Peachy Keen Games’ Calico is an adorable, endearing slice-of-life simulator with one goal: rebuild the local cat café and bring life back to the once-bustling café. After moving in, you’ll suddenly have to take care of various tasks. These tasks include bringing animals in, decorating your café, and meeting your neighbors and other town residents. Get ready, because your new life as a magical being café owner awaits!
While the concept of Calico is amazing and intriguing enough, I was admittedly underwhelmed (and a little frustrated) with navigation. There’s no tutorial as the game dumps players in with little to no context. During my first ten minutes of gameplay, I struggled with selecting options and continuing dialogue. No matter what I pressed, I seemed to be looping back as if the conversation or option never happened. It wasn’t until I started randomly tapping buttons that I realized I was using the incorrect button for confirmation. In addition, I felt that the town’s layout was too spread out for no real reason. After wandering meandering paths for minutes (in-game, probably about 15) I finally found someone to chat with. There was more empty space than actual interactive space in game.
In addition to the first learning obstacle I encountered, the character creation tool felt like it was missing elements that would allow players to fine-tune their character. Players are unable to zoom in on their newly born magical being, taking a lot of fun out of creation. In addition, the color selection tool was clunky with almost too many choices. Choosing a single color was an awkward experience, especially when you had a color in mind. Luckily, players can go back and edit their character at any point in the game.
When it comes to the decoration of the café, the controls are a little friendlier and familiar. This is especially if you’ve had experience with Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley – this interface felt like the two combined. When you first enter your café, the walls melt away to reveal the interior, and players can navigate perspective by changing camera angles and moving around.
Finally, cooking in the café (this is an eating establishment after all) was an adventure in itself. At first, I found the concept of being shrunk down to the size of an egg to throw ingredients into a bowl incredibly frustrating, but the whole physics-based experience was very comical once I figured out how to get things to land perfectly each time. It’s not a straight-forward approach to cooking, but it is a fun extra “minigame” for those who are feeling more spontaneous.
Sense-wise, Calico is an endearing pastel landscape, but it’s missing some depth that would make it feel more alive. There’s a lack of detail that makes it feel flat and underwhelming to look at. However, Calico’s soundtrack is a shining factor that adds to the beautiful and calming theme overall. The soft vocals over light piano and other clear tones is a whimsical addition that really makes the game.
Overall, Calico has potential to be a relaxing escape for players, if they’re able to move past the learning curve that comes with playing. Luckily, Peachy Keen is releasing some patches for the game that will hopefully improve players’ experience.
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