Chicory Is On PlayStation Plus, So You Really Should Play It
There are too many games in the world. Too many games and too little time. There are still a lot of great games from last year I'm yet to get around to (Cruelty Squad, Death's Door, Inscryption), as well as a lot from this year that, if I manage to carve out time for them, will probably be in contention for my GOTY list (Norco, Hardspace, Rollerdrome). That's before you even get into the wider issue of the backlog – I need to get through the rest of Yakuza before Like a Dragon 8 comes out. Damn RGG and its confusing name change. Anyway, this is likely a problem you recognise. Like a donkey sat between two bales of hay, you are paralysed by choice. I'm here to help. If you haven't played Chicory yet, go play it. It's just been added to the PS Plus catalogue, so you really have no excuse. I guess not having PS Plus is an excuse but hey, that sounds like a 'you' problem.
Chicory didn't quite make TheGamer's Game of the Year list last year, having featured on only three editors' lists, including yours truly. However, a few editors have played it since and have claimed they would have placed it if they'd gotten around to it in time, so let's just call it an honorary pick. Chicory isn't just a good game though, it's one of the most intelligent and layered games I've played in quite some time. Mostly when games try to tackle thematic issues, they tackle them as a movie would, through dialogue, narrative, cinematography. That's all well and good, but Chicory manages to tackle them as only a video game can, and in ways few video games ever do.
There are two central characters in Chicory. The first is the titular Chicory – she is the one responsible for adding all of the colour to Chicory's world as the Wielder, ie the controller of a magic paintbrush. It's a job of huge responsibility that only the most masterful of artists are ever trusted to do. The second character is the player character, a dog named after your favourite food (so for me and everyone else, Pizza), who is the Wielder's janitor. Pizza has no special skills to speak of, but when Chicory goes missing, they have to become the Wielder anyway.
Most people see themselves as the Pizza in this situation. They doubt themselves, and fear they have no real clue what they're doing. Worse, they fear everyone else knows that as they shamble through life, trying their best to fill the world with colour but mostly just scribbling outside the lines and making a mess. For these people, Pizza's story resonates. Pizza does not seem to have greatness within themselves, yet they are capable of great things anyway. People love their mistakes. Their slightly chaotic painting only serves to bring joy. Pizza, just like you, is capable of anything they set their mind to. An underdog with a lot of heart, Pizza shows us that not only is everyone capable of being great, but everyone is capable of being good.
I don't see myself in Pizza so much. Instead I'm a Chicory, and I've never known a video game understand what that's like before. I know I'm good at my job. Every chance, every break, every victory, I have earned. It's arrogant to say, and I wouldn't say it outside of the realm of this specific instance, but I hear so many people talk about impostor syndrome and I've never been able to relate. I have never feared that I don't fit in, that I'm not good enough, that my accent or gender or anything else makes me less than. I have always advocated for myself. I have always been Chicory. But Chicory has a different sort of imposter syndrome, one that hits much closer to home. Chicory has found a thing she is good at… so now what? What if she doesn't achieve her potential? What if she doesn't like the person she is? What if none of this matters?
Pizza is the embodiment of "I don't think I'm good enough," which is a highly relatable sentiment that, frankly, I do not relate to. Chicory knows she's good enough – but she hates it. It makes her see everyone as a competitor. Every piece of art is held up against her failure to make the most of her gift, every peer is a wolf chomping at her ankles. Days do not exist to be enjoyed, but to be won. The bosses of Chicory, frantic and colourful and confusing, represent Chicory's fears, her depression, her superiority complex in a head on collision with her fear of failure. When Chicory lashed out, I saw an older version of myself, just as I did with Badeline in Celeste.
Oh also it's like, a good game. The exploration mechanics are inventive, and it's a shame it has been so overlooked despite having so many fresh ideas. It needs more attention for how it works, but it's impossible to discuss it without considering what it has to say. Chicory is a vibrant, powerful, creative video game, and it's free. C'mon. For me. For your ol' pal Stacey.
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