Developed by Peachy Keen Games and published by Whitethorn Games, Calico is an indie game that was initially released on Steam in Dec. 2020 and has branched out to other platforms. More recently, Calico just launched on the PS4/PS5 back in late November, allowing more players to experience this day-to-day community sim. Previous to this launch, saw the release of Calico: Pawsome Edition in Dec. 2022. This edition introduced new features to the Calico world, such as new animals, a more comfortable and visually appealing UI, and more decorating options. It has also revamped the cooking gameplay with minigames. Calico is currently available on almost all platforms such as Nintendo Switch, XBOX, PC, MAC, STADIA, and now on PlayStation.
With the new Pawsome Edition, it seems like the game has been completely renewed. Have you played Calico before this update? How do you compare the two? Let me know in the comments below. With that said, let’s see what friendly animals we can meet.
You start the game off by picking your name and designing your character. The character customization is jam-packed with a variety of menus, from being able to pick the types of glint in your character’s eyes to changing the gradient of hair colors. There is a variety of options and everyone will be able to make a character that represents them. Players have access to a color wheel to pick and choose shades and hues to match their own eyes, skin, clothes, and hair. You can even save colors as pre-sets so you never lose your perfect shade.
Once you have designed your Calico character, you begin your journey by meeting Kiva, the mayor of Heart Village. Players are introduced to the story and learn that their beloved aunt has retired and is enjoying her time travelling the world. Whilst the village is happy for her, they miss the cafe she used to run. This is where you come in and help rebuild the cafe to its former glory, by making treats and adopting cats and animals galore. You are also tasked with opening areas of the map, which have either been blocked by landslides or by pesky construction cats unwilling to move out of the way unless they can have lunch bagels. These quests are tasked to you by chatting with NPC and helping the community with fetch quests, cooking new recipes, decorating your cafe to meet certain themes, and even inviting new animals to your cafe, like Patches the Red Panda.
Calico follows your usual simulation game features, such as having a day-night cycle as well as days of the week. An interesting difference though, is that there is no pressure to have to sleep early to ensure you have enough energy for the next day as this feature does not exist. Players can simply roam the village as they please and sleep to progress the time or save their game. There is no need to grind to level up, instead, this game focuses on more of a relaxed approach to the sim game genre with wholesome themes. You don’t even have to worry about serving customers in the cafe as this all happens passively whilst you discover new areas and animals.
The controls were very intuitive with a helpful UI to remind you of the buttons, which can be rebinded to suit your needs. The only thing that was a bit annoying was that the talk to NPCs and jump buttons are the same, so you spend a good 10 seconds jumping before you have a chat with one of the townsfolk. The controls do feel a bit stiff and there is a few seconds of delay. One bonus was being able to press R3 and control how much of the HUD you can hide. You can have all the information on screen or completely off for a clean UI. Being able to pick up cats, wiggle them around, and store them on your head should be the new “Can you pet the cat?” meme in video games, as discovering that feature was delightful.
The World of Calico
There are five main areas in Calico and players unlock this by completing quests for their community, as mentioned above. Each area has different animals that players can interact with and discover. All the animals on the island are friendly and you can have them join your party, follow you, or be part of the cafe. Some of the animals you meet along your journey include crows, bunnies, capybaras, polar bears, ferrets and so much more. Although the game says you run a cat cafe, you can have any animal you meet stay there so there are no limits to what your cafe can house. You can even rename the animals and use potions to adjust their appearance.
You learn from Kiva, that the world of Calico is enriched with Old Magic, resulting in the use of potions to break rules and curate the world around you. There are magical potions to change your character, animals, and the world, and even some magical elixirs to fast-travel you back to your cafe. One of the earlier quests in the game is to clear out the landslide at the mountain, and what better way to accomplish this than by making a cat extremely large and stampeding through the rocks like you’re riding into a battle of magic and cats? Well, that’s exactly what you have to do.
As mentioned above, the cooking mechanic was revamped. The best way to describe the way your character cooks is, if you were to picture what it would be like to play Remy from Ratatouille. Your character shrinks down and has to prepare, cook, and bake various items that are still life-sized, using wooden spoons to fling you across to different shelves and a hamster wheel to bake your treats. It was an unexpected and pleasant discovery. Making the food for your cafe can award you bonuses and star ratings, which are based on how well you perform and the time taken to make the dish, and will reward players with more chances of higher earnings. For those who don’t want the challenge or have trouble completing this, you can simply ask the game to finish the recipe for you, though you don’t gain any bonuses by doing this.
What Calico does well in this game is its inclusion. There are several features to assist with accessibility, such as being able to rebind the controls, skipping the mini-games, and separate audio adjusters for music, footsteps, and sounds. There is also LGBTQIA+ representation, as you have to assist Sunny with her date with Blossom, two femme-presenting NPCs. You also get to meet Safeena, who wears a hijab. Calico can portray various groups of people and have them exist in a wholesome environment together. Not many games do this, whether triple AAA or indie so to see this be included so naturally, is heartwarming.
The main issue faced during the gameplay was that my game didn’t save. After making significant progress in the story, saving and quitting the game. I came back to my game having no saved files whatsoever. Thumb Culture got in touch with the PR team, it was confirmed they were aware of the issue and a patch was already released to fix this. Sadly, the game files were corrupted so a new game was started anyway. Though the issue was frustrating, it was great to see how quickly the team got a patch out and addressed this issue.
Graphics & Audio
The music in Calico is fantastic and perfectly fits the overall theme of the game. It’s whimsical, and relaxing and has been on replay throughout writing this review, particularly the tracks “Staying In With You” and “A Cat is a Cat” featuring the lovely and soft vocals of Emily Anderson. The soundtrack is composed by John “Slide20XX” Smith, and if you enjoy the ambience of Calico, the soundtrack is available as DLC on Steam. The graphics in Calico are quite simple but effective, with its grease pencil animation style. There could be more detail added with more variations in the shrubbery, as areas can appear quite flat and empty. The color palette is very pleasing to the eyes and matches the relaxing aesthetic of the game. In terms of graphical issues, there is quite a bit of clipping when trying to walk up staircases or when on your mount, and having to walk past railings, as there are invisible walls or your character just decides to jump over certain railings unprompted.
Calico is short and sweet, as it is not a very long game and some players would be able to complete this within 6 – 7 hours. This is no criticism as Calico comes across as a game that respects your time, giving you a start and an end. Some players may feel disappointed by this, however, it is refreshing to experience a sim game where there is an ending and you can feel accomplished by completing this. There is no replayability unless you want to challenge yourself to get better ratings on your cooking or to complete the achievements, of which there are only 13. When considering the price being £8.99 on the PS store, this is an affordable game that is fairly priced for the amount of enjoyment you get out of it.
Calico is a relaxing and whimsical game filled with adorable animals, a strong community of NPCs, and a fun cooking mechanic. It has a brilliant soundtrack that brings the world together. Calico is a game catered towards cozy/wholesome players of all ages, due to the simple controls. The game removes the feeling of having to grind out many hours to get everything leveled up, meaning players can just explore and be part of the world. However, it did leave me wanting more. There is something about the game that feels unfinished. I would love to see some extra game modes be added, whether this is working in the cafe, or opening up more decorating abilities. Seeing new animals be included would be great too, let’s get all the furry and scaley friends in the cafe.
Calico gets a platinum reward, as this would appeal to many cozy players, and though I was left wanting more, the game is still great as is.
If you would like to read about more indie/cozy games, check out this review for Alchemy Garden.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.