Anyone can be an artist. This is the message that welcomes you as you load into the warm world of Chicory: A Colorful Tale. And over the course of this special little game, you’ll hopefully wrestle with and embrace the truth in that statement.
You see, the world of Chicory is utterly devoid of colour, and it’s up to a plucky pup with a paintbrush to rejuvenate the people and places within it. The problem is that the protagonist doesn’t really know how to do that – but then, neither do you. It’s quite the burden to put on one person’s shoulders, even if you think you’re the next Picasso. Thankfully, the way this works from a gameplay perspective is accessible, encouraging, and extremely neat.
On the PlayStation 5, I can move the right stick to control a cursor and then pull L2 to lay down a shade of varying size or colour, cleaning it up with the opposite trigger. The triggers work brilliantly, but I often resorted to using the DualSense’s touchpad to quickly colour my way through sensitive puzzles.
It’s hard to mess up the platforming controls that Chicory boasts, but to have a unique painting system live on top of that Zelda-like foundation without any issues is remarkable. The mechanic is central to everything, but never in a way that feels gimmicky. As you design quirky T-shirts, render complex motifs, or just splatter a mouse’s house with your maker’s mark, the important emotions that come from indulging your creativity quickly come into focus.
Perhaps the most profound thing about it is that once you complete Chicory, you’ll have a gigantic and unique work of art that’s based on how long you took to complete the game’s puzzles, and where you hung out in its secret-filled open world.
At one point mid-game, I reached for my water bottle and accidentally globbed a load of green paint onto a badger named Custard. If this were a physical canvas, I might have been frustrated that I’d made such a clumsy error, but in Chicory, you’re taught to love your mistakes. Through irreverent dialogue and intelligent storytelling, it pushes you to consider the value of your imagination, no matter how messy. Before long, the entire area’s lit up in a sea of colour and stamps.
As you’ll learn across its roughly ten-hour campaign, Chicory is a confident achievement in game design and a capable vehicle for some powerful morals. It’s a game about being good to yourself and an exercise in imagination that just about anyone could appreciate. What’s most pleasing about Chicory is the thought of someone in a creative rut playing the game, and feeling better for it afterwards. Chicory is a great game, then, but also an invaluable tool – a way for people to see the childlike joy in creativity without the harsh judgment that comes from within. What colour is the sky in your world?
Players can call home from phone booths all over the map, and the pup’s mother will pick up, offering a vague hint towards the next objective. But wait too long, and dad will reach for the receiver, ready to spell it out directly if the player needs it. Genius.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a superb paint-based puzzle platformer with an important story to tell.
Genre: Puzzle platformer
Format: PS 5 (tested) / PC / Mac / PS4
Developer: Greg Lobanov
Release: Out now