When you think of indie developers, you typically think of a single person or a small team of people working in the best office they can afford. The team that made Chicory: A colorful Tale is a bit different. The team was made up of just five people: Director Greg Lebanov, Composer Lena Raine, Sound Designer Em Halberstadt, Artist/Animator Alexis Dean-Jones and Environment Artist Madeline Burger. While at first, it seems a bit odd that all five members of the team are credited as the developers, as soon as you begin playing the game, you will be able to see each of their individual talents on full display.
The Role You Play
Contrary to first impressions, you do not play as the titular Chicory. Instead, you are given a prompt at the beginning of the game to name your favorite food. That answer becomes the name of the protagonist you play as. She is the assistant and janitor for Chicory: the wielder of a magical paintbrush that adds color to the land. Your story begins with you discovering that the brush has been left behind and Chicory has gone missing. Not only that, all of the color in the Province of Picnic has disappeared, so you take the brush for yourself and set off on your own adventure.
The plot mostly centers on trying to find the origins of what caused the disappearance of the world’s color. The answer mostly lies within dark trees that have spawned all over the Province of Picnic. However, there is a deeper concern, and it lies within Chicory herself. She has lost the will to continue carrying the brush herself and is being consumed by her inner demons. It’s up to the protagonist to combat the darkness spreading across Picnic while also finding a way to help Chicory.
When you first start playing, there is little more you can do than explore the world and begin repainting the world that has lost its color. The early gameplay is similar to being in a giant coloring book. As you explore further and reach more of the world, you will gradually access more of your abilities. There are puzzles that you can solve, obstacles you can navigate, and each one of them finds a new way to integrate the coloring features in some form or another. You will also gradually unlock new abilities to utilize with your paint and paintbrush so the game constantly feels fresh and original from beginning to end.
There are a fair amount of extras in the game that you can pursue from lost cats that you can find to litter you can collect and trade for items that you can use to decorate different areas of the world. You can also collect different brush styles and clothing items. These are either in packages that are scattered throughout the Province of Picnic or have to be acquired by completing tasks or traded with different townspeople. Depending on your commitment to the side missions, it will take around eight hours to finish the game.
The music composed by Lena Raine provides a perfect accompaniment for your adventure. As you go about returning color to the Province of Picnic, not only will you travel to several different towns in the Province of Picnic, but you have to venture through dark caves, swamps, forests and even up high snowy mountains. The music that accompanies the environments is soft and mellow with a focus on wind instruments. The tracks get more intense when you get to a more strenuous puzzle section and even shift to being high tempo and electronica-focused during the boss fights.
One question I had to ask myself over and over was ‘is this even an RPG?’ It doesn’t have a lot of the usual traits of an RPG like experience points or class systems that one would come to expect. However, I’ve always thought that the distinguishing feature of an RPG is having a choice in how you play the game that is different, but not necessarily superior. The main choice that you have in how you play the game is how you go about using your colors. You can mark the entirety of the world in any way you choose and there’s no right or wrong way to do so.
The Talking Parts
You encounter tons of people throughout the world who have no end of things to say. They all make plenty of small talk and you can help them with any number of tasks that they may need help with. You can also get guidance and assistance from them on how to complete your quest. By far the best dialogue in the game is between the main protagonist and Chicory. It’s very interesting to hear about the back-and-forth relationship between the two because it takes on many forms. At times they talk like a master and an apprentice, with Chicory teaching you how to be the new wielder. Other times, Chicory talks to you like a friend who just wants to hang out and be casual with you. Other times Chicory is battling her demons and it is up to you to help her.
Z…We’ve Reached the End. Anything Else?
I meant it when I said of the individual features of the development team were on full display. It only becomes more evident the longer you play the game. All of Madeline Burger’s environments are beautifully drawn and there’s a lot of variety throughout the game. There are dozens of characters drawn and animated by Alexis Dean Jones spread throughout the Province of Picnic who are all expressive and nice to meet. What makes it all truly incredible is how harmoniously it all ties together with the sound, music and direction. I can clearly see the vision that director Greg Lebanov had since his previous two games: Coin Crypt and Wandersong were also very bold and colorful, and that vision has come to life in the most incredible way.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a masterpiece, and not just because it provides you with all of the tools you need to create your own within the game. I found myself wanting to savor every minute of this game as if I was eating a gourmet chocolate dessert. This game is an absolute wonder and I could not recommend it enough.