Game review: Chicory uses cute animals to challenge the very nature of art and artists

Art is perhaps one of the most ill-defined concepts that humans face. We always have a conversation about whether or not a new form of media is art, as we rub our chins and perpetuate silly rhetoric like, “Well what? is art anyway? Chicory: a colorful tale argues that art is a state of being, rather than a status to be earned. In fact, he is desperate to prove it to you.

In the 2D world from top to bottom Chicory Picnic, everything is vibrant with color thanks to The Wielder, an artist who rises above others to be given a brush to color and paint the world. Over time, there have been many artists with different styles of holding The Brush, all of whom have worked to perfect their craft and bring a touch of beauty. The current bearer is Chicory, a long-eared hare with a penchant for beautiful, vibrant colors, and it is clear that the bearer is a title honored with great responsibility.

You don’t play The Wielder. Or even an artist. You are a dog, who is also a janitor, named after your favorite food (in my case, ‘Chocolate’).

While you do your cleaning duty, all the beautiful color is drained from the world. It turns Picnic into an austere black and white environment, like an untouched coloring book. Chicory is nowhere to be found, but its brush, the brush, get into your filthy little paws.


From there, you have the power to color literally anything in the world. Houses, grass, trees, buildings, even other resident animals. Some won’t be big fans, whether it’s your paint or the colors you use, while others will love your work and beg you to use The Brush. Alternative brush shapes, such as shape stamps or texture brushes that consist of dots and lines, are common rewards for side tasks and secret puzzles. They can help add flair to your designs, but are optional and limited. Story rewards are generally more convenient, giving your brush new powers like glowing paint to light up caves or the ability to swim through your masterpieces. Whatever its purpose, every action you take with the brush is treated like art.

But it also looks like shit.

And so Chicory becomes the dilemma of a game that makes you think about the idea “what is art anyway?” The artist in me wanted to make this world beautiful, and I just couldn’t. Using the brush in Chicory it’s like drawing in MS Paint with a mouse; you can also use a controller. You start with limited brush shapes and each area will limit you to using a few colors at a time. At one point I ran into an issue where I couldn’t upgrade to a smaller brush size which made everything even worse for me. I was frustrated because I had already forgotten that I wasn’t supposed to play as an artist – just a silly dog ​​with an even sillier name.

The paint has practical uses in Chicory, such as solving thought-provoking puzzles in the game. Painting enough of the world can unlock new pathways, for example, many plants grow or shrink when colored, and more abilities unlock as your brush bond grows throughout the game. So even though i hated all of my art, i always diligently swiped my brush across the screen, uncovering secrets and advancing the story. With that, Chicory pushed me to make art even when you hate it, a sense of confrontation which is, I think, a pretty big part of being an artist.

The citizens of Picnic would sometimes compliment my work, which felt like a slap in the face. A t-shirt I designed for the local cafe found a lot of cheerful wearers – after all, it was made by The Wielder and those characters had no idea what it looked like. Sometimes they would come to an area I had already painted to notice its new beauty. I looked at the screen and saw a spot of one or two colors.

Being incredibly aware that compliments come from pre-programmed characters (albeit charmingly written), made acceptance impossible. These interactions seemed hollow most of the time, but then again, they reminded me of times when people complimented my art in real life.

All you really do is replace the real artist and wearer, Chicory. It’s a little easier to be Chocolate, to accept compliments with a smile, because you know the two of you are doing the best you can. If the characters really like it, then maybe that’s okay. But it’s a kindness that I can hardly imagine even affording myself.

There is a particular type of internal pressure to creativity and self-expression, beyond the external pressure of the profession, which can be difficult to explain. It can be incredibly difficult to be happy with a creation born in your own mind. Nothing will ever look as good as the ideals in my head, so everything, if only to a small extent, will look like a failure in some ways and it’s easy to get resentful of the process. Even though I am, by some miracle, even slightly satisfied with what I am creating, it comes with a twinge of heart. Is it even okay for me to want other people to see the (sometimes deeply personal) things I’ve created, or is that just incredibly narcissistic?

There is a desperation of merit, as if it were possible to achieve it. Like earning your pen license in school and suddenly being allowed to write in ink. But self-expression is not something you can be worthy of, rather it is a birthright to exist. A byproduct of processing life. A state of being. It only looks like a radical act because we have been taught to ask permission. It’s a lesson I try to relearn as an adult because when I look back I already knew it. She never bothered to get that pen license.

Work by Hope Corrigan

I knew, even before history revealed it, why Chicory was hiding. Imagine for a moment the pressure of having to paint the world! The weight of making everyone’s existence more beautiful. The prestige of the title The Wielder. Sometimes I can hardly bring myself to put paint on a simple canvas that no one else will ever see, due to the idea that I’m not good enough. If I take that step, it often comes across as an act of defiance, like I’m screaming in response to all the things in me that say no to me.

What’s this Chicory: a colorful tale really concerns: artists, or perhaps more precisely, people. When we even have the impression that the question “is it art?” Is being lifted, the right slaps a “YES” even before it is fully articulated. When you create something that is definitely and unmistakably art, the next logical question is, “Am I an artist?” Am I still good enough? Chicory has a lot more time to explore this, and that’s what makes it so impactful. The answer is always decidedly yes, but then she takes you warmly by the brush and says, “If you want to be.” Let me show you why.

4 stars :

Developer: Greg Lobanov, Alexis Dean-Jones, Lena Raine, Madeline Berger, A Shell in the Pit
Publisher: Finji
Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Release Date: June 10, 2021

A copy of Chicory: a colorful tale has been provided for the purpose of this review.

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