Review: Calico (Switch)

A cute, fluffy unfinished mess.

By Achi Ikeda. Posted 05/30/2021 22:23 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Creative concept; a variety of furry and feathered friends to collect
Poison Mushroom for...
Extremely buggy; dull gameplay; a simple overworld

Note: Since its release on Switch, Calico has received multiple updates to fix various bugs and performance issues. This review was created before and during some of the updates and may not fully reflect the current product.

Calico is a cat café simulation game where players rebuild and decorate their own café, collect animals, buy outfits, and cook cute pastries. Though Calico combines a lot of great ideas, and has a suiting pastel aesthetic, the gameplay and controls are flawed, glitchy, unmotivating, and sluggish. Overall, despite multiple updates since release, the game feels very unfinished.

I love cats, I love decorating, and I love wholesome games, so I feel like I am within the developers’ target audience. Sadly, there are too many flaws in Calico that make it unenjoyable. Gameplay begins almost as soon as you start the game. By the character creation screen, I was frustrated. The UI is one of the worst I have seen, and though character creation is known to be a time consuming and engrossing part of a game, in the end I went with something close to preset to make the process just end already. It demonstrates thoughtless design that only continues throughout Calico. The cooking minigame has you shrink in size and run along the counter picking up and throwing the ingredients in a pot. I wouldn’t mind this all too much if the ingredient labels were readable and the launch distance of throwing was predictable.

The cooking minigame isn’t all that’s tedious. Quests given by other villagers are mostly errands. Though the overworld can be interesting to explore at first, it soon proves to be fairly empty of detail or discoveries. Though you can pick up and play with animals, it’s often so glitchy that it becomes humorously similar to Goat Simulator. Whipping out a cat toy can often make the cat models go limp and then slide off screen. When picking up animals, you can move and rotate them in any direction continuously, no matter how twisted your arms get. It was so funny, I wish I could have recorded it. Unfortunately, at the time of playing the game, screen capture wasn’t available. But even if the gameplay was enjoyable, there was one key component that is impossible to ignore.

I hate playing games with the sound off. I need the sound effects or I feel like I’m going crazy. If the music isn’t great, I’m fairly good at zoning out background tunes. I’m always amazed when my boyfriend will start whistling songs that sound vaguely familiar to me. After I pester him enough to tell me the song, it’s always of games only I have played and he happened to hear the music. I’m amazed that he picks up on it so quickly and I’m amazed that I never even noticed the music. So when I say that I had to mute Calico while playing because the music got so annoying, that means I found it incredibly annoying. This is a gaming first for me in my twenty-ish years of playing. Calico, color me impressed.

The music wasn’t all that was annoying. The camera movement and framerate were nauseating. I can suffer from motion sickness, though most games I can play just fine. Calico however was headache-inducing and nauseating to the point where I had to look away from the screen when I could and take breaks occasionally. The bright colors may also have something to do with this, but I’ve done fine with other colorful games, so I am unsure.

It is a surprise, and a bit disappointing, to see such a poor preforming game highlighted in Nintendo’s mini Directs. Whether this was caused by poor research, some other cause, or Nintendo actually liking the game, it does nothing but hurt Nintendo’s credibility at recognizing quality indie games.

What sounded like the combination of a management game, Animal Crossing, and The Sims turned out to be barely influenced by all three. If you’re looking for a relaxing Switch game where you can collect clothing, decorate your home, and hang out with animals, there is already the perfect game for you: Animal Crossing New Horizons. If you’ve already played it to the point of needing new joysticks, then there are plenty of other indie alternatives to pick up before giving Calico consideration.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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