Chicory Is 2021’s Best Overlooked Game And It Deserves Your Attention On The Switch
Facebook readers, you were right. Everyone at TheGamer is an idiot. Everyone, that is, except me. You see, we’ve been doing a series of Game of the Year lists at TheGamer, where a different editor has published theirs each weekday through December, before the final, site-wide GOTY list is revealed on December 24th. To date, including several drafts waiting to go live from New York it’s Saturday Night, only one person has placed Chicory on their list: me. That’s why I have to admit you were all correct. Everyone here sucks.
Chicory is one of the best games of the year, hence why it was placed on my Game of the Year list. It was the only one of my ten to be completely ignored by the rest of the staff here, and with more than half of mine making the final cut from a selection of games that currently totals 69 (nice) and is set to rise by a handful more, you know I have excellent taste. I mean, the very fact I’m recommending Chicory should let you know that anyway, but there’s another slice of evidence.
I don’t like the term ‘hidden gem’ as a rule. It’s too widely applied, and anyone in a vaguely game centric sphere will likely have heard of Chicory, even if they haven’t gotten around to play it because they were too busy deciding whether to stay with the sister they impregnated after the pair of them separately tried to kill their shared father. That was the plot of a real game that came out this year. It was even up for Best Indie at TGA, with Chicory overlooked. Wild.
Anyway, whatever you might call Chicory, and however much disdain you may feel for other editors (and conversely, how much fondness you may feel for me), we should all come together to celebrate the title as it joins the Nintendo Switch library. Whether you’ve played the game before and want to explore again or are looking for the next great indie to add to our Switch library, you’ve come to the right place.
Well, not quite. The right place would be the eShop on your Switch. But if you want to have a read as to why you’re making a great choice in picking up Chicory, you’ve come to the right place.
Chicory has maybe the best exploration mechanic I’ve ever seen in a video game. It seems, at first, pretty simple. You wander around, and like classic Zelda games, you can leave the screen north, east, south, or west, and come out in a different square of the map. Sometimes progress in a direction or two will be blocked off, guiding you where the game wants you to go. It’s basic stuff. You have a paintbrush, and painting certain objects makes them change. For example, certain trees will grow or shrink when painted, allowing you to sneak past them or climb on the tops of them. It’s nifty, but it’s nothing new.
In fact, none of the individual mechanics, like swimming in paint, glowing paint, or climbing up paint footholds, are anything special. Even when combined, the traversal is decent fun but not groundbreaking. What’s most impressive about it is the way the paint acts as a trail of breadcrumbs. Like any adventure game that asks you to retrace your steps, part of the fun is seeing how you leave your mark on the world, and with Chicory, the paintbrush means you have complete control.
You can draw arrows indicating which way to go, or which ways you still need to explore. You can use a code for certain types of obstacles or side quests, you can use specific colours to indicate what certain currently unreachable buildings might have in them… you can do anything you want. It’s as if you’re actually writing notes for yourself on the map, because that’s essentially exactly what you are doing.
On a narrative level, Chicory is superb as well. The game deals with depression in a more relatable way than I’ve ever seen on screen, tackling the dangers of success, and the various versions of impostor syndrome artists (and those who long to be artists) might endure. The boss battles reflect these inner demons, avoiding typical cartoonish or nightmarish monsters in favour of something much harder to define, and much harder to escape from. It’s the best twist on what a boss battle can be since Celeste, and like Celeste it is worthy of your time on so many levels. Easier than the mountain climbing sim, it’s exploration is no less impressive, but people don’t get Celeste tattoos because that one strawberry route took them 90 minutes to execute perfectly. These are games that stay with you, and Chicory, despite launching on PC and PS, feels uniquely suited to the up close and personal nature of the Switch.
Everybody, go and play Chicory right now on your Switch. It doesn’t matter if you’ve played it before, go do it. Then come back here and tell me I was right to have it on my GOTY list. And that everyone else here is an idiot.
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