Chicory: A Colorful Tale, a unique and beautifully illustrated game, has been on my wishlist for a long time, and I've been waiting for a chance to play its demo. Upon learning about all the demos that would be available during Steam Summer Game Festival, I obviously jumped on the opportunity to play Chicory.
Just from the screenshots alone I was enchanted by the idea of what was basically a playable coloring book starring a dog with a giant paintbrush and knew there definitely had to be a lot of depth in the game I couldn't see from screenshots and the trailer alone.
With a developer like Greg Lobanov, the creator of Wandersong, and amazing composers and artists who worked on games like Celeste, I knew it couldn't go wrong in art, narrative, or gameplay mechanics.
Fast forward to playing it on the very first day it was available in the festival, and my thoughts were proven correct and my anticipation was not in vain.
On the first screen, you type in your favorite food, and I soon realized that it would become the character's name. This naming pattern also seemed to be the case for the other wielders, Chicory and Blackberry, and all of the NPCs around town, such as Lemon and Pea. My character amusingly ended up being named Ramen.
Upon entering the game, we're immediately introduced to the core game mechanic — painting — by cleaning a room.
The narrative then quickly begins with a bang, literally, and all the vibrant colors disappear. With that, we're off to search for our mentor Chicory. Though we don't find her, we do eventually pick up her left behind paintbrush for the first time, somehow becoming the next "wielder", the only one who can paint this quirky world.
When using the paintbrush, I discovered Chicory is even more like a coloring book than I expected. Outside of quests, what I painted, what color I painted, and where I painted was 100% up to me. Even my own doggy body and clothes could be painted. All the basic painting functions, like strokes, bucket fill, brush size changing, erasing, and color changing, were present.
However, different areas were sometimes limited to certain colors, which is actually a good thing because too much choice can ultimately lead to the player's demise. The limited color selection led to nicely tied together aesthetics in the creators' vision of how the area should look, yet it still felt like my own unique masterpiece.
I really admired this design choice, which made each area a collaboration between the developers and the players. Take, for example, this autumn-themed forest I painted.
What you choose to do after you've picked up the brush is just as open-ended as your painting choices.
Though I knew I had to eventually get back to the main story with Chicory being missing and spooky black stuff trying to fill the screen and all, I first wandered around the suddenly colorless small town and talked to residents. I spent some time doing small quests for the townspeople, like repainting a house or finding kids, and learned some controls as a result.
Afterwards, I did eventually listen to a townsperson's advice to go deeper into the woods to find the previous wielder, Blackberry, so I could figure out what was going on. Along the way, I had to solve little puzzles, such as bouncing across on mushroom tree things in the correct order to get to certain areas of the map.
There were also little gifts sprinkled around, containing clothes. These were sometimes harder to get to, but the incentive was always tempting for someone like me who loves character customization.
After successfully navigating my way to Blackberry, I was led to an area that was spookier than I expected for such a cute, seemingly lighthearted game. The black static or fog — or whatever it was — ended up filling the screen just as he was telling me something important, and I was thrown into my first boss battle with a giant eye in the midst of darkness.
After defeating this boss, the demo was over much too quickly for my taste because I was already hooked and ready to play for the rest of the day.
This demo convinced me that I need to get Chicory the day it comes out and find out what happens next in the adventure. I discovered that there's even more flexibility in both character and environment customization and more depth to the story than I had imagined.