Calico is an interesting indie take on an open-world café simulator. You are tasked with taking over and running the cat café left behind by a distant relative. Much like a Harvest Moon game, you must perform quests and help the townsfolk to unlock items, recipes and earn money to aid in the growth of your very own café. I am not a cat lover, nor am I into sim games of any sort, so the first look I had at Calico was really unappealing to me. Its cute and colourful design gave me the impression that it was a typical “girly” game filled with friendship, rainbows and magic. Boy was I wrong! The longer I played, the more I found myself drawn to the vibrant and colourful open world that Calico had to offer. Although its design and colour scheme does cater more towards lovers of all things cutesy, Calico’s gameplay certainly does not fail to impress.
Nowadays, many RPGs boast robust character creation and customization, so looking at Calico’s simplistic character creation screen was really pleasing to the eyes. Players can modify and tweak various aspects of their character, and the game makes it really easy to do so. Within a few minutes, you can jump straight into the game without having to spend a long period of time, carefully editing your character’s facial features. The game does assume your role to be female, though, as I could not find any way to create a male character.
As you start your journey to becoming the greatest cat café owner there ever was, you meet new friends across the map and perform odd jobs for them in exchange for unlocking various items which include furniture you can use to grow your café, money, clothing and potions with various magical effects. One of my favourite potions enables the player to enlarge pets and mount them for increased movement speed whilst performing errands across the map. There is also the main questline, where you have to perform certain tasks to unlock sections of the map that are blocked off. As you unlock these sections, more animals become available to you and your café. The quests are fairly simple and relatively short, making it great for people with short attention spans like me. The only thing I did not really like about the quest system was that the game does not tell you where to start quests. Instead, it expects you to talk to each NPC to find out if they have a task lined up for you. It got to a point where I didn’t know which NPC I had to talk to in order for me to continue with the main questline.
Even though you technically own a “Cat” café, there are many other species of animals that wander around the map, all of which can be added to your collection. These include dogs, foxes, horses, birds, polar bears and many more. You can literally add any animal you find into your café, technically turning it from a cat café into a zoo of sorts. Not particularly fond of cats myself, finding other species of cute and cuddly animals to take home was really refreshing. I found myself scurrying around whenever I unlocked a new section of the map to try and find the more exotic looking furries. The café itself was a little disappointing, though, as the customization of the café was overly simplistic. There was not much that could be done other than a basic rearrangement of furniture and a short cooking minigame. Even though the game markets itself as a cat café simulator, there really is not much to do in the café as you spend most of your gameplay wandering around the map.
Fortunately for myself, I managed to test the game on the PC version which had small collision bugs here and there, but nothing that required a hard reset to bypass. Other than slightly erratic character and animal movement, there were not much gameplay hiccups that stood out to me.
I was not really expecting much from Calico, but I definitely had an enjoyable playthrough. The game itself is relatively short though, as there is not much to do after completing the main questline other than spicing up your café. However, it is the type of game you could check back into now and then to satisfy your need of being surrounded by cute and cuddly virtual animals. For me, I might boot up Calico once in a while to make sure my cat, Mr Pudgems, doesn’t feel too lonely.