Calico Review (Switch)
Release Date: December 15, 2020
File Size: 1.9GB
Publisher: Whitethorn Digital
Developer: Peachy Keen Games
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
Version Reviewed: 1.0.4
For anyone fond of felines and looking to relax with a cup of tea, Calico may just be the game for you. Calico is a cheerful, calming simulation game of collecting cats and completing some simple tasks to help your neighbors on your island home. Use magic to bake yummy goodies and run your café while decorating to make everyone feel at home. It’s an incredibly low-stress game that is sure to make any animal lover smile.
In Calico, you come to this magical island to take over the Calico Café which was left to you by a relative. As you begin to decorate and fix up the café, you also come to know many of your neighbors and it turns out there have been some pretty bad storms recently which have caused parts of the island to be inaccessible. Maybe you can help with this? By enlisting the help of other island friends and pulling together everyone’s abilities, you can slowly open up new areas such as the mountain top, the city, the grove, and more.
Another adorable aspect to this game are the animals, of which there are many. Not just cats either, but bears, dogs, ravens, and more. All of these animals are friendly, and you can even tell them to come live with you at your café! However, some you will find out are already owned by your neighbors and you will have to carry them back to their homes. There is a secret magic to this island. Several friendly witches live in the various corners of the land and each help you with creative potions to aid in your adventures. Whether they allow you to magically grow a cat large enough to ride, or make your animals float around the room like a balloon, these potions help to keep things entertaining. In some cases, these potions prove invaluable for unlocking the new areas of the map.
Calico has no combat or experience points – it is more a game of exploration and collection. Growing friendships with your neighbors, meeting every animal on the island, and unlocking all the areas is the general focus of the game. Much of it is simply wandering the island and talking with others and petting animals. You may be fetching items for NPC’s, or simply running back and forth to pass along messages. There are a few stores on the island, as well. From these stores you can purchase items such as furniture and decorations for your café, or new clothing for your character. You also can occasionally purchase or are rewarded with new recipes for your café… it is a café after all, and you need to have items available for your new friends to purchase!
This brings us to the mini-game aspect of Calico. While you don’t really have to do anything to keep the café running, you earn money by having foods available for your neighbors to come in and purchase. You don’t even have to be there for them to come by and purchase them. As you get recipes, you need to use the special island magic to cook these foods. The ingredients are all there ready for you, and by clicking on the floating recipe book, you are instantly shrunk to only a few inches high and appear on the countertop in your kitchen. Follow the recipe by picking up the necessary ingredients and attempt to toss them into a giant bowl. Once all the ingredients are successfully in the bowl, they magically transform into the cake, bread, tea, or whatever it is that you are creating. Climb into the bowl and retrieve the finished item and carry it down the counter to toss it into a tray. Poof! You are magically retransformed into your normal size.
Unfortunately, there are a few flaws to this mechanic. Gravity does not appear to be concurrent with the rest of the world so when throwing an ingredient to the bowl, it is quite easy to overshoot and have the ingredient slide out of the range. Frequent restarts of the whole minigame are a must as a result, and especially if you are suffering from joy-con drift. The gameplay for Calico does struggle with a few other issues that need to be corrected to fully appreciate the game. Frequently clipping issues caused problems which occasionally did lead to the game needing to be reset in order to continue. While talking with NPCs, the dialogue options were nearly always doubled or even tripled which caused some confusion at first. Overall, these issues did not stop me from playing, beating, and ultimately enjoying the game.
The art style for Calico is soothing and colorful. It has a watercolor feel to it with pastel colors and semi-opaque look. While this is not an art style I would like for most games, for Calico it felt perfect. With the game itself being all about peace and serenity, the art flowed right into that feeling. Continuing with the serene theme, the soundtrack to this game is soothing and mild. It is music that I would not mind having on in the background while doing other everyday activities. The music has a cheerful, yet tranquil feel to it that lulls you into the perfect mood for the game.
While not without its bugs and flaws, Calico is a game I would highly recommend. There is no fighting or stats to manage, but it is almost meditative in quality. My ten-year-old self would have probably listed this as her game of the year. However, even as an adult, I can appreciate the fundamental need for tranquil games to soothe the mind and soul at times. After all, who wouldn’t like petting friendly magical cats?