- Developer: Peachy Keen Games
- Publisher: Whitethorn Digital
- Release Date: 15/12/2020
- Price: £8.99 / $11.99
- Review code provided by Whitethorn Digital
Introducing: Calico Nintendo Switch Review
When Calico was presented during the December Indie World Showcase, I knew it would be an instant hit with our resident Kid’s Corner cat enthusiast. My 8 year old daughter eats, breathes, and sleeps cats. Ok, so she doesn’t eat cats, but anything kitty is on her mind 24/7. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the game to play it with my little one and see which audience Calico caters to and how well it stretches to entertain.
A Whole Mew World
Calico opens with you eagerly starting your new life in the perfectly pastel suburb of Heart Village. The mayor, Kiva, offers a warm greeting and gives you a few tasks to get you started and orient yourself by helping the townsfolk. It seems your aunt used to run the local café and recently retired. Though saddened by her departure, the villagers are happy to have you pick up where she left off. As the new proprietor of the café, all decisions are left to you on how it should be decorated and what food is served. The story is admittedly light, but it sets the stage perfectly for a blissful escape. As the game progresses and more locations open, you’ll also learn about the many inhabitants. Including bipedal beings, four legged furballs, and feathery fliers.
Calico is a slice-of-life simulation game where you lowkey run a café. The baking is pretty barebones and was mostly an afterthought. I thought this would be the meat of the game. Even the interaction at the café is limited. Customers show up but you have little control over the selling of goods. It’s a very passive experience. Where Calico shines is in the whimsical world dotted with all manner of lovable creatures. As you journey around completing tasks for the townies, you’ll run into a variety of animals. Find a stray dog? Pick it up and send it to your café. See a red panda prancing around? Use a toy to play with it and give it lots of pets. That adorable kitty who’s been following you? Use a “big small” potion to enlarge it so you can ride it from house to house. And what would an animal game be if you couldn’t put a baby polar bear on your head?
You can interact with and recruit all of the adorable animals you find. Up to five can join your party and will faithfully follow you around Heart Village. The others can roam the world or be sent to live at your café. There, they will frolic about and entertain customers while you’re away. The gameplay is less about running the café, as I mentioned above, and more about relaxing in the peaceful world of Calico while doing side-quests for the citizens. Successful completion of quests will net you some money, clothes, or items to spruce up the café. After acquiring enough coins you can buy furniture, clothes, or recipes. Potions which alter the world also become available.
There’s a lot to do in Heart Village and plenty of furry friends just waiting to become loyal companions. The gameplay felt a bit thin for my liking but my daughter ate it up. Most of the quests are similar to RPG fetch-quests and were simple enough for my little girl to figure out on her own. She did run into trouble from time to time but I’ll address that in a moment, as it wasn’t how she was playing but an issue with the game itself.
Enough Kitten Around
From an artistic standpoint, Calico is breathtaking. The lovely pastels and flow of the world conjure a whimsical paradise that’s easy to relax in. There’s even a hot springs if you’re up for the climb. The characters are vibrant and have their own personalities. The animals are many and you can customize their name or adorn them with accessories. One thing my daughter and I agreed on is that it is a shame you can’t capture pictures or videos of the software. How else am I supposed to show off my purple character with long flowing teal hair riding a giant dog with a crow on her head, followed by a stream of cats?
The music is equally serene and calming though wasn’t as memorable as the rest of the game. That’s not to say it wasn’t bad. I never dampened the volume or opted for my own music, but the tunes didn’t reside in my head after my Switch was put to sleep.
Cat-ch Me if you Can
Calico’s biggest stumble is in the technical department. It was a common occurrence for characters or animals to phase into the background or other objects, such as the trees. My daughter even had some of her animals vanish from sight. The interactive prompts still appeared so she knew where they were. She was able to resolve most of these issues by changing an accessory or selecting an interaction. I was plagued by other glitches, like my avatar launching a hundred feet in the air for no reason or certain actions not being available when they should have been. For example, not able to mount and ride my red panda when it was enlarged.
Most of these issues were excusable and rarely caused a problem with enjoying the game. However, we both ran into bugs with some of the quests which made them impossible to complete. Some of the quests are required to open new areas so it was disappointing when these problems occurred. Broken quests happened on both of our playthroughs and had a much larger impact on the gameplay.
See Ya Litter!
Calico is a pleasant experience though at times seems to suffer from identity crisis. It’s labeled as a day-in-the-life community sim by the developer but each game mechanic is only partly fleshed out. Aside from decorating your cafe, there’s little to do there. Cooking is overly simplified and struggled to hold my attention. There wasn’t much point in baking in the kitchen when visitors were sporadic with hardly any payoff.
Exploring the world and playing with your pets is joyful and relaxing. As is meeting other residents and getting to know them. The bugs that we ran into weren’t supposed to be part of the game. They weren’t adorable critters meant to improve the aesthetic but interfered with the gameplay in unpleasant ways. If you aren’t looking for a deeply complex game and just want to sit back and escape to calm your mind, Calico is pawsitivley adorable and can melt your stresses away.
Kid’s Corner Impressions
- Cats! Lots of Cats!
- Freedom to Explore
- Laidback and Relaxing
- Thin Gameplay
- Cat-astrophic Bugs
- Can’t Cat-pture Cat Photos