- Release Date (NA): December 15, 2020
- Release Date (EU): December 15, 2020
- Release Date (JP): December 15, 2020
- Publisher: Peachy Keen Games
- Developer: Whitethorn Digital
- Genres: Life Simulator
- Also For: Computer, Xbox One
Is it possible to create a game better than Animal Crossing with a tenth of the budget of Nintendo? That's what the developers of Calico have tried to do but have they been successful?
Life simulators are hugely popular for one reason: escapism. They let you escape from the brutal harshness that real life can sometimes be. Games like Animal Crossing or The Sims let you live your life at whatever pace you want. You want to go fishing? You can. You want to go talk to people? Then go and do it. Can a life simulator be an escape when you are pretty much forced to constantly do tasks that get people to visit your café? Well, let's find out.
After a rather long wait for the game to load and a somewhat boring-looking title screen, you are tasked with creating your character. And my goodness, they sure have given you a huge amount of customization options. I'm all for character customization, but they seriously have gone overboard with what you can do. For instance, you have ten different types of bottom your character can have. Yes, ten different arses. Every part of your character's body can be customized any way you want it, which is nice, but as you can't rotate your character certain choices you make can't be seen until the main game actually starts. Anyway, it's a nice touch and something different from Animal Crossing where you really only have the option of picking if you are a boy or a girl.
After spending way too long designing my character, I decided that I better start playing the game. The game begins with your character moving to a new village. Upon arrival, you meet the mayor who gives you the village's cat café to run. All very generous until the mayor tells you that to pay for the café, you need to run errands for her and the local townspeople. Doing so rewards you with new furniture or new clothes and so on. Yes, the start is pretty much an exact copy of Animal Crossing.
After doing a few tasks for the mayor and the townsfolk, who are all witches, you get to enter your café for the first time. You are then given the task of designing the inside to your liking. After I had placed a few tables and chairs down I got a message to head to the kitchen. It was at this point that the game, for the first time but not the last, became rather bizarre. Stepping into the kitchen, my character was zapped down to a tiny size. Why this happens is never explained and it seems to be in the game for absolutely no reason. Anyway, after being miniaturised I had to select what dish I wanted to try and cook. I chose to bake a cake and was given an onscreen list of ingredients needed to make the cake and that's it. No actual instructions are given to you in how to cook the ingredients--you are left to work it out yourself. So, to bake the cake, I needed sugar, eggs, flour and icing. Ok, time to find the ingredients in the kitchen. The eggs I found in two seconds as they were right next to me. It also helped they were four times bigger than my character. So I picked up the eggs but now what do I have to do with them? Do I put them in the giant bowl across the other side of the kitchen? Do I put them on the tray next to me until I get the other ingredients? Who knows! Let's just chuck them on the tray for now. "Now let's find the flour," I said to myself. After a quick search, I find two huge blue bags with no writing on them to tell me what they are. Are they sugar, or are they flour? Who knows, but as I need both sugar and flour I grab one of the bags and head back to the tray. Ah, it's flour after all! Now to find the sugar. After searching the kitchen for ten mins with zero sign of the sugar I have a brain wave and grab the other bag that was identical to the sugar and, yep, it's the flour. Only the cake icing to be found now. Which for some reason was hiding behind a box of mushrooms. I place the icing on the tray and two seconds later a cake appears. Cool, it seems cooking is quite easy but still, some instructions into doing it would have been nice. At this point, I decided to see what would happen if I baked another cake but put the ingredients in the bowl instead of on the tray. After placing all the ingredients in the bowl two seconds later the cake is made. Why have a bowl and a tray when it doesn't matter which one you use? A minor issue I guess compared to all the other problems this game has. But more of that in a moment.
Next, I had to do some more tasks for the people in the village. All the tasks are a case of getting an item from one character and taking it to the other. Or being asked by a character to go to Nook's Cranny- sorry, I mean Maude's shop to collect something they have bought and so on. Every so often you will get a bigger task to do. One of the first revolves around part of the village being blocked off by a landslide. Now for anyone unfortunate enough to play this game I won't spoil what you have to do to fix said problem other than to say it requires a lot of running back and forth talking to people, a bit more fetching and a bit of magic. These bigger tasks a few and far between and are only there to open up more of the village you live in. This leads us to the next problem with the game which is the actual world map is huge. 98% of the map is a forest with the character's houses and a few shops randomly placed in said forest. It can take you 5 to 10 minutes just to get from one house to the other. And that's if you actually know where you are going. If you don't, you end up wandering around the forest for ages until you accidentally stumble upon the right house. This is not helped by the fact that your character walks extremely slowly for some reason. One other thing to note is that now and again you will find various cats walking around the forest. These cats can be picked up at which point you get the option to send it to your cat café or let it go free again. The cats all have different personalities and sending the right ones to your café will help attract more customers. You can also decorate your cats in several accessories which makes the cats either happy or angry if they don't like what you place on them. Finding the perfect combination of accessories for a cat causes it to become extremely happy, which has the effect of causing the cat to massively grow in size. These massive cats can be used as transport to get you a bit quicker around the world map but even then they feel rather slow. Not quite as slow as walking but it still takes ages to get anywhere fast.
Pretty much everything about this game is bad. It suffers from really bad popup that is so bad you would think you are playing an early PS1 game, It at times fails to draw textures (for instance, the roof failed to draw on my café as can be seen in the picture above) and, as I previously said, your character moves so slowly it's like they are running through treacle whilst at the same time having a massive weight tied to your body; it's that slow. The vast majority of the tasks in the game are extremely boring and the whole game just feels like a cheap version of Animal Crossing that takes everything great about AC and does it worse. As for the in-game music well that is the best thing about Calico and even then the music is just ok. Compared to the awesome music in Animal Crossing this game doesn't even come close. But then again you could say that about pretty much every aspect of this game.
In my introduction, I asked the question "Is it possible to create a game better than Animal Crossing with a tenth of the budget of Nintendo?" In this case, the answer is clearly a resounding no.
What We Liked ...
- It's only £7.99
- The graphics look nice when nothing on screen is moving
What We Didn't Like ...
- Extremely long load times
- Terrible popup
- Missing textures
- The game is extremely sluggish
GameplayBoring tasks. Bizarre gameplay choices. The cooking sections could have been fun if done similar to Cooking Mama
PresentationEverything is functional but like everything else in the game could have been done to a much higher standard.
Lasting AppealI think most players won't last more than half an hour before giving up and playing something else.
out of 10