In 2019, developer Greg Lobanov’s Wandersong caused quite a stir in the indie gaming community, so much so that his next project, Chicory: A Colorful Tale, received funding on Kickstarter almost immediately. Like anything else, Kickstarter games can hit or flop, sometimes falling short of expectations and sometimes surprising them. Fortunately for fans of Wandersong and Greg Lobanov, Chicory: A Colorful Tale falls into the latter category and is one of the best games of 2021 so far.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a new twist on the Zelda-like formula, with an overhead view and general game design reminiscent of the SNES classic The Legend of Zelda : A Link to the Past. As the player-named dog character, players explore the world map, complete quests, uncover secrets, meet characters, and unlock new abilities that allow them to reach previously inaccessible areas.
The Zelda influence is felt throughout Chicory: A Colorful Tale, and the game never really strays far from that formula. However, it does end up changing everything by taking inspiration from different Zelda games. While the first half of Chicory: A Colorful Tale is like a linear link to a past Zelda game, the second half is more like a 2D version of a Breath of the Wild style Zelda game. It’s at this point that players have most of their abilities and are free to complete the next set of objectives in any order. The game is wide open, which keeps things interesting until the end credits.
Besides being based on The Legend of Zelda’s framework, Chicory’s main appeal is that the world is completely black and white. The main goal of the game is to bring back color to Chicory’s black and white world, which the player can do using the magic paintbrush. There is no limit to this. Players are free to color everything they see in front of them, from the ground to trees to buildings to characters. After seeing the world in black and white, players will fill it with vibrant colors, making it fun to spend time coloring every inch of Chicory’s world map.
When players pop Chicory’s map, the game shows them which color they’ve left in the game world. This makes players feel like their actions have a real impact on the game world, which helps NPCs recognize this and even comment on it.
Chicory’s various NPCs are great because each has a different look and personality, their dialogue is well written, and even though they’re all anthropomorphic animals named after food, they talk like real people. The dialogue is emotional, handling serious subjects like mental illness expertly, and often quite funny. The game occasionally touches on some dark topics, but it does so while maintaining its sense of humor.
Some of the NPC players encountered in Chicory: A Colorful Tale require side quests to complete, ranging from finding lost items to painting logos. There are a few different painting challenges in Chicory, players are tasked with not simply coloring in the world, players can paint whatever they want and see it pop up in the game. Chicory’s character will comment on the colors the player chooses when making a painting, which is a nice touch and enhances the feeling that the player is really making their mark on the game.
When they’re not painting the world and completing quests for NPCs, Chicory players will find themselves taking on the game’s main story quests, all of which are great and offer a variety. Notably, when players complete platforming challenges to reach the top, players can scale up Dessert Mountain, a snowy area with Peanuts-like Christmas music jingling in the background. It ends with a rhythm minigame reminiscent of Elite Beat Agents, which is a refreshing change of pace since most games seem to be copying Guitar Hero’s music/rhythm minigames.
Most of the main story quests in Chicory: A Colorful Tale culminate in short dungeons themed around specific game mechanics, unlike the Zelda series. The puzzles in Chicory are fun without ever being frustrating, and since it’s always focused on new game mechanics, there’s plenty of variety.
The only downside to Chicory’s Zelda-like dungeons are the boss fights. Chicory’s boss fight is like someone trying to pat their head and rub their stomach at the same time. Not only do players have to watch where they move Chicory’s dog hero, but they also have to move the brush across the screen to deal damage to the boss. Chicory’s gameplay mechanics don’t quite mesh with boss fights, and since there’s no real consequence to getting hit other than having to repeat the last few seconds of the game, the fights lack any excitement. The boss fight in Chicory is the only place in the game where there is a “battle”, but no fight seems to be better.
Playing the game in co-op mode can make Chicory’s boss fights a little less confusing. Chicory: A Colorful Tale is one of the best local co-op games of 2021 so far, but only if played in a certain way. In co-op, the first player controls the dog and a brush, while the second player only controls a brush. To make the game more fun in co-op, we recommend that the first player only control the dog and let the second player do all the brushing. This makes them feel more engaged because it requires some extra communication between players to solve puzzles and overcome challenges. Being the first player to do everything makes the whole experience for people joining co-op rather tedious.
Whether alone or with a partner, Chicory players should enjoy completing the game. All in all, it might only take you about 10 hours to earn Chicory’s platinum trophy, but it’s no time wasted, and it’s engaging from start to finish. Exploring Chicory’s world map and pursuing all its secrets is a rewarding experience, and players won’t regret taking the time to achieve 100% completion.
Chicory is small enough that players can find everything without pulling a hair out, but the game provides extra help for those who need it. Rather than forcing players to hop online and search for what to do next, any player trapped in Chicory can find a phone booth and call their in-game parents for advice. The first clue is always given by the player character’s mother, who will vaguely tell the player what to do next, and then the optional second clue comes from their father, who will provide more specific instructions. This way, those who get stuck can decide if they want the game to hold their hand or just want a little nudge in the right direction.
Likewise, all collectibles in Chicory have something set up to make finding them easier. Players can talk to NPCs to let them know which areas can still find collectibles, whether it’s junk that players use as currency or lost kittens that can be returned in exchange for decorations.
From side quests to the main story, Chicory: is an entertaining time with a colorful story that will keep players’ attention until the end, especially fans of The Legend of Zelda series. For certain moments of gameplay that require precision brushing, one could make some quibbles about the accuracy not working or some platforming parts feeling bad, but really the only major hurdle is the tedious boss fights. It’s otherwise close to perfection, and certainly one of the better Zelda-like indie games.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is out now for PC, PS4 and PS5. Game Rant reviewed the game on PS5.