Genre: Indie, Adventure, Simulation
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam, Epic & Xbox One)
Developers | Publishers: PEACHY KEEN GAMES | Matias Schmied | Whitethorn
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: EU €9,99 | USD $11.99 | UK £8.99
Release Date: December 15th, 2020
Review code used, with many thanks to Whitethorn Digital
Calico started out on Kickstarter and was successfully backed by 2,721 backers who pledged $70,634 to bring Calico to life. Calico didn’t have a firm release date until the 15th December when it had a surprise release after being shown in the IndieWorld showcase.
We have been watching the progress of the game since it’s early days on Kickstarter, let’s take a look at it and see how it’s turned out!
Magical Girls Running a Cafe
The developers describe Calico as a game about magical girls running a cat cafe, and that’s basically all the information you really need right off the bat (or maybe that should be right off the cat)! Anyway, Calico is a day-in-the-life community sim game where you are given an important task to rebuild the town’s cat café and fill it with cute and cuddly creatures. And if you haven’t worked it out from the description of the game: it’s a non-violent game, you won’t find any weapons or fighting in Calico. Just peace, cats and pink, lots and lots of pinks!
First things first, Calico starts with a character creation menu with enough choices to keep you busy for quite a while. There are different body shapes and sizes, gender-neutral, body neutral avatars. It is great to see they made this game so inclusive. There are also multiple different hairstyles and colour choices, and face sliders to make your character truly unique.
A Laid Back World
Calico is a very laid back game, the storyline is that your Aunt retired and the cafe shut down and you’re tasked with bringing the cafe back to life. You do this by fulfilling quests for the people in the surrounding areas and helping them out. Mostly fetch and tell quests are given to you by a cast of LGBT+ characters, and again it’s lovely to see more representation and diversity in Calico.
Since you have a cafe, you can make food by cooking….. well, sort off, though I have to say it’s the weirdest cooking in a game I have come across in a long time. Your character is shrunk down to miniature size, small enough to be able to walk on the kitchen units. From there you pick up ingredients that are twice the size of your character and lob the ingredients into a bowl.
Once all the correct ingredients are in the bowl, hey presto the cooked item such as a bagel magically appears in said bowl. You then transfer the bagel or cooked item to a tray, again by throwing it on to the tray and then poof, your character is back to normal size and standing in the kitchen.
Lots of Animals to Interact With
The game’s focus is on the animal interaction, as every creature you come across can be befriended, named, added to the party, and finally given a home at the cafe.
You’ll find cats, birds, red pandas, dears and lots more to tame. The regular-sized cats can be petted, played with, picked up, or even placed on your head like a hat, something I particularly enjoyed doing. You can use magic in the way of various types of potions on the animals to increase their size.
By using a potion on a cat the cat increases in size to a giant cat. The giant cat can be ridden as a mount, allowing you to move through the game’s open-world much faster than you could otherwise do, as the walking speed is slow.
Decorating the cafe is also key in Calico, as you can collect and arrange an assortment of cute toys, decorations, and furniture. Some of the decorations are focused on humans, others are designed for the animals. The furniture, which you can arrange rather freely inside your cafe, is necessary for attracting customers and making sales. Certain NPC’s prefer a certain aesthetic, so each furniture item is part of one of several sets, such as cute,” or “flower.” Placing certain items in your cafe will appeal to certain customers.
Decorate Your Cafe
The game also features a shop among other places of interest. The shop is run by a cat who lives in a dumpster behind a house, that sells you the furniture that you can use to display in your cafe. You can purchase this furniture using beans, the in-game currency, which you earn by completing the quests for the people that live in the area around your cafe.
Some aspects of Calico may draw comparisons to Animal Crossing New Horizon as you befriend animals, creating a character and collecting new clothing items, decorating and designing the cat cafe, and playing mini-games are all a part of the fun.
Not all Smooth Playing
Unfortunately, Calico has a few problems that I found at times distracted me from the actual gameplay. The character movement is distractingly goofy and weird and the AI is wonky in some places. I’ve witnessed cats flying through the air, a white fox curled up and sleeping in mid-air. There is a clip through with the scenery that gets rather irritating after a while. My character has gotten stuck in the scenery and some of the animal animations behave in strange ways.
I’ve had occasions when the NPCs are scheduled to go to the cafe, but this leads to a major traffic jam of all the NPCs in the doorway to my cafe. Usually, it results in no one getting into the cafe at all. But I’ve played on through it all as under the faults that Calico has, it’s charming in all the weirdest ways. From its gender-neutral options, to the animals and to the weird and outstanding strength of the characters and their ability to balance animals on their heads.
The developers Peachy Keen Games are aware of the hiccups with the game on the Nintendo Switch and they have a fix in the works that is awaiting approval. I do not doubt that everything will be ironed out in future updates. Check put Peachy Keens Twitter page to keep up with the latest news on Calico.
Visuals and Controls
Calico is gorgeous looking with its hand-drawn graphics in various pastel shades, it matches the cute and magical world of Calico perfectly.
The music is good, it’s pretty relaxing and soothing and some of the tracks are really nice but it could do with more music added as it does get a tad repetitive. There is a lyrical version of the main theme which is a lovely song and a nice touch by the developers.
The controls do work if a little awkward as the main button to use is the B button and not-A. It took me a while to get used to the system as I kept pressing A, and you don’t have the option to re-map the controls.
Calico is a magical game about witches, cats, cute villagers and a cat café, what more could you want! While there is no denying that Calico has a few problems on the Switch, I hope this is a game that will be regularly updated and more added to the game in future.
If you’re looking for a game to get lost in a whimsical, magical pink infused world where you can wear cats as hats then Calico is the game for you.
Final Verdict: I Like It A Lot
You can find links to the respective stores for the game below.
Since we published this review of Calico we have been informed that the game has been updated on Steam to version 1.02. The update includes bug fixes, performance fixes, and features!
A Nintendo Switch update to fix bugs and add a few improvements will follow shortly once Nintendo has approved it. Updates for the Switch include A and B buttons swapped so controls are more familiar to Nintendo Switch players. Added potion to teleport the player back to café in case they become stuck. Enabled screenshot and video capture on Nintendo Switch.
You can find the full patch notes for both Steam and Nintendo Switch here at Whitethorn Digital.