Chicory: A Colorful Tale | Game Review | Bringing Color Into the World
Chicory: A Colorful Tale - An emotionally poignant journey addressing self-doubt and imposter syndrome. Don't worry, just create. A must-play indie gem!
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Unless you’re the most remarkable being in existence, you’ve probably had some self-doubt.
Am I doing enough? Am I good enough? Is this thing that I’ve created even worth putting out there?
We’ve all been there, and suffering from some form of imposter syndrome is just part of the human experience. Especially in the times we live in.
It’s not necessarily a new thing for a game to tackle the ills of the modern day. Celeste remains one of the most poignant and cathartic tales about anxiety out there. However, the way Chicory: A Colorful Tale addresses self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and the depression that comes from them is truly something special.
It’s not without its faults though, so let’s take a look at Chicory: A Colorful Tale in this review.
The Bravery to Create
Chicory: A Colorful Tale was developed by the award-winning indie developer Greg Lobanov and published by Finji. You might have seen some of Greg’s previous work if you played Wandersong, the innovative musical adventure game from 2018.
Going back through his portfolio, it’s clear that Greg has come a long way since his first game, a 2D “Zelda-like” called Wolf from 2008. Even the leap in quality between Wandersong and Chicory shows a sharp level of growth in a relatively short amount of time.
Now having played through Chicory, I can’t help but see the parallels between the themes of this game and Greg’s own journey. The subject matter of Chicory feels like it’s probably deeply personal to Greg, but it also strikes a balance with familiarity to anyone who has been brave enough to make something and put it out into the world for all to see.
More Below the Surface
At first glance, you might think that Chicory is a game about color. I mean, it’s right there in the title.
The opening cutscene explains that in this world, there is no color except for what is painted on by the Wielders of the magic paintbrush, a magical tool that breathes life and vibrancy into anything it touches.
The scene goes from white characters on a black background to a vibrant display of hues once the titular character has brush handed down to them, giving you a taste of the art they are capable of.
But, before too long, that color is taken away again, and the player character (a decidedly chipper and upbeat dog named after your favorite food, which was Pasta in my case) becomes the Wielder of the paintbrush.
From there, you go on to meet the people of the land of Luncheon in the Picnic Province, including the previous Wielder and Chicory’s mentor, Blackberry. After you use the powers of the brush to navigate the world and meet Blackberry at the location of an ominous presence, the happy and idyllic tone of the game quickly transforms into something much more sinister.
Within the first twenty minutes of the game, you go from playing what amounts to an interactive coloring book to battling a set of eldritch, crudely drawn eyes that blast projectiles and beams of penetrating light at you.
Whether you choose to interpret this opening sequence in some way or not at all, it becomes very clear that there is much more to Chicory than what is shown on the surface.
No Mistakes, Only Happy Accidents
While the narrative and theming of Chicory are definitely on point, I didn’t feel the same way about the primary gameplay at first.
I played the game on an Xbox Series X, and how you control the all-powerful paintbrush, the core mechanic of the game, is by holding down the right trigger and moving the right stick around to create brush strokes.
It’s fine I guess, and there isn’t really any better way to set up the controls on this particular controller as there are sequences where you need to paint and move the player character at the same time using the left analog stick. However, it definitely feels like this mechanic was created with mouse input in mind, or touch screens at the very least. I imagine PlayStation gamers will have a better time if the DualSense touchpad is allowed as an input method.
But then I began to think, maybe this is exactly what the developer intended. The clumsy lines and splotches created by my hand slowly became more precise as I got deeper into the game, seemingly in pace with the new paint types and abilities that you gain throughout the journey. Like Pasta, I was getting better by doing, by just pushing forward and not worrying about how trash my previous work looked.
In addition to new colors (you only have a handful at the beginning of the game, which are dependent on the area you’re in), and stamps that can change the shape or texture of your brushstrokes, you also gain paint abilities. This includes things like glowing paint that lights up dark caves and causes cave crystals to shine brightly, a Swim ability to move through water, and even a jumping move that allows you to clear moderate distances. All of these new abilities are tied to your bond with the brush, which increases as you progress.
After I came to terms with my limited amount of control and precision over the brush, I started to enjoy these additional features quite a bit. Traversing the Picnic Province is a ton of fun and intensely creative, and stopping in an area for twenty to thirty minutes at a time to just paint using what I had eventually became a highlight of my experience.
Everyone’s a Critic
Just like any art, each Wielder has their own interpretation of what things should look like. And just like in real life, there are people who prefer one Wielder’s art over another’s.
Immediately and objectively, it is clear that the actual protagonist of the game, this little pup, is not as good of an artist as Chicory. Part of that is due to the input method used to actually control the paintbrush, but a much bigger part, and perhaps what makes this part of the game land so well, is that their level of skill doesn’t even matter.
Chicory is a game about creating, regardless of your experience or abilities.
Early in the game, you find out that the color has disappeared from the world because Chicory is depressed for reasons that unfold and develop masterfully over the course of the eight to ten-hour story (though you could spend many more hours completing all of the side content). Chicory is anxious and riddled with self-doubt, which makes her life and the lives of the people around her dull and colorless.
The emotional ride Chicory: A Colorful Tale takes you on to dismantle the internal and external forces that block creativity was one of the most interesting and poignant tales I’ve experienced in a video game recently. Sure, sometimes the controls aren’t as fluid or precise as I would like them to be, and I need to address that as this is a review for a video game, but as a piece of art that is itself about the nature of art and artists, Chicory: A Colorful Tale is something I would recommend to just about anybody.
Don’t worry, just create.
Final Score: 9/10
What is the main theme of Chicory: A Colorful Tale?+
Chicory: A Colorful Tale explores self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and depression, highlighting the struggles of creators to find their worth and overcome obstacles.
Who developed Chicory: A Colorful Tale?+
Chicory: A Colorful Tale was developed by Greg Lobanov, an indie developer known for games like Wandersong.
What is the gameplay like in Chicory: A Colorful Tale?+
The game's core mechanic involves using a magical paintbrush to paint and solve puzzles. Players use trigger and stick controls to create brush strokes, gaining new paint colors and abilities as they progress.
How does Chicory: A Colorful Tale address anxiety, imposter syndrome, and self-doubt?+
The game's narrative centers on Chicory's journey to overcome self-doubt and depression, reflecting the struggles of creators. It emphasizes the importance of creating despite insecurities.
What aspects of the gameplay in Chicory: A Colorful Tale could be improved?+
Some players might find the controls less intuitive on certain platforms, such as consoles. The brush mechanics, while fitting thematically, could be more precise.
What is the story of Chicory: A Colorful Tale?+
In Chicory: A Colorful Tale, superstar artist Chicory vanishes, taking color from the world with her. You, her devoted fan, wield the Brush in her absence and embark on a challenging journey to restore color to the world!
How long does it take to complete Chicory: A Colorful Tale?+
Completion time for Chicory: A Colorful Tale varies due to playstyle and side content. Main story averages 8-10 hours, while exploring side quests and extras extends gameplay.