how they are named after different meals and food. The writing for these silly characters is adorable in such a way where it’s comedic, but aware of where it’s coming from so it doesn’t throw so much at you. I also like the soundtrack to this game. It was composed by Lena Raine who also did the soundtrack for Celeste, and they produced a bopping list of hits yet again. All of the songs and tracks in this game are great and when an exciting track popped up it usually fit the mood and excited me for what was about to happen. This game feels like Animal Crossing if they were to place more depth and better writing onto the world. Unfair comparison to make, but a good one since we’re complimenting a game I absolutely love.
What I love most about Chicory though is the story. At first I was expecting a tale about artist block and it was kind of like that at first, but then it takes a sharp turn around chapter three. What Chicory is actually about is mental health and the doubts which can form within a person. I know we’ve talked quite a bit about mental health on this site, but it’s a big topic guys. Chicory dives into mental health in such a way where they show the dark parts about it without having to get too ugly addressing it. The duty of the Wielder and the expectations thrown onto them. Wondering if what you are doing is good and if it doesn’t please others there may be a lot wrong with it. Having to pass your legacy down onto somebody else and wondering if they are right for the role. Do you trust them and what happens when you question their possibilities? When you doubt them and start a fight that shouldn’t have happened. When you grow distant from those who used to care for you and get angry for the harm you inflicted onto them. You isolate yourself from the world and grow fearful of the harm you could do. The failures you have created and slowly you isolate yourself. Chicory is in the territory where Psychonauts 2 and Celeste is where it’s deep but there’s still some light heartedness to it. So the story is splendidly told.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is another darling indie and right now I’m gonna tell you I strongly recommend you picking it up. It doesn’t matter what type of gamer you are and if you do or do not like comfort games. Please pick this game up and might as well buy Wandersong along the side while you are at it. However, this wouldn’t be a review without complaints. Don’t worry, it’s nothing major that harms the overall product and remember it’s just nitpicks. The game was clearly designed to be played with a mouse or in my case a touchscreen. I was playing the Switch version and it felt lovely to play in handhold mold compared to controlling the brush with the right joystick. It feels really odd and especially unviable during scenarios where you need to swipe it around quickly. I’m trying to compare Chicory to Wandersong because they are severely different games, but I think I love Wandersong more to be honest with you. Chicory has more replay value, and the side content gives you a reason to keep playing even during the endgame. However, Wandersong had more memorable and outstanding moments. I fail to recall specific key points or jokes in Chicory. It didn’t have a chapter with coffee pirates, a toyshop dystopia, a war between nomads and wizards, or an epic conclusion where the whole world sings to save themselves from annihilation. Chicory is still well written, and the heartwarming moments hit me hard, but there wasn’t as much unique or out of place stuff that made me implant it in my head. Chicory: A Colorful Tale is still amazing though. It took me roughly around six and a half hours which is a good runtime, and for twenty bucks you get a banger package. I wish I played this sooner. In the end I am going to give Chicory: A Colorful Tale a 9.5/10 for excellence at best.
This critique was written by the single man at Review on. Stay tuned for more content and feel free to check more reviews out over at my site!