Oh, the sweet indie-scene, you never cease to both delight and infuriate me. While the AAA industry consistently indulges in safe, predictable games—annualized sequels, formulaic, repetitive gameplay loops; “HD remasters,” nostalgia remakes—you never quite know what to expect from indie devs. Sometimes you get shimmering diamonds like Owlboy or steaming garbage like Daymare: 1998.
When I first saw Chicory: A Colorful Tale—back when it was under the working title: Drawdog—I only needed one detail about the game to know it was going to be something special: the game was being developed by Wandersong’s Greg Lobanov. You may remember that Wandersong, “made me believe in love again,” and this time around, it’s a similar feeling. Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a delightful game that I think everyone should experience.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale tells the story of the Magic Paintbrush—its every stroke fills the world with colour and is passed down through the generations by its Wielders, its current Wielder being the titular Chicory. Suddenly, all colour is sucked from the world, and Chicory loses the will to wield her brush. Players take on the role of a plucky dog-character who takes it upon themselves to become the next Wielder and embark on a whirlwind adventure to darkness and fill the world with colour once again.
It’s a wonderfully charming story filled with fun moments, amusing characters, and balanced with the right amount of drama and serious stakes. Much like Wandersong, there is a sense of whimsy that is present throughout the adventure that, even in the more serious moments, never allows it to lose its sense of fun.
“Not only do you feel incredibly connected to the world, but there’s also a genuine sense of fulfillment in slowly seeing the black-and-white world become filled with colour”
What is most enjoyable about Chicory: A Colorful Tale is its gameplay. The game is essentially a digital colouring book wrapped in a top-down adventure. While players will go from land to land—engaging with the locals, using the brush to solve various puzzles, and even fight off boss monsters—where the real enjoyment lies in the simple act of colouring everything. I easily spent an extra 10 minutes in every new part of the map intricately colouring in every space. What’s more, the way you colour the world persists throughout the game, so not only do you feel incredibly connected to the world, but there’s also a genuine sense of fulfillment in slowly seeing the black-and-white world become filled with colour—quite literally like filling in a colouring book.
In the technical department, Chicory: A Colorful Tale absolutely shines. The game is very low-maintenance—it can basically run on a toaster—and it’s simple yet charming art-style gives it a great sense of personality. Using the brush is easy and intuitive and the whole game has a great sense of scope.
Where the game really stands out though is in its music. Composed by Lena Raine—the brilliant composer behind the Celeste soundtrack—the music perfectly compliments each area and allows you to completely get lost in the joy of painting.
“If you can play Chicory: A Colorful Tale on a Surface Book, or possibly with a Wacom tablet in hand, you definitely should.”
If I could make a recommendation, though this is purely personal: if you can play Chicory: A Colorful Tale on a Surface Book, or possibly with a Wacom tablet in hand, you definitely should. The game’s controls are so simplistically crafted—and that is by no means an insult—that it allows for meta gameplay as you easily move around with WASD or the arrow keys with a stylus in the other hand filling the world with colour!
The other thing I find so interesting about Lobanov’s games is how easily he has been able to subvert the conventions of modern gaming. In my review of Wandersong I criticized the game for not really penalizing the player for making any mistakes—and while I still feel that games should balance a sense of challenge with a sense of fun; challenge doesn’t need to exist for its own sake. Sometimes it is genuinely refreshing to see a game that knows how to tell a story and be a game, without defaulting to formulaic game design.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale isn’t inherently challenging and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but it’s not the point of the adventure, nor is it the point of the game. Lobanov expertly creates experiences that don’t need violence, death, or even combat to make a game that is engaging. Both Wandersong and Chicory: A Colorful Tale have been unique offerings that use the medium of video games to tell interesting stories and offer distinctive experiences.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is unlike anything you might experience this year, and you owe it to yourself to try it. It is a beautiful, whimsical game that comes to life the more you play it. It’s incredibly fun both on its own, and in the way it allows and encourages you to infuse your own creativity within it. It truly is a work of art!