Chicory: A Colorful Tale looked and sounded delightful from the first moment I saw it. A cartoony, black-and-white world that you interact with by coloring it in, with a story that deals with depression and imposter syndrome? Sign me up six times over!
Unfortunately, the game launched only on PlayStation and PC, when it was clearly destined to be on Switch. For several months I’ve impatiently waited as I’ve seen and heard countless positive reviews of this game from just about everywhere. So many times I was tempted to pick it up, but I kept holding out for it to land on my favorite platform.
The same thing happened with Death’s Door, which I enjoyed when it hit Switch… but didn’t love.
Now Chicory is finally out on Nintendo’s platform, and I’m a few hours into it and absolutely loving it. Death’s Door let me down after a long wait while Chicory is blowing me away, but it’s also got a bunch of other weird ways in which it feels like an inverted reflection of that game.
Game: Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Release Date: December 15, 2021 (Switch Version)
Platform: Switch, PlayStation, PC
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
A Colorful Black-and-White World
If you’ve missed hearing about Chicory, then please let me tell you about how absolutely adorable this game is. The world (which is filled with places and people named after food) is completely drained of color when the game begins. Colors in this world are spread by an individual titled The Wielder, who uses a magic paintbrush to decorate everything in their own particular style. You play as a dog who is the janitor of the current wielder, Chicory, who seems to have tossed the brush aside.
You take up the brush just to help out at first, then start adventuring through the world and filling it with color. It seems like there’s some sort of darkness encroaching on the peaceful world, and with Chicory too depressed to handle it you take on the role of The Wielder to try to fight it back.
Splashes of Color Everywhere
Playing Chicory is a delight. Every single thing that you do to progress adds just a little bit more color to the world. The NPCs you meet are all cute and are often looking for you to add a splash of color to the environment to make their lives just a bit better. There are also clothes all over that you can find hidden in presents, and getting to them requires solving clever little platforming puzzles, all of which you navigate by painting. Once you unlock a new piece of clothing, you can wear it and paint it different colors. It’s great.
As you explore further, you’ll find what are basically Zelda-style dungeons… mostly. There are puzzles to solve, secrets to find, and mazes to navigate. It’s got everything that a fan of top-down Zelda games would love, except for combat.
Don’t get me wrong, combat does happen in this game.. but it’s a combat of a different sort. It’s very contained, very infrequent, and very forgiving. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but if the only thing that you love about 2D Zelda is fighting monsters, you’re better off with Death’s Door than Chicory.
A Different Take on What Death’s Door Does
Okay, so let’s talk about Death’s Door. I don’t hate that game at all. In fact, I really enjoyed a lot of the gameplay, but there are a lot of things that didn’t quite click with me at the time, which Chicory has helped me understand.
The world of Death’s Door was a struggle for me from the beginning. Everything is dark and dreary and drab, which is a part of how the game builds the atmosphere. I get what it’s doing with that, but it made it hard for me to get excited to play the game. The bright colors and feeling of progression in Chicory made it clear how much I need to get something optimistic out of my fiction.
There’s a lot of depth in the storytelling of Chicory. The game deals with depression and imposter syndrome and feelings of inadequacy and just… just a lot. Death’s Door deals with death, but mostly in looking at how people try to avoid it. There’s something happening there, but it’s not a story with any optimism. Chicory, on the other hand, is about working hard and doing your best to make life worth living.
I think I would have liked Chicory: A Colorful Tale at any time. The gameplay is clever and fun, the moment-to-moment writing is delightful, and the bigger picture story that it tells is really interesting. However, I’m glad that I played it after playing Death’s Door. That game was satisfying to play, but the world and the story were an absolute bummer. Playing Chicory so shortly after was a breath of fresh air.
Instead of hours of grueling combat and meditations on the meaning of death, Chicory is a breezy, pleasant experience that just keeps getting more pleasant as it talks about the beauty of life.
To wrap it up with a really personal thought, Death’s Door is how I felt before I started taking medication, and Chicory: A Colorful Tale is how I feel after. There is a common root, but they feel totally different.