Chicory: A Colorful Tale–Game Review

Rarely is there a game that presents itself like Chicory: A Colorful Tale, a cute and whimsical fantasy world, only to tell a story about depression, anxiety, feelings of self-hate, and feelings of imperfection. Chicory: A Colorful Tale tells a tale of artists who cannot bear to show themselves to the world and to display their art and creations to others so they might appreciate it. Quoting the French poet Paul Valéry, “Un ouvrage n’est jamais achevé…mais abandonné,” which translates to:

A work of art is never finished…merely abandoned.

The game starts with you naming your favorite food. Odd choice, so I went with “steak,” not realizing that I would be naming my character “Steak.” The game starts telling the story of the “Wielder,” who is the one that holds the Magic Paintbrush, and provides vivid color and art to the province of Picnic. The Magic Paintbrush is passed down from other Wielders to those who have earned it by trial and tribulation, and once achieved, the Wielder (who is known as Chicory in this story) becomes a beacon of hope and color to the world. One day, your character (a dog), who is the janitor in Chicory’s Tower, finds the world entirely devoid of color. As you investigate, you find the Magic Paintbrush abandoned on the floor and Chicory (a rabbit) gone.

You exit the tower and roam the town of Luncheon (you will find every town and every character that you encounter will be named with a food-theme). Those familiar with old-school role playing games like Earthbound and The Legend of Zelda will feel right at home with the navigation and tile-screens. Your character is given the power to wield the brush as you try to bring color back to the world, and its inhabitants. The story of why Chicory has abandoned the brush becomes painfully clear as the story progresses.

The Magic Paintbrush is a powerful tool, and Chicory (for the purpose of this review, I will refer to Chicory as a “she”, since her gender is not identified) is unable to wield it. She abandons it, and retreats into her room as darkness overcomes the world of Picnic. Through trial and tribulation, you have to discover the source of this darkness as you help Chicory confront her demons and fight through your own.

Admittedly, I am not an artist. I am bad with color composition, and designing the world with my paintbrush is not a strong-suit of mine. Thankfully, the game doesn’t require you to do so most of the time; however there are many color options and brush styles given to you, as the world you’re navigating through is a blank canvas. Painting the world is required for many traversal pathways, however. You can swim in the paint, as well as climb and enable trees and other vegetation in the world to pop.

The world is mostly a “walking-simulator” type, with a few traversal elements to get where you are going. Much of the world is blocked off from you until you progress and build a bond with the brush, giving you new abilities to wield. The only enemies you encounter are full screen bosses in the dungeons you enter. The game’s options menu has many quality of life options to choose from: invincibility, boss fight removals, switching control stick schemes, even disabling wet sounds (not many people like those sounds apparently!). The game itself is still easy by nature, even without those options enabled, so don’t expect a challenge through most of your gameplay. For those that want to just enjoy the story and the world, there are options!

You better find some tough colors!

Most of the game finds you interacting with the characters in the world, from a saddened animal who lost a best friend, to a hoarder finding purpose in adopting lost cats–even solving a funny mystery on who stole hotel furniture. The game is ripe with a diverse group of anthropomorphic characters, all just as interesting and full of life as the next.

What hit me the most with this game is the underlying themes of depression and self-hate. Chicory, the Magic Paintbrush Wielder, becomes overwhelmed with so much self-doubt and indecision that she cannot bear to color the world anymore and is overcome with dark thoughts. Even though your character doesn’t know Chicory that well in the beginning of the game, you develop a strong bond with her through conversation, and even your character bears weakness of their own to her. These conversations are filled with sadness and heartbreak as Chicory tries to muster up the courage to be an artist, much less even wander back out into the world, in addition to your character taking on the role of The Wielder in the most unorthodox of ways.

The overall theme of self-deprecating feelings of artists and creators is something I can sympathize with. Often artists cannot stand the sight, sound, or feel of their work, and either abandon it or destroy it. As Chicory’s friend, you witness her go through intense feelings of depression, sadness, suicidal thoughts, and pain, as she abandons her life’s work. However, battling with her inner demons, she does not shoulder that burden alone.

You don’t have to be the best artist.

As your character interacts with Chicory, you share a common bond with her. You share your own feelings of anxiety and inadequacy, while you worship the ground Chicory walks on. These conversations, to me, were the most important parts of the game, not only because it shows the path for Chicory to become more sure of herself, but also by simply telling a tale of friendship and sharing the burdens this life tends to bring us. Life is full of darkness and despair, and often we feel that we can’t face the world or other people–especially when we bring our works and art out for the world to see. You learn that the darkness is more comforting when you have a friend, or loved one, by your side.

The game clocks in at about 10-12 hours, maybe even longer if you’d like to complete side quests like delivering mail, designing a pizza restaurant’s logo, and even finding furniture for one heck of a rooftop party. There’s collectible clothing, brush styles, and accessories to find throughout the province of Picnic, as well as other discoveries.

Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a colorful game, as the title suggests, which pits you with the responsibility of bringing color back into the world. The gameplay itself is a simple top-down RPG similar to games like the early The Legend of Zelda titles, with optional boss fights and many other quality of life adjustments. While the game mechanics are simple in design, the story and underlying themes of depression and anxiety are right on the forefront. These themes can be triggering to some who may share the same feelings as the characters in the game, but in the end the road traveled will have been worth it, as you share the burden with your friends.

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