Gaming is often seen as a way to escape reality; offering the chance to become world class athletes in all sorts of sports, prevent evildoers from causing cataclysmic events as super soldiers, and even partake in a bit of dogfighting in space. It doesn’t always have to be an adrenaline-fueled experience, with a relaxing affair often fitting the bill for transporting your mind elsewhere. Potentially, one such game is the day-in-the-life style simulation Calico on Xbox, which aims to make you feel warm and fuzzy while running a cat café. Is it a purr-fect choice to throw yourself into, or has this café failed its inspection and be best closing up shop?
Clearly, the good intentions to create a stress-free world to chill out in are immediately there for all to see. That’s why, and with a heavy heart, the disappointing consensus is that Calico lacks in way too many areas and the resulting product is essentially a boring mess.
The magical world of Calico is your new residence, which is a place that’s home to a whole host of animals and humans possessing animalistic features. The idea is for you to refurbish a cat café with super cute creatures and stylish furniture, in order to attract the locals to stop by as well as entice any wildlife roaming these lands. As a newcomer to these parts, you’ll also have to venture out and explore everything it has to offer. Everything is so laid back though, there’s no rush to do anything, which allows you to really get settled in and figure out what’s needed to succeed here.
After a fairly decent character creation section, enabling you to alter various body parts in terms of their proportions and choose from a few wild hairstyles, it’s time to learn the ropes. Actually, there’s not much to learn in regards to kitting out your café; other than furniture placement that is. The way it works is unusual as you switch to furniture mode then take items out one by one. The unusual bit is having to go back in to the menu to put out another piece of the same item you’ve just had, which seems unnecessary. There’s a clunkiness to the process, but at least it doesn’t matter too much as to where you put things.
The main draw of such an establishment are the creatures within and while a solitary cat will be allocated to the café initially, it’s down to you to populate it further. This involves going into the wilderness and using the ability to command any animal you pick up to go to the café. There are cats, dogs, horses, foxes, polar bears, ravens, and many more types to happen upon. It’s good to encounter different animals, however, interactions with them can be hit and miss. If you wish to dangle a toy in front of them, the animation for their behaviour just looks awkward, while the option to pet an animal seems to do nothing as your avatar stands around idle. Nevertheless, the business will swiftly become filled with wildlife.
Bizarrely, the cat café appears to be irrelevant though, with it being very unclear how to make a living from this venture. Instead you’ll spend more of your time outside, meeting other folk, accepting their quests and earning money through performing these good deeds. Whether undertaking tasks for the Mayor of Heart Village, searching for missing bunnies for Ash, or reuniting the Owl Club, there are money and item rewards on offer. What’s nice is that by chatting and helping them out, you’ll get further insight into the locals’ lives; there are some lovely friendships and relationships to hear about while doing the quests.
Obviously though, it’s the cash that’s most important so you can use it at several vendors in the village. There’s a decent selection of furniture, clothing, recipes and toys on offer, but I wouldn’t say they’re overly exciting. The spooky chairs, egg-themed deco, floral pieces and such are really lacking visually, while the recipes are all very similar in regards to the ingredients used. Just a bit more of everything wouldn’t go amiss as well as some better looking items to spend your quest money on. Potions are a viable option, however their side effects include floating animals that get in your way and oversized animals. These are gimmicks that grow old real fast.
Anyway, progressing through certain quest lines opens up more areas as well, including the Snowbell Mountains, Cutie City and Clover Coast. Unfortunately this leads to even more ground to cover as you complete fetch quest after fetch quest. It feels like a chore going back and forth, with many of the environments bereft of anything other than trees, buildings or more trees. Quite often the trees will obscure the camera view and that’s less than ideal. The lack of texture within the world ensures it’s not very kind on the eyes either, which is a shame when there’s a calming palette of colours begging to be admired.
Calico isn’t a long game by any means – providing a few hours of things to do, at most – but the more you play, the cracks begin to appear. Many of the creatures roaming the land, or hanging out in the café, are often floating about in mid-air unintentionally (no potion required) and just generally end up in odd places. The larger animals, which can be ridden, become submerged in the ground and get stuck far too frequently. Furthermore, your avatar is unable to move occasionally, as if it’s temporarily trapped inside an invisible cage.
That’s without factoring in the cooking mini-game, which sees you shrunk down in order to traverse the kitchen worktops. The idea is to pick up ingredients and throw them into a bowl, but the mechanic is so poorly implemented and excessive throwing power is set in stone. Those two things combined means you’re highly likely to overshoot and be left in mini-game limbo as you can’t reach the bag of flour that’s now on the floor.
On the whole, Calico on Xbox is a cat café sim where you’ll actually spend more time away from the shop than inside it – rendering the place almost useless. Fortunately, the townsfolk are nice enough to have a chinwag with and have plenty of distracting quests to provide something to do. Sadly, there’s too much back-tracking through a world that isn’t overly pleasant to look at and it’s got a fair amount of bugs.
While the concept is good on paper, I wouldn’t consider setting up shop in Calico unless you’re a fan of monotony and bugs.