As I get older in life I often find myself wondering how far I’ll make it in the journey towards fulfilling my dreams. When I think about my aspirations I always weigh them against my own self-doubts and seldom do I allow myself to simply enjoy the fantasy that I might one day catch up to all of my life’s pursuits. Instead I think about my obligations, my circumstances, and the odds that are stacked against me. While I know deep down the only thing truly holding me back is myself, that’s still a hard adversary to overcome. Because we are all living with two sides of ourselves, the dreamer and the pragmatist. So many of us don’t give ourselves the chance to be who we truly can be because we are stifled by self-imposed limits. But what if we had the opportunity to overcome those personal demons that tell us we’ll never be good enough?
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a fantasy yarn of a literal underdog who does just that. A lowly servant to the heralded hero (Chicory), you find yourself responsible for restoring all the colors of the realm known as “Picnic” after they all mysteriously disappear at the outset of the game. This leaves the entire landscape devoid of color and looking remarkably like the pages of a coloring book. In fact the entire game is a coloring book. Armed with a magical paint brush it is up to you to travel the realms in a Zelda-inspired grid based map in pursuit of the keys to restoring the world to its former glory. The aforementioned brush is the tool of The Wielder, a legendary hero who is responsible for creating beauty in the world of Picnic. Every generation a new Wielder is chosen and the brush is passed down to them to care for the people. With the current wielder, and your master, Chicory out of the picture you must take up the mantle of Wielder and restore color to the world.
Anywhere you go in Chicory your brush goes with you and you can draw and color the world in any way you see fit. Toggling certain buttons will increase or decrease the size of your brush tip, another button changes the current color of paint you are using and you even get additional brush heads for textured designs and preset shapes. This makes your entire journey through the game an opportunity to create and customize works of art everywhere you go. Nothing is off limits for decoration. There are even side missions that allow you to create specials works of art such as a logo for the local pizza shop. Once your logo design is complete it is displayed on the signage in the city for the rest of the game.
Let’s talk a little bit more about the world of Picnic. The environments in Chicory are mostly devoid of combat and instead are explorable via puzzles and obstacles that can only be solved or circumvented with the use of your magical brush. Chicory does a fantastic job of changing up mechanics frequently throughout the adventure so that you are constantly learning new tricks and interacting with the world in new ways. You will find yourself uncovering hidden messages in the world with the stroke of your brush, filling bubbles with paint to explode like water balloons of vibrant color and even creating pools of paint to dive into much like in the Nintendo shooter Splatoon. The puzzles in Chicory are extremely clever and just challenging enough that I found myself very satisfied when I solved them and I was never stumped by one for too long. The challenge balance was just right.
But there’s more to being a wielder than just solving puzzles. You must also use your brush to take up arms against a series of brilliantly designed boss battles. This is where I feel Chicory shines the most. Making full utilization of the games dual control scheme you must control your hero with your left thumbstick while controlling your brush with the right. Chicory’s boss battles are a brilliant ballet of dodging attack patterns while also being one with both sides of the screen. You must evade attacks on one end and launch an assault of your own on the other. Your thumbs and your brain will be tied in knots as each boss battle gets more intense and demands more of your mental fortitude. With every boss encounter I found myself simply amazed at the clever tactics I was being asked to deploy in order to overcome my adversaries.
As I eluded to earlier in this review however, the real adversary in Chicory: A Colorful Tale lies within. The message of this adventure goes places I never expected it to and it’s story is told in a heartfelt and often hilarious simplicity that I found captivating. We see characters fail to live up to expectations set upon them, struggle to connect with where they are headed in life, and rise above their standing in the world to do what is right. The cast of characters in Chicory are far deeper than their 2D line art aesthetics would have you believe, and the game is all the better for the humanity that the developers fill in between it’s lines.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a story of hope in a time when many people need it. As your hero travels through the land of Picnic and meets its people, you leave a trail colors that touch the lives of everyone you come across. It’s an allegory of how we can change the world with simple acts of kindness and belief in each other. It’s a wonderful message told in a delightfully charming game. Chicory: A Colorful Tale truly is a work of art.