A magical (cat)girl fantasy land!
Cats, cupcakes, and cafes — oh my! Be it cuteness or clever alliteration, Calico is paws-itively overflowing with an abundance of all things adorable. Developed by the tiny two-person team Peachy Keen Games and published by Whitethorn Digital, Calico is the best magical girl/cafe/cat collecting crossover ever made and will be sure to please anyone with a sweet tooth. Available on Switch, XBox One/ X|S, and PC by way of Steam and Game Jolt for the low price of $11.99, Calico is happiness on steroids — bliss in game form for those who have an insatiable appetite for kawaii culture.
After a surprisingly sizeable character creation where players can choose from a wide array of inclusive hairstyles (including a hair covering), body types, and literally any skin/hair color, players are welcomed to their new life as a cat cafe owner. The town’s mayor welcomes players and thanks them for taking over the town’s favorite haunt, getting them sorted with the controls before setting them loose on the town. It’s then up to the player to decorate the cafe, discover recipes, bake goods, tend to adorable animals, and befriend the townspeople on this magical island with hidden secrets.
A controller is strongly recommended to play Calico, which the game suggests before starting. The controls themselves are a little daunting to remember at first; luckily, the game has the entire control scheme available on-screen at all times in case you forget. Got it memorized? Hide it by hitting the “H” button. I definitely appreciated this constant reminder, as I there are a surprising amount of moving parts that I kept forgetting, so having it available at any given moment was welcomed.
The aesthetics obviously speak for themselves, but I’m happy to compliment them anyway — they’re the very definition of lovely. The colors were a perfect pastel paradise, the pinks and greens giving off that sweet, sweet serotonin. I particularly loved the brushed effect the blocks of color had, which were stationary when the camera moved, giving a hand-painted feel. And the music? Instant mood-booster when those dulcet piano keys started playing, and when the vocals chimed in I would literally just sit still and take everything, a happy peace washing over me. The visuals and audio are a true delight, their charm coming together to create pure bliss.
There’s no shortage of stuff to do in Calico; as the newest magical girl/boy/person in town, it’d be a good idea to do a meet and greet with everyone. While you’re at it, you can’t help but notice that people could use some assistance with things, such as delivering items, opening up new areas, and finding furry or feathered friends. Of course, this is in-between baking cookies, cakes, and more for the cafe, decorating the space to be more inviting for cats and customers alike, playing with your collection of assorted animals, trying on new outfits and accessories (for both you and the animals), and more. Make no mistake — Calico is a chill game, but that doesn’t mean an absence of activity. You will be very busy tending and befriending the entire island!
Although you’ll find plenty of charming townspeople in Calico, my favorite friends ended up being the animals. Despite your establishment being branded as a cat cafe, there’s no restriction on which animals hang out in your cozy lil eatery. Up to 10 animals of any kind are welcome within these four walls, including cats, dogs, bunnies, crows, ravens, raccoons, horses, red pandas, foxes, bears, and even capybaras! Additionally, there’s a vast number of potions that can alter both you and your animal companions, such as making them bigger or smaller, cosmetically changing their coats to be cosmic or glittery, or even turning them into mythical creatures like a griffin. As for the potions you can take, there are ones that turn your hair cosmic or glittery, turn your outfit into an ice cream sundae, or legitimately turn you into a cat. Try putting a cat on your head while riding a cat after taking a cat potion for a very magical catgirl-ception experience.
While researching Calico to see if others were enjoying this absolutely magical experience as much as I was, I noticed a few people saying the game had some bugs that were putting a damper on their playthroughs. A bit more digging showed that the dev team has released two patches after launch with the intention of releasing more as necessary. Although I admit I saw one instance of a bug where dialog options were sometimes doubled for me, I found Calico to be a very smooth experience — it would appear that the dev team has patched the problems earlier players faced. I can therefore vouch not only for the PC version of Calico, but the dev team’s responsiveness as a whole — remember, it’s a two-person team who released not one, but two updates shortly before the end of year holidays. I’m confident in not only their ability to patch bugs quickly but their commitment to the game for doing so; I hope you’ll feel confident in this indie team as well.
Calico is 8-year-old cat-obsessed me’s perfect game. It’s absolutely everything I wanted in a magical girl experience. By the end of Calico — a 10 hour journey, by the way — I had collected 15 different cats, happily riding one around the island, another sitting on my head and another in my arms, while taking a potion to turn myself into a cat as well. I had a bakery filled with cakes, macarons, cream puffs, and boba, and all the colorful hair and clothing options to choose from. While I do wish there were more frilly, patterned clothing options, a unicorn would have been the cherry on top, and the UI could have been a bit more intuitive (rearranging furniture was a pain), this is such a glorious game for those who love cats, magical girls, and peaceful gameplay — a truly whimsical, blissful experience.
If you love that pastel paradise, magical girl aesthetic, you absolutely must grab Calico. I had a hard time putting this one down even after I had completed everything, and I’m honestly tempted to start a new game just to experience the magic all over again. Seriously, if you’re still reading this, just go buy Calico and get that serotonin injection you deserve. Your brain will thank you!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, XBox Series X|S PC (reviewed); Publisher: Whitethorn Digital; Developer: Peachy Keen Games; Players: 1; Released: December 15, 2020; MSRP: $11.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Calico provided by the publisher.