Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a single-player adventure game that offers lots of puzzles and boss battles—fought with nothing but a paint brush. It also asks gamers to think about their own self-doubts.
The game places us in a 2D world that’s known for its lush surroundings and animal populace, as well as the fact that it’s the home of a magic paintbrush. This supernatural brush keeps color in the world. Its current wielder, a rabbit-like character named Chicory, is considered by many to be one of the truly great artists ever.
But Chicory isn’t the hero of this tale. You are.
Gamers play as a rather nondescript and not particularly special dog-like janitor who has the easy job of keeping Chicory’s living quarters clean. But one day this guy or gal (whom you name, based on some form of food) happens upon Chicory’s discarded brush. It seems that the great Chicory is incredibly depressed and wants nothing to do with the stress of coloring the world anymore. That world is now just a bland black and white shadow of its former glory; a powerful evil has not only drained away the lands color, but its passion, hope and joy as well.
In fact, the world’s only hope now is that you, an average nobody, can pick up the magic paintbrush and inject a bit of pigmented purpose and meaning once more. But is it possible? Can a talentless splasher of paint hope to fill the shoes of the great artists who have come before? Can you hope to solve all the environmental puzzles blocking your path and somehow fight off a manipulative evil in the darkness with nothing but globs of color?
Is someone like you even capable of something like that?
This game’s story is told in chapters as your dog-like hero brings life back to an otherwise colorless world. The magic brush can fill in dark lightless areas and reveal the world and its tangle of obstacles and puzzling environmental conundrums.
The brush can also cause some objects to grow or shrink when they’re given a splash of color or drained of their hue, for instance. A large bush that’s blocking a path can be retracted by erasing its color, creating a clearing to walk through. Color it once more and it’ll puff back up, bouncy enough to use as a bridge or trampoline between platforms.
As your character’s bond with the brush develops, he will gain new ways of leaping and swimming through the colors he paints. As well as gain new ways to fend off the sketchy evil monster that attacks from the shadows.
A big part of gameplay also involves our hero shaking off the seeds of self-doubt that this shadowy foe plants throughout the course of the story. The game asks players to consider what gives them the strength to carry on when they feel less than capable. It asks if you must be especially gifted or feel “called” to fulfill the responsibilities you’re given. Or can you learn to grow stronger and get better at the tasks set before you with effort, practice and time?
There are no spiritual applications in the answers and encouragements that the game gives. But those questions of self-worth and depression, as well as explorations of self-doubt, make this game’s experience much richer than you might expect. And with the right mindset, there are a number of lessons to be found in those explorations.
There are repeated boss battles with that shadow-clinging evil that’s stealing away the world’s color and passion. And the creature grows from being a large pair of eyes in the dark to taking on a monstery form and eventually becoming a mimicking copy of Chicory and our own hero janitor. But the battles are never messy, other than the splashing paint in the monsters’ eyes, etc. (If our hero is bested by a light beam or an opposing zap of color, the battle simply pauses while the player is asked if they want to increase their HP and continue.)
The evil entity also taunts the hero calling him “pathetic” and “stupid,” it questions his worthiness and cries out that he should “shut up” and turn away from trying to do more than he is capable of. (Again, if looked at through a spiritual lens, there are a number of lessons that can be applied redemptively here.)
Creations from small independent gamemakers are becoming more and more common these days. And in the case of Chicory: A Colorful Tale that’s a very good thing.
Not only are there lots of fun puzzles and mess-free challenges in a broad fantasy game like this. But there are also subtle nudges to get gamers, young and old, to think a bit deeper about the real multicolored world they live in.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.