We take an in-depth look at Peachy Keen Games’ first proposal: Calico. We tell you in detail what it is like to run a cafe in a magical world
Calico comes to our hands in such an unconventional year as this 2020 has been, it is appreciated to have proposals whose main objective is to offer us a virtual world in which to relax and leave the daily mundane worries beyond the screen. An example of this is the award-winning Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which arrived at the beginning of the year to propose a second life in which to connect with our loved ones and meet endearing animals. Something similar to the latter offers Calico, which reaches computers and consoles to offer us a peaceful alternative set in a magical world of pastel colors. In the next few paragraphs we will break down the title of Peachy Keen Games, with its great successes and some failures that give room for improvements.
Before starting the Reviews in question, it is important to note that this is a game developed only by two people. The Peachy Keen Games team is based in Seattle, Washington, and in their own description they state that they aim to create welcoming and comforting experiences. Calico, the daily life simulator with cafes and magical girls is their first game, and we are very happy to confirm that they perfectly fulfill their main goal.
Cafes and kittens, an ideal combination
The idea of running a coffee shop full of cats and loyal customers may sound too good a concept to be profitable, but at Calico it’s totally possible. In fact, cats and dogs are one of the most common animals that we can recruit for our business, since we will come across all kinds of wild animals. And when we say everything it is because there are literally polar bears and giant green rabbits waiting at different points on the map to be invited to live in our cozy cafeteria.
Before we can explore the different areas of the map to find such special fauna, we will have to start at the beginning: meet the nearby neighbors, decorate the place and learn a few basic recipes. Unfortunately, running a cafeteria cannot be based solely on hosting animals from the bush.
Once we have learned the basics of Calico, we can begin to meet the charismatic characters that inhabit its world. In this section, it should be noted that the dialogue options that we have available are quite poor, and sometimes null. In addition, it currently does not have localization into Spanish, and although its texts are not particularly complex, we will need basic English to understand them. However, discovering the location of each of the neighbors, their personality and how it comes together in their physical design is quite entertaining.
Unfortunately, the favors that the inhabitants ask of us as secondary missions are quite simple, and are limited to requesting a certain style of furniture in your premises or looking for their lost cat, to give a couple of examples. On the other hand, the missions most aimed at advancing in the title focus on gradually unlocking different areas of the map, with their respective stations, animals and inhabitants.
As for the mechanics related to the cafeteria, they are simple enough not to become a headache, but entertaining enough to be satisfying for the player. In this section, the weak point is cooking. To prepare dishes such as muffins or coffees, we will shrink on the counter and we will have to transfer the ingredients of the recipe in question to a bowl. It is funny to see how the animals around us become much bigger than us, but it has no mystery or emotion after having been in the kitchen a few times. Also, we have to get used to the idea that the decoration will have to be conformed progressively, since it advances based on the money we get working. And regarding the part of managing the business, for the moment it is quite simple: customers come, consume and leave. In this sense we have missed some additional management options that could enrich the title in a more strategic direction.
The design of the different areas of the map is well constructed, each one has its own personality and advancing to them gives us the feeling of discovery that we hope to feel while exploring a magical world. However, the stages are too big for how empty they are, causing us to spend much of our time moving from one end of the map to another without any reward. At the time in history when we can get a mount, we suffer less in this regard, but it still gives the feeling of an empty world.
Of course, furniture is not the only thing we can buy in exchange for this play money. The clothes are one of the most striking attractions of the title along with its pastel aesthetic characteristic: different types of clothes, accessories and details that will allow us to personalize our avatar in a very surprising way. In fact, the character creator is one of the best used sections of the title, since it offers a wide range of non-normative options, admitting a variety of physical constitutions, details such as stretch marks and accessories of all kinds, including hijabs.
The technical section, his Achilles heel
Although the base concept of the title can largely attract a specific audience that enjoys experiences like those offered by Animal Crossing New Horizons and Stardew Valley, its technical section means that it is not at the height of this type of game. When catching the different animals, they go through our avatar or interact randomly with the environment as we move with them, for example. To modify the appearance of our character effectively once we have started our game, we will have to save the changes one by one as we define them so that they are applied correctly. The physics of all the elements of the title, but especially of our avatar, leave a lot to be desired, and in the same vein, some of its animations such as running are most orthopedic. Regarding the soundtrack, it is important to note that while it is pleasant, catchy and agrees with Calico’s logic, it ends up being repetitive after a few hours of play.
It should also be noted that in the few days that the title has been available, we have already noticed great improvements in this regard thanks to the patches that have been implemented from Peachy Keen Games. For this reason, we are confident that these problems that hinder the enjoyment of Calico will end up being solved or lightened over time.
A world with great possibilities
If we have the patience for a somewhat slow start, tedious travels and side missions that put us in the role of messenger, we can get enough hours of play from Calico. Especially if what we are passionate about is aesthetics, decoration, clothing sets and the possibility of taking especially attractive photos for social networks, Calico has the fundamentals to become a source of many hours of fun. Of course, we must bear in mind that patience is a key virtue when playing it, since without it we can choose to soon release the controller.
In short, we are facing a pleasant game, in which you can feel the affection that they have put into the design and care of their aesthetics, but that needs more interesting mechanics and a polished technical section to attract and keep the attention of a wider audience. It has the potential to create a community around it, and the updates that have been applied a few days after its launch can be interpreted as a sign that the developer seeks to provide the best gaming experience for those who dare to try Calico.
- The pampering in its aesthetics
- A lot of inclusivity in the character creator
- Fun and friendly at the controls
- Wide variety of animals available
- Some bugs that hinder the experience
- Lack of deeper mechanics in cafeteria management
- Large excess and empty stages
- Messenger missions
It is not the latest or the most original, it does not have the best execution, but it can be fun if you like the genre. Good, but room for improvement.