I’ve always been more of a dog person than a cat person, but I can never pass up the opportunity of reviewing a game where animals take the forefront. Add in the fact that you can decorate your own cafe and, well, let’s just say I was sold on Calico from the get-go. Spoiler – there are dogs.
Calico is described as a day-in-the-life community sim game in which you are given the task of rebuilding the town’s very own cat cafe. After your Aunt retired, the cafe was inevitably closed down. Now it’s been left to you to restore this once loved kitty paradise to its former glory.
Upon starting the game and after creating my character, I was quickly reminded of Animal Crossing – which was a blessing. The characters speak in the same jumbled up way, and if you’ve played Animal Crossing then you know exactly what I mean. You’re greeted by Mayor Kive, who gives you a brief tutorial of how things work, how to place and move furniture, and how to lure in your animal friends. From there, your journey begins.
Calico will start out by giving you brief tasks to complete in order to help you get to grips with the game’s mechanics and open up the game’s world – but you’re pretty much free to do as you please. The first thing I wanted to do was to explore the environment, and it’s beautiful. I had expected, given its title, there only to be cats to find and give love to. Oh no, in Calico there is so much wildlife to see; birds, fish, arctic foxes, polar bears and, of course, cats, to name a few. What’s more, you’re able to interact with each and every one of these animals. Want to wear a cat like a hat? Sure, it’s do-able.
Decorating your cafe is a gift that keeps on giving. You have full control of how your cafe looks, where every table and chair is placed, and what animals go into it. The animal selection is something in particular that I love, as it makes me feel like it is mine. Furniture items are placed into themes, of which there are a few. At the start of the game, you’re given the option of choosing from ‘cute’, ‘spooky’ and ‘cool’, and you’re also given a few items from the particular set you have chosen. You’re also able to purchase new clothing items for your character, which is a nice touch.
To continue further updating your cafe, you’ll need to purchase more items with money earned from completing various missions from your new neighbours and selling delicious food items in your cafe. This leads me on to perhaps the most unexpected feature I came across playing Calico: making items to sell in your cafe. Doesn’t sound so unusual right? Well, you will think differently when I tell you that your character shrinks and you gather your ingredients looking like a scene from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Despite being unusual, it’s a lot of fun.
As I stated earlier, all animals you come across are interactive. You can pet them, play with them and give them commands – of which there are three. Go to the cafe, follow me, or be free. All of which you will become accustomed to using as you will be switching your animals around at all times when you discover new ones (if you’re anything like me). You’re allowed up to five animals following you at any given time and ten animals roaming in your cafe. Animals you come across that aren’t currently owned by anybody else can be claimed as your own and renamed.
As well as everything else, you’ll also be able to create various potions that have different effects, such as making a smaller animal – eg. cats – giant enough to ride around. Yes, you can mount any animal big enough to get on, and if it isn’t big enough, you can make it big enough! This makes traversing the area a lot easier and quicker.
One thing I did notice with my time playing Calico is that, while fun, it is incredibly buggy, which can alter the experience significantly. Sometimes it can be little things like getting stuck in the environment, or at one point my giant cat became invisible, leaving my character floating in midair. This was all fun and games until I got off and forgot where I parked the cat. Other times it can be more frustrating; at points, I have had to restart the game in order to progress. Hopefully, this is something the developers will fix fairly quickly – it is a team of two, after all. I do also hope they allow players to capture their own screenshots and videos as this is currently unsupported, which is a shame.
Calico does also have some awkward controls and I was glad that I had an on-screen prompt at all times. The game makes use of pretty much all Switch buttons, including the D-pad, and it got a little confusing at times. While pretty much every game uses the A button as a confirm button, in Calico, it’s B. I can’t tell you the number of times I backed out of a conversation because I’d pressed the A button. It takes a lot of getting used to.
Overall, however, don’t let these things deter you from what is otherwise quite a wonderful game. For anyone who enjoys the likes of Animal Crossing or The Sims, Calico is for you.
Calico prides itself on being a game that ‘makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside’, and of that, it succeeds. Unfortunately, it’s currently let down by a lot of strange bugs and awkward controls.