Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a 2D Action/Adventure game developed by Greg Lobanov (and friends) and published by Finji. It was released in June 2021 for the PC, PS4 and PS5 and again in December 2021 for the Nintendo Switch. MSRB is $20. I played the PC version.
Greg Lobanov’s previous game Wandersong charmed me with its humor, unique gameplay mechanics, and subversive story. I knew that Chicory was going to be a good game, but even then I wasn’t ready for how strongly it would resonate with me. Not only is its game design impeccable, it also made me cry.
Similar to how Wandersong builds a unique musical game on top of a conventional 2D Platformer, Chicory creates a delightful painting game on top of a typical 2D Zelda adventure. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the world of Chicory has lost all of its color, and it’s up to the protagonist (named after your favorite food) to wield a magical brush and restore the world by exploring dungeons, solving puzzles, and defeating bosses.
So far so standard. However, the brush mechanic elevates the game much higher than the rest of its competition. It’s your main method of interacting with the world, and the game offers an impressive spectrum of ways to use it. From lighting up a dark cave, to uncovering hidden secrets, to jumping over gaps, Chicory delivers a substantial Zelda-like feedback loop as you acquire more and more abilities for your brush. You’re free to swap colors and paint the world however you want, and whether you’re using a controller or a mouse, it all controls perfectly. Each area uses a different palette, and coloring the world is rather zen, like an electronic coloring book. But don’t worry, you don’t need to meticulously paint every square inch — you soon unlock an optional fill-in ability.
In this world, the magical brush is passed on from artist to artist, and as the most recent Wielder, you’ll uncover the secrets that this all-important job entails. The game talks about all the joys and difficulties that come with creative projects — from inspiring others, to feeling burnout. The last Wielder, Chicory, will play a large role as both you and her wrestle with the responsibilities placed on your shoulders.
The game’s honesty with its artistic themes is what really pulled me into this story. In College I tried entering the School of Music, but it didn’t quite work out. Then I tried the Creative Writing program, but I couldn’t make that work for me, either. There’s a special kind of existential frustration you feel when you pursue an art form that you’re passionate about. On the surface you’d think it’s always fun, but you put in so much work and effort just to become good at your craft, and there’s no guarantee that it’ll actually bring in enough money to keep you alive.
And then what do you do when the creative juices run out? How do you handle that emptiness?
For a game filled with inspiration and unique ideas, Chicory doesn’t shy away from its characters wrestling with the dread of loosing that artistic spark. And thankfully the game ends with a conclusion that feels as honest as its premise. What is that insightful conclusion, you ask? Well play the game and you’ll find out!
Overall Chicory is a solid recommend for anyone, but you should especially play it if you enjoy making any kind of art. It can hold its own among the best 2D Zelda games and it delivers a heartfelt story that I want everyone to experience.