Calico Review (Switch)
Living out my cat cafe dreams
Publisher: Whitethorn Digital
One look at this game and you can probably guess why I was drawn to it. The pastel colors, set in a cute magical world, cats, and the reason you’re moving there is to run a café. And not just any café, but a cat café. Heck, with the weird abundance of boutiques where I live, which I have no idea why as there are already too many and most are seemingly never open (even before the pandemic), I sometimes imagine opening up my own cat café. It’ll be something totally different that will surely catch everyone’s eyes and I do believe people would enjoy it more than they’d think. Of course, with me not really savvy in that particular area and the pandemic, it will only be a dream that will only really manifest within games. And Calico turned out to be one of those games I could possibly manifest it in.
After creating your character, it’s time to start your new life. It turns out that your Aunt owned a cat café in a small town named Heart Village. She recently retired to travel and left her cat café, amply titled Calico on a cute cat sign, to you. It’s a good thing you arrived too, as everyone that lives in Heart Village (and even everyone else on the island as you’ll soon find out) loves the café and missed it. So it’s up to you to decorate it to your heart’s desire, as well as your upstairs room, cook up some delicious desserts, bring in some cats, and help everyone you come across. Though, there’s also another problem. The other areas of this island has been blocked off, forcing everyone to not travel to see their friends or go to any of their other favorite places. So you’ll also work on opening up access as well.
Managing your cat café is pretty hands off, so you won’t really have any stress about managing your time with the café and helping others. There are different furniture sets you can be gifted and buy that you can place and decorate your café with. You can go with a set theme, but you can easily mix and match. You can even get some of the animals roaming around that you picked up to hang inside or around the café. While this features mostly cats, there are other animals like dogs, horses, birds, and bears. Once you pick them up, they’ll be registered in your book so you don’t have to find them again to have them be your cafe animal crew or even have them follow you around. Also, I have to mention that you can store one of them on your head.
As you help others and gain money, you’ll be gifted and be able to buy recipes so you can add more food options to your café. You only need to make these once and put them in your display for residents to purchase when they visit your café. Cooking in Calico is pretty weird. Once you go to your floating cookbook and select what you want to cook, you’ll be shrunken down to where you’re about the size of an egg. You’ll get a list of ingredients the recipe calls for, and then you’ll have to grab them and throw it into the bowl. Once all of them are in, they’ll magically combine into the food or drink and all you have to do is throw it onto a tray. Though, you can get a visit from one of your café animals that decides to break the rule of not going on the kitchen counter.
Of course, with the café not really needing you there other than when getting a new recipe or wanting to redecorate, you’ll spend most of your time out and about. Other than picking up any new animals you run into, you’ll be helping out your neighbors and, once you open up the other areas, help out those living in the other areas of the island. After you introduce yourselves, you can ask if they need help and if they do, they’ll give you a quest. Quests basically range from putting a decoration up, fetching/delivering something, talking to someone, making a specific food and putting it up in your display case, and even bringing animals to them. Once you complete a quest, or wait a day for some quests, you’ll be gifted something that you won’t have to buy (which you can possibly use for another quest) or that you can’t buy otherwise. Honestly, I didn’t mind these quest types as I really liked how all the characters were written. It’s really a shame that there isn’t any other interactions with them other than getting a quest or asking if they need anything. Though, having to run back and forth did become slightly annoying, even when you’re riding on an animal, as everything and everyone is spread out. I pretty much dreaded going up to Autumn’s where you had to go up a winding path up a huge hill or going into the mountain.
Once you meet someone, they’ll visit your café and you’ll be able to see a quick bio about them. There is a heart system as well, which seems to indicate whether or not they have more quests as some do have quests dependent on you opening up the next area.
That reminds me, there are potions that you’ll be able to use. You start with a Return Potion so you don’t have to make the walk back and you’ll be able to get more once you introduce yourself to Autumn, the local potion-maker who runs a potion shop and has her house in a giant potion bottle. There’s a variety of potions you can buy/receive that ranges from a potion that will make the animal you’re holding big or small, change your appearance, or alter time. Specifically, using a potion to make an animal big will let you mount them (though, they will have to hang outside the café and won’t be able to be on your head).
There are other shops available that other characters own where you can buy clothing, furniture, and recipes from. There’s even a totally not shady sales-cat that sells cat toys along with recipes and furniture. At the beginning, you’ll struggle with money as you haven’t met everyone (not to mention they will only visit on their free time) or have recipes that people will pay a lot for, but late game you will pretty much have enough to buy everything. Until then, the shop’s inventory rotates every day.
Calico still has a couple bugs, but I didn’t run into any of the bad ones I heard about that was around at release. The most I ran into was just surface level stuff that was minor annoyances. I had the potions that will give you a sundae outfit and the one that will dye your hair and give you glowing eyes have the aspects off sync. Having the sundae hat linger or have the glowing eyes not show until I reused the potion to undo it. In terms of the hat lingering, I was able to have it disappear when I put on my headgear again. These potions also caused a reset either to the default clothing or the default color. Having you find the color you put it on again and the clothing you were wearing before. Backing out of the map with “B” will also cause you to jump and talking to someone while holding an animal or having one on your head will cause you take take it off/on (depending on how you were holding it), which can be annoying when a quest calls for you to bring an animal to them.
Performance-wise on the Switch it could be better. There are a few instances where you’ll notice some dips, like when you spawn back in after you finish decorating your café, and the only time the game slowed down big time was up in the onsen (as it has to deal with the snow and the steaming waters).
Though, there is an aspect that I wish Calico put in more and that was more interactions. I do wish you could talk to the characters more other than asking if they need anything or to get into their shop inventory, but this is mainly focused on their quests. There are a couple quests that suggested there was supposed to be more to them, but instead happened off screen. Like early on, you get a quest from Sunny who wants her and Blossom’s anniversary date in your café and asks to put up one flower furniture as it’s Blossom’s favorite. Once you do, you’re then told that it’ll be that night. Though, you won’t see them visit, or maybe a quick cute scene, but a mention on how the date went the next day and acts like you were there. Or when you set up cloud furniture for Maribel’s photoshoot which also felt like you’d possibly be roped in to help or have the café be closed off after you wake up (having Maribel posing with the photoshoot crew inside). There was one moment where you do do something different, whether than implied, though (spoiler, moving the lighthouse to convince a giant cat to unblock a path) which made me wish this kinda thing happened more. I also wished you could go into the character’s houses to see how they were decorated and be able to go into the Community Center.
While Calico could still be improved and I still think this could have used some more time in the oven before releasing, it’s still charming. Despite some gripes here and there, I couldn’t help but end up falling in love with this game and it honestly made my weekend better as I just didn’t want to stop playing. And I even wanted more once I reached the end (which I have heard the devs are planning to add more content once the major bugs are ironed out, so that’s exciting). So, do I recommend picking up Calico? Yeah. I feel that the charming, cozy, experience Calico presents is worth it as long as you don’t mind the few problems it has and that it’s simplistic with what it offers (otherwise, wait a while). It also helps that this is priced at $12, as it’s the kind of game right now where you’d recommend it around this price range, but won’t if it was priced higher. I do really hope this game is able to reach it’s full potential and all the bugs with be squashed soon.
I reviewed Calico on Version 1.0.4.