On June 10th 2021, around the start of E3, a game called Chicory was released on PC, PS4, and PS5. The game sees players take on the role of a dog who stumbles upon a magic paintbrush and, following the draining of colour from the world, takes up the mantle of trying to bring colour back to their community.
The game is a very charming adventure I very much recommend playing through. It uses its core mechanic of painting the world into colour in both mechanically and narratively interesting ways, and it’s a game I found really pleasant to play through. Additionally, the game features some of the best implementations of accessibility settings I have seen in an indie game to date.
So today, on Access-Ability, we’re going to talk about Chicory. We’re going to talk about the design choices made to ensure its playability, the accessibility settings on offer, and the content warning implementation around some of the game’s more difficult themes.
Let’s start off today’s episode of Access-Ability by talking about one of Chicory’s design choices that isn’t strictly an accessibility setting. Players can play through Chicory from start to finish without hearing any audio, either due to being deaf or needing to play with the sound turned off, and will not find any progression blocked by lack of audio.
This sort of design thoughtfulness is becoming more common in games over time, making sure accessibility settings are not needed by designing your game intelligently up front where possible.
Next, on to the actual accessibility settings in game. When first playing through Chicory, there was one accessibility setting in particular that stood out to me and prompted my wanting to make this video, a misophonia accessibility setting.
Misophonia is a condition where a person has uncharacteristically strong negative emotional responses to certain types of noise. The noises that trigger responses in those with misophonia differ from person to person, but one category of sound that’s a common trigger is “wet” sounds, such as slurping or splodging.
As Chicory is a game about painting, there are in game sound effects that fall into this category involved in painting in game. Chicory has a toggle in its settings menu to turn off all “wet sounds”, something I have never seen a game do before, and which would undoubtedly be positive to see in other titles. This is a feature I would love to see become more common.
Getting into the rest of the settings menu, Chicory has options for an in-game eye strain filter which can be placed over the default stark white background, adding a subtle or strong orange wash to make looking at the screen for long periods of time more comfortable.
Players can turn off flashing effects, screen shake, and text moving effects, which can make the game more playable for photosensitive, motion sick, and dyslexic players respectively.
While Chicory’s default in-game font is cute, and fits the theming of the game’s world, players can also switch text to a more legible alternative font.
Button holds in Chicory can all be turned into toggles, and painting on consoles can be done using the right stick if you have difficulty using the PS4 or PS5 touch pad controls.
Chicory also supports full controller remapping, with presets available to support players dominant hand, level of comfort with adaptive trigger effects, and which stick is used for which in game functions.
Player health can be altered in the settings menu if you want to be a bit more resilient, and you can change the game speed in Chicory in increments of 25%, to make navigating problems more manageable, very reminiscent of games like Celeste.
Chicory does contain occasional boss fights punctuating its otherwise peaceful gameplay loop, but these can all be skipped by the player if they are proving to be a barrier to progression.
For any players lost and unsure where to go, Chicory has a really nicely designed hint system for players. By stopping at a phone booth players can chat with their character’s mum, who will offer them gentle hints on how to progress. If the player is still stuck they can ask for the phone to be handed over to dad, who will be much more direct about how to progress, with detailed steps on where to go and what to do. There’s never any penalty for accepting hints, and they’re woven really nicely into the world of the game.
Lastly, let’s talk about content warnings. Without going too deep into spoilers, Chicory is a game that tackles themes of living with depression, and in places it can get a little emotionally heavy. However, the game contains a content warning system I would most closely compare to last year’s release of Ikenfell. Players can opt in to be warned before emotionally difficult scenes start, with the option to either skip those scenes entirely, or mentally prepare themselves before starting the given scene.
Chicory’s overall level of accessibility support is really robust, and easily stands up to comparison to much bigger budget releases attempting to offer accessibility options. However, the thing that made the game stand out to me initially was the inclusion of support for players with Misophonia. To me, the option to turn off wet noises tells me a degree of thought went into how to move accessibility forward, not just copy what came before, which is always nice to see.
Chicory is a beautiful game that I really recommend people check out, but it’s also a really accessible game. I am delighted to see indie devs pushing forward the envelope on accessibility, and can’t wait to see what new innovations in the space come next.