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Chicory: A Colorful Tale Review

Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a compelling twist on The Legend of Zelda formula that will hugely appeal to fans of Nintendo’s popular franchise.

In 2019, developer Greg Lobanov’s Wandersong generated quite a bit of buzz in the indie gaming community, enough so that his next project, Chicory: A Colorful Tale, was funded almost immediately on Kickstarter. Like anything else, Kickstarter games can be hit or miss, sometimes failing to live up to expectations while other times blowing them away. Luckily for fans of Wandersong and Greg Lobanov’s work, Chicory: A Colorful Tale falls in the latter category, and is one of the best games of 2021 so far.

Chicory: A Colorful Tale Review
Chicory: A Colorful Tale Review

Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a new twist on the Zelda-like formula, with its top-down view and general gameplay design reminiscent of the SNES classic The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. As the player-named dog character, players explore an overworld map, completing quests, uncovering secrets, meeting characters, and unlocking new abilities that will allow them to reach previously inaccessible areas.

The Zelda influence is felt throughout Chicory: A Colorful Tale, with the game never really straying from that formula. However, it does eventually switch things up by taking inspiration from a different Zelda game. While the first half of Chicory: A Colorful Tale is like a linear A Link to the Past-style Zelda game, the second half feels more like a 2D take on a Breath of the Wild-style Zelda game. It’s at this point when players have most of their abilities and are set loose to complete the next set of objectives in any order. The game completely opens up, which keeps things interesting all the way to the end credits.

Besides basing its framework on The Legend of ZeldaChicory‘s main hook is the fact that the overworld is completely black and white. The main goal of the game is to restore color to Chicory‘s black and white world, which players can accomplish using a magic paintbrush. There are no restrictions to this. Players are free to color literally everything they see in front of them, from the ground to the trees to the buildings to the characters. After seeing the world in black and white, the vibrant colors players use to fill it in really pop, which makes it fun to spend time coloring every inch of Chicory‘s world map.

When players pop open Chicory‘s map, the game shows them the color they’ve already left in the game world. This gives players a sense that their actions are having a genuine impact on the game world, and it helps that the NPCs recognize this, too, and even remark on it.

Chicory‘s various NPCs are great because each one has a distinct look and personality, their dialogue is well-written, and despite the fact that they are all anthropomorphic animals named after food items, they talk like real people. The dialogue is emotional, expertly tackles serious themes like mental illness, and is oftentimes funny. The game occasionally touches on some dark topics, but it does so while maintaining its great sense of humor.

Some of the NPCs players meet in Chicory: A Colorful Tale have side quests for them to complete, which could be anything from searching for lost items to drawing logos. There are a few different drawing challenges in Chicory where players are tasked with doing more than simply coloring in the world, with players able to paint whatever they want and see it pop up later in the game. Chicory‘s characters will make comments specific to the colors that players chose while making the paintings, which is a nice touch and strengthens the sense that players are genuinely leaving their own mark on the game.

When they’re not painting the world and completing tasks for NPCs, Chicory players will find themselves taking on the game’s main story quests, all of which are great and offer plenty of variety. One in particular that really stood out sees players scale Dessert Mountain, a snowy area with Peanuts-like Christmas music jingling in the background as players complete platforming challenges to reach the top. It ends with a rhythm mini-game that harkens back to Elite Beat Agents, which is a refreshing change of pace since most games seem to copy Guitar Hero with their music/rhythm mini-games.

Most of the main story quests in Chicory: A Colorful Tale culminate in short dungeons themed around a specific gameplay mechanic, not unlike the Zelda series. The puzzles in Chicory are fun and never frustrating, and there’s plenty of variety thanks to it always focusing on a new gameplay mechanic.

Really the only downside to Chicory‘s Zelda-like dungeons are the boss fights. Chicory‘s boss battles are like when someone tries to pat their head and rub their stomach at the same time. Not only do players have to pay attention to where they’re moving Chicory‘s dog hero, but they also have to move the brush around the screen to deal damage to the bosses. Chicory‘s gameplay mechanics don’t mesh well with the boss fights, and since there’s not really a consequence to getting hit besides having to repeat the last few seconds of gameplay, the battles are devoid of any thrills. The boss fights in Chicory are the only point in the game where there’s any “combat,” but it seems like it would’ve been better off without any at all.

Something that can make Chicory‘s boss fights a little less disorienting is playing the game in co-op. Chicory: A Colorful Tale is one of the best local co-op games of 2021 to date, though only if played in a specific 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 the first player only control the dog and letting the second player do all the brush actions. This will make them feel more involved, as it requires some extra communication between the players to solve puzzles and overcome challenges. The first player doing everything makes the whole experience rather dull for the person joining in co-op.

Whether alone or with a partner, Chicory players should have a fun time completing the game. All told it will likely only take about 10 hours to get Chicory‘s Platinum trophy, but there’s no wasted time and it’s engaging from start to finish. Exploring Chicory‘s world map and hunting down all of its secrets is a rewarding experience, and players won’t regret taking the time to get 100% completion.

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