2021. It has been what some call “a year”. To celebrate this collection of sun rotations, we’re looking at the best games of 2021. Next up: Chicory: A Colorful Tale.
There were plenty of good games in 2021. We’ve been writing these Game of the Year articles to prove that very thing. But while we all found games we enjoyed, there wasn’t that one killer release that blew everything away. There wasn’t a Breath of the Wild or a Red Dead Redemption 2 before whom all players and publications must kneel and acknowledge the technical marvels on display. Instead, 2021 was a year where, more than others, we’ve had to go with our guts and search for the games that meant the most and had the most to show us.
Chicory is easily one of the most memorable games of the year. It’s a Zelda-like adventure-puzzler where you control a talking dog who wields a magic paintbrush that’s responsible for all the color in the world. You can color in everything you see, turning the charming black-and-white areas into lush and vibrant vistas, or you can just stamp polka dots all over the place and make the world look like a clown’s nightmare. Whatever floats your boat.
Chicory’s world design and the way it uses coloring in spaces as a means of exploration is always clever and charming. Halfway through the game, I was certain that I’d figured out everything the magic brush would allow me to do – scale walls, squeeze through tight surfaces, etc. – and figured there couldn’t be any other abilities. I was wrong, of course, as Chicory still had plenty of surprises in store.
In addition to being a blast to play and the pure cathartic joy of just scribbling away at every new area on the map, Chicory also has a stellar story. Dealing with ideas of impostor syndrome, depression, and the urge for artists to burn themselves out and suffer for what they create, Chicory doesn’t pull any punches just because its cast is full of talking animals. Like developer Greg Lobanov’s previous game, the outstanding Wandersong, Chicory has an enormous heart and tells a mature, thoughtful, hopeful story without condescending to the player or veering too hard into being tryhard or edgy.
In all of its elements, from its beautiful, playful, and evocative soundtrack by Lena Raine (who also rocked the house on this year’s Moonglow Bay), to its surprisingly-grounded story, to its endlessly original level design and new variations on how to use its magical brush, Chicory never runs out of charm. Every moment with it is a delight, down to its end credits which serve as one of the best gaming moments of the year.
Chicory is a lovely, lovingly-made game that doesn’t waste a moment and doesn’t overstay its welcome by a second. It delighted me as I stumbled around, making friends and painting their houses in the silliest patterns I could imagine.
Chicory challenged how I thought about art and self-worth. It also helped me come to terms with taking a day off every week, which was no small task. In a year full of strange push-and-pull between rushing back to pre-pandemic hustle, maintaining constant vigilance for the next disaster, and the struggle to find some time for ourselves in between it all, Chicory encourages players to take it slow, make their own fun, and trust that they can finish the quest, even if they might not think they can.
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