It’s okay to call home now and then
Chicory: A Colorful Tale has been the quiet surprise of June. It’s a mix of coloring book adventures and Zelda-like puzzles, and while I haven’t found many of the challenges too daunting, Chicory is also very helpful in ensuring anyone can see it through.
I’m just now getting around to playing through Chicory (look, it’s been a busy month), and I’m finding it an altogether pleasant experience. Most of the time, you can just explore the towns and wilderness as your little dog avatar named after whatever favorite food you enter at the start (Calamari, for me).
My journey has only just started, but already Chicory is employing a lot of puzzles surrounding the application—or removal—of paint from the suddenly black-and-white world. Some areas, this means light platforming or problem solving, like moving an explosive bubble next to some rocks and painting it until it blows open a passageway. Art.
In other cases, I’ve had to uncover clues and decipher solutions. I won’t say more because the dungeon in question is extremely good and worth going in unspoiled; suffice to say, I had to think a bit.
And sometimes that doesn’t always come naturally. Or maybe you’ve had to save and quit out, or walk away for a little while, and now you need a refresher on what you’re doing and where you’re going. This is where Chicory‘s hint system comes in.
Dotted around the map are phone booths, where your dog pal can call home. Every time, your mom picks up the phone, and you can apprise her of your current situation. Then she’ll give you some gentle guidance, maybe a push in the right direction.
But for big puzzles, an arm will start reaching in from out-of-frame. That’s Dad, and boy, is he eager to tell you the exact answer. This is completely optional. You can opt for just a little hint, or say okay Dad, let’s hear it. That’s Chicory’s hint system: a quick phone call home.
I genuinely love this. It works on just about every level. First off, it’s really useful; the hints are usually just general enough to get you pointed in the right direction without giving it all away, and if you’re really stumped, dad is here to lay it all out. During one conversation with him, he even recommended I go look up a solution online if I got really stumped, and you know what? That’s really nice. Dad’s really cool about looking up puzzle solutions, as is Chicory.
It also fits the narrative so well. Your character—my little art dog, Calamari—has become the wielder of the legendary Brush, almost completely by circumstance. They were putting in hours cleaning up after the previous wielder, and now they’ve suddenly been handed the brush of all brushes, and been asked to fix the world. It makes absolute sense for them to ring home when the going gets tough.
Calling home becomes a check-in. Your mom and dad will say different things as the story progresses, and react in different ways to new developments. It’s become a habit that when I jump back in, the first thing I do is ring up mom and remind myself what I’m supposed to be doing.
After a while, it wasn’t just a hint system anymore, but a new way for me to earmark my progress. When something big happened in the story, or I beat a really scary boss, I wanted to tell mom and dad about it.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale has a lot of these little moments, whether it’s an extremely relatable quip from a village denizen or a window of time for quiet reflection on a bench. I’m only a few hours in, but already it’s proving to be relaxing, inspiring, and an incisive examination of creativity and self-perception. It can get really hard to go on at times. But Calamari’s mom and dad are just a phone call away if I ever need them.
For more thoughts on Chicory, check out Zoey’s very good review of it, and my chat with developer Greg Lobanov about its development. If any of this sounds appealing to you, I can’t recommend it enough. Chicory: A Colorful Tale is currently available on PC, PS4, and PS5.