Chicory – A Colourful Tale delivers an experience much more than an adventure about painting your way across a canvas. As someone that considers myself not very creative visually, my love for Chicory is testament to the fact that it is more than a colouring book. Touching on themes of depression and self doubt its charming array of characters posit that we are more than the destiny laid bare for us.
The adventure begins with the simple question of “what is your favourite food?” A simple and disarming question that becomes the name of the protagonist pup and hints at the personality of the game. I chose Lasagna, not realising that it would become my name, and was forever reminded of a certain orange cat for the entire playthrough – oh well. Starting as a cleaner for the great wielder’s tower, you are shocked to find the legendary magical brush abandoned in the hallway, cast aside by Chicory, the current brush wielder. Since you have aspirations of one day being the wielder, you take up the brush and do try and give it back, but are also happy to go out into the world of Picnic, which has inexplicably been reduced to a colourless state.
Initially you interact with the world and its inhabitants to bring back the colour and joy in Picnic. These are your first interactions with the wonderfully eccentric cast of characters in Chicory, and immediately shows you the charm and quality of its writing. Each character a different animal named after a foodstuff, all unique and all worth a conversation no matter their role in the tale. These characters also offer side quests to let you feel a part of Picnic, whether it is helping design food and logos or picking up the litter and finding the lost litter of kittens strewn across the map.
The journey for Lasagna however is not all painting sunshines and lollipops. As the new wielder you must take on everything the mantle entails and investigate why colour was drained from the world. Before too long you encounter devilish trees at the root of the corruption. Engaging these corruptions becomes the closest the game comes to combat, and I found these entanglements to be well designed variations on the gameplay. The moments after defeating the corruptions offer looks into the psyche of Chicory and why she abandoned the post of the Legendary wielder. These are also the moments when the themes of the tale are strongest, as we come to gripes with Chicory’s feelings of inadequcy and the difficulties in living up to expectations.
Considering the gameplay largely entails painting and brush strokes, an art form that has been around for a very long time, Chicory does well to keep fresh throughout the journey. After defeating corruptions, the bond with the brush deepens allowing for new additions to your palette, including swimming in your paint for quick traversal and the ability to scale painted walls. Exploring the canvas rewards you with presents that come as clothes and headgear to customise the look of your favourite food and brush styles that largely shake up the paint play. These brushes can include helping you to paint in straight lines or helping you dot the canvas with squares and lines, or perhaps the most useful for quick painting and movement – the trusty fill in bucket.
The path through Picnic moves through an array of puzzles that evolve well, keeping the adventure fresh as wet paint throughout. This is achieved with the introduction of new mechanics all throughout the game. Early stages see you be able to grow or recede certain plants with the power of paint, so that you may get past or use them as a launching pad depending on the plant. Later stages of the game see you able to jump into small clouds (and then raining colour) to bridge the gap between pillars. These puzzles are another well designed aspect of the game, never feeling too hard yet also not too simple.
Chicory is overall an enchanting adventure with quality seeping from all pores. Writing, music and gameplay all blend to form a game that is sure to be talked about for Indie of the Year.