Chicory: A Colorful Tale Review (Switch)
Colored with love
We all dabbled in art, but few of us actually pursue it. And even fewer become good enough to produce amazing pieces and find an audience that follows their artwork and pay for commissions. I’m sure one that like drawing, but not that great at it… along with having a case of too-much-itis and putting myself down.
Well, in Chicory, you play as a character that has little to no history in art. Named after your favorite food, I was fortunate enough to name myself Spaghetti, you are actually just a dog janitor. Good news though, you’re the janitor of the recent Brush Wielder, Chicory, who you admire a lot. Wielders are basically the only ones that can wield the magical, ancient Brush that is the only way to bring (or retouch) color to the world. Due to the Brush being passed down, the way everything is colored changes between them, along with responsibilities. While you’re dusting one of the rooms in the Wielder’s Tower, all the color suddenly drains away, leaving the whole world black and white. Obviously being worried, you venture out to see Chicory, but you find the Brush on the floor and Chicory’s door locked.
Of course, you pick up the Brush and start the Spaghetti Era. While it’s exciting being a Wielder, and (kind of) being handpicked by your idol, your main goal is to find out what’s happening. What caused all the color to drain and what’s causing all these weird trees to pop up and this darkness that resides in the huge trees that weirdly are multi-floored. You do find out the problem fairly early on, but it takes time to get better with the Brush and part of it isn’t so much something that you can solve right away as it hits themes about mental health and impostor syndrome (which just about anyone experiences, including me). You’ll be traveling all over Picnic Province helping out other citizens, painting, solving puzzles, and continuing your self-imposed quest on solving the problem.
The puzzles here are pretty great. There were only two or three I was lost on and one that took a little fiddling with. Puzzles are based on using the Brush and most are quite easy to figure out as it mainly calls for you to paint the environment, and sometimes to erase paint. It starts simple as you’re introduced to plants that will grow or shrink when they’re colored, but as the game progresses, you’ll encounter more like plants that will fling you or bugs that eat paint. After each chapter you’ll also gain a new ability, due to your bond with the Brush strengthening, which can let you swim in paint (Inkling style) or have illuminated paint. This all wraps into you figuring out how to get to your destination as you try to weave your way through various obstacles and destroying rocks so you can use it as a shortcut (or to actually get through there).
There are also boss fights which are surprisingly scary, but great. Making it a nice change of pace, giving you a slight increase in difficulty as you’ll be dodging attacks and figuring out how to dish out attacks (though you can’t really fail), and the story significance they hold. While there is an option to skip boss fights, I don’t really recommend it because of the aforementioned story significance, and you are basically invincible without increasing your health.
If you do get stuck on a puzzle, or just forgot where you needed to go, there are phone booths at just about every location (and usually before a puzzle the developers suspected would need it). You can call your character’s mom at these phone booths to get a vague hint at what you need to do. What if it’s a hard puzzle though? Well, no matter, as your dad can be requesting the phone and he will give you a more detailed hint. I really liked this hint system, especially since you can get some cute conversations between you and your mom after certain points in the story.
Depending on how you are, there is a possibility that you might get frustrated that you can’t get your drawing just right or get even close to what past Wielders have drawn. It was the case for me, but I did end up warming up to it and liking that aspect. It did take away the stress from needing to draw everything perfectly. Plus, I liked how this tied to your character. Your character is not an artist, and no one mentions that you ever drew or studied art, so it totally makes sense how amateurish your skills are in-game. It is a bit weird that everyone, par from one character, loves what you draw and your color work, but it does feel like a connection to the meme where the audience likes both artist’s art despite one looking better. Not to mention that you do end up inspiring others that thought they had no chance at becoming a Wielder and how it comes back around for the ending. Just have fun and don’t agonize over the small details.
Aside from the main story, there is a lot of optional stuff you can do. You can do these while progressing through the main story or afterwards. The main one is just coloring in everything and everyone. While you would color in some here and there as you’re going through, you can decide to color everything in. Your map even has an option to show all the areas you colored and you can watch a replay of when you unveiled parts of the map and when you colored once you complete the main story. You can attend the art school to draw what the teacher requests or recreate a famous work, which will be displayed somewhere in Picnic. Scattered all around, you can pick up litter that you can spend to get various decor (which you can place around), small gifts so you can get clothing items for you to wear, and big gifts which will give you a brush style. There is even a quest where you put on a specific outfit based on a riddle and deliver letters based on the clue you’re given. You’ll even get chances to create your own shirt, hat, brush style, and color palette (so you won’t be beholden to the palette tied to the screen you’re on). There are also some side quests characters will give you that you can do, including a post-game quest. There is a lot for you to do here if you just want to stay a bit longer.
While I was originally going to get this on PC, I was interested when we got a surprise Switch release. Even more so after I heard the features they added into Switch, which was really what got me to getting it there. If you do not like the idea of drawing with a controller stick (and I don’t blame you, it’s terrible), but want it to get it on your Switch, don’t worry. While you can draw with the stick here, this lets you draw with the touch screen. You also have the choice of using motion controls to draw when you have the joy-cons detached from your Switch. While the motion control drawing can be a bit iffy, though it’s normal, it did become my favorite way to play (I played half using touch and half using motion). Especially since it made optional puzzles where you have to jump and draw easier to do and your finger won’t get in the way. There is also a local co-op option, so you and your friend can paint together.
I’m so happy I got to play Chicory before 2021 ended. This was on my radar right from when it was announced, as I loved Wandersong and Celeste (and you can definitely tell this is from them), and even more so when I tried out the demo. This is a truly wonderful game from the soundtrack to the story, to the mechanics centered around you painting with the Brush, the characters, and the themes this presented and the way it handles it. I can’t recommend this game enough. Just be careful, you might have the urge to play it nonstop.
And if you’re wondering if this is worth picking up on the Switch, definitely.