Imagine the joy of a fresh coloring book. Bold black lines and inviting white space all waiting to be filled. Take that premise, add a simple yet charmingly written top-down adventure and you have Chicory.
Chicory is set in an animal world. You are the canine janitor for the current Wielder of the magic paintbrush that gives the world color. One day the color vanishes and you find the brush unattended – so begins your journey as the amateur new Wielder. You unlock new skills, new brush templates and colours – and discover funky new costumes to dress up in.
This delightful indie title was Kickstarter funded in 2019 – raising $84,327 on a $30,000 goal – the brainchild of Wandersong developer Greg Lobanov, with a team of designers and composers who have worked on indie instant classics Celeste and Untitled Goose Game. It definitely has a pedigree and the game feels the polish of experience. Released on multiple platforms – PC, Mac, Sony PlayStation 4/5, it could be argued that Chicory feels most at home on the Nintendo Switch.
While keyboard-and-mouse or regular controller play is fine – due to the nature of the Nintendo Switch console, you gain the options to enjoy the game in handheld or docked mode. While the Switch has many (many, many, many… etc.) games, seldom has either play option felt so radically different as it does for Chicory and it is to the developers’ credit that they took into account the versatility of the console.
In handheld you utilise more precise touch controls to guide your brush strokes. It admittedly can be slightly cumbersome when you need to simultaneously guide your character with the joystick with one hand, then swiping (and obscuring) the screen with the other – particularly in relatively more frantic boss battles but it is perfectly serviceable.
Docked mode, meanwhile, is another experience entirely. You use the Switch joycons in a manner that is almost a loving hark back to the times of Nintendo’s other successful console – the Wii. You use the left joycon to direct your character but the right joycon utilises the motion technology to let you move the brush (much like you would with the Wii remote and nunchuck). You can also reverse these in settings if you are left-handed. The freedom that such a simple control scheme provides brings out your inner child and is a joy – even if you are painting a (colorful) mess all across the screen.
The game offers plenty of excuses to bring out your creativity. Characters on your journey will ask you to design a logo, draw a picture, or just show off your skills. You also can colour in the map any way you wish, and doing so works with skills you unlock as the game progresses. To stop these moments from feeling too contrived or forced, the game employs entertainingly silly dialogue that you can’t help but find amusing.
Fundamentally Chicory is about creativity and in that aspect you will find a lot of fun. The quest is fine – you travel the map, take on dungeons, beat puzzles and find collectibles. New skills give you access to new areas. Pretty standard fare, all told.
The main drawbacks are the game’s length and difficulty – or lack thereof. Rarely will you feel a strong semblance of challenge. Puzzles are straightforward and you are given sufficient hints for where to venture next from character dialogue. Even if you do find yourself uncertain for what to do next, the game provides phone booths where one call to your avatar’s parents will give you everything and more. The game’s boss battles aren’t too difficult and there is no “Game Over” should you somehow mess up. Even if they get rather annoying (but never unbeatable), you have the option to skip.
Withholding any sense of challenge may prevent Chicory from being a draw for those looking for a meaty adventure, but if you go in looking for a fun escape and a chance to destress, this is certainly the game for you.
At the end of the day, Chicory is a neat and charming distraction that feels perfectly at home on Nintendo’s hybrid system – just don’t go in looking to feel anything more hardcore than glee.
Chicory is out now for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 & 5, Windows PC and Mac. Review code provided by Finji.