Calico Review – Riding Cats and Baking Sweets

Developer: Peachy Keen Games // Publisher: Whitethorn Digital // Price: $11.99 (eShop / Steam)
Review copy received from publisher

I am an animal person, especially felines. I have two cats that I would give my life to protect despite how much they can be jerks while I’m trying to work.  If someone shares something feline related on social media, there’s a good chance I’m going to comment with a heart emoji and share it.  So, when Whitethorn Digital announced Calico, a game about managing a cat café, I couldn’t resist checking it out, eager to experience the adventure of managing a coffee shop full of cats.

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Would You Like a Tabby With Your Latte

As Calico begins, players are informed that they have inherited the café and are now managing it, deciding its decorations and menu as well as the animals that wander the premises.  Similar to Animal Crossing, players can place furniture as well as wall and floor decorations.  In setting the menu, players must make the food before it can be added.  This involves the player’s avatar shrinking down to the size of a gerbil and running around a kitchen counter throwing ingredients into a bowl.  Even though this was a unique way to construct menu items, it also became a little frustrating when ingredients flew over the bowl due to bad camera angles.

The café would be better classified as an animal shelter; any animal found in the Calico world can be added to the café with the press of a button.  At one point during the game, I had a crow, a rabbit and a red panda in addition to a couple of cats.  While at the café, players can play with the animals and cuddle them. This is a nice layer of immersion for those interested, but it has no impact on gameplay.  It was odd to me that all of the animals reacted the same way when playing with the toys because it makes for some odd moments.  For example, I used a dangling cat toy with a crow that flopped on the ground as if its wing was broken while playing.

Courier Service

Despite the idea that Calico is a management sim, that aspect of the game is only a minor part of the overall experience.  Most of the game revolves around the completion of quests.  The quests involve simple actions, and each completed quest provides more items for either the player’s avatar or for further café customization. There isn’t much variety in the quests though.  A large number of them involve taking an item or a message to another resident making Calico more of a courier simulator than a café management sim.

Completing quests takes more time than necessary thanks to slow travel speeds.  It can take several minutes to walk between opposite ends of the small map, and unlike open world games, there is very little to discover on the journey between points.  To make the journey a little more interesting, the animals can be enlarged and used as a mount, however, this is more of a visual treat since the speed of the mount isn’t any faster than the avatar’s speed.  

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Make It Your Way

The most impressive component of Calico is the avatar customization.  Practically every aspect of the avatar can be modified including facial features and body type.  This is one of the most comprehensive avatar builders I’ve seen in a game.  Aside from the basics like hair and clothing, the avatar customizer also has options for things like shoulders, hips, and eyelashes giving players complete control of their avatar.  The only blemish I saw in the customizer was the lack of options for male-centric avatars.  The design options heavily favor feminine avatars; those that want to design masculine avatars have fewer options.  The masculine options also have an effeminate design which makes the avatars cherub-esque.  This may be disappointing to some players who want more control of their avatar’s appearance.

Final Verdict

Calico is a casual game that provides a memorable world for its players.  There are a number of unique characters, like the half-owl girl, the goth girl and the father-daughter farmers, but they stand out primarily due to their design as the characters do not have a lot of depth or backstory.  The art direction of Calico is also distinct with crisp cel-shaded graphics and a pastel color palette.  While the travel may feel slow, the environment is nice to look at.  It doesn’t take long though for the world to feel cramped due to the lack of points of interest forcing quests between the same places multiple times. Interior designers will find numerous items to collect which can be used to personalize the café as well as clothing options for the avatar.  The animals and baking mini-game add a few more activities for players to invest their time, but there is little in-game reward in doing so.  For those looking for a relaxing, casual game, Calico will likely meet, but for those looking to immerse themselves in an engaging story or true management simulation, they are likely to be disappointed. 

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