by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
Color The World
In a monotone world, a university researcher has discovered color. The discovery does not go down well with the faculty and her research is destroyed. The colors she has discovered are spread throughout the gameworld and she herself is banished to the realm of impossible colors by the nefarious Dr. Grey. (The impossible colors, by the way, are those that exist outside of the visible spectrum.) You play the role of a little boy named Hue who wakes up one morning and sets out on a quest to find the eight colors of the world’s color wheel and save the researcher from the invisible realm.
Pallets As A Mechanic
Whenever a good indie platformer is released, it is difficult not to compare it to Limbo. Hue, despite featuring the same black silhouette art style, is quite a bit more complex in its mechanics. Once you find the first color, Aqua, you can turn the background from light grey to light blue. Any object that exists in the world and has the same color as the background, doesn’t really exist at all. That means, for instance, that if the door to get to the next level is grey, you’ll need to change the background to some color in order to be able to see and access it. When you discover the next color, the puzzles get more complex as you’ll have to move boxes around, change the background to the same color as the box in order to be able to move through it, and then change the color back to interact with it again.
This kind of world toggling is well known in platformers and is often used in games featuring a light and dark version of the world, but Hue is the first game of which I am aware that takes this element to eight different worlds. In some cases, however, I wish there were only four or six. As you collect more colors, the ones you find are distinct and far away from one another on the color wheel. This makes them easy to see and makes flipping between them fast and intuitive. As the wheel fills up, however, you get colors that are too similar to one another and run into the occasional problem while trying to rapidly select the colors of the wrong one getting activated. While Aqua and Blue are easy to distinguish in the scene, the same cannot be said for Fuchsia and Violet. When they appear together on the screen, you can easily see which is which, but when they appear alone, you will often select the wrong one, sending you to your untimely death. Only one shade of green (Lime) is available in the game and I for one feel that a darker companion to it, Shamrock or Emerald for instance, would have served better as contrastive companions. I also had a problem with Red and Orange, interestingly, as when I rapidly selected Red, the world would turn Orange, thus allowing the laser I was trying to deactivate to cleave little Hue’s head in twain.
The controls are simple and responsive. The left analogue stick moves Hue around the level, ‘A’ makes him jump, ‘X’ interacts with objects, and the right analogue stick both opens the color wheel and selects the color on it. When you pull the right stick in any direction, time slows down and the world turns gray. At this time, you’re able to see every element in the level. Releasing the stick, sending it back to it’s default position selects whichever color was highlighted when you released it, rendering any object in the scene of that color inert. Although time slows down, the action can get quite frantic due to the complexity of the puzzles later in the game.
A Colorful Plot
The story and aesthetics are both quite charismatic, although a few plot holes bothered me along the way. If you have an aversion to spoilers, skip this paragraph and head straight to the conclusion knowing that the story in no way detracts from the enjoyment of the mechanics and the puzzles involved. The story is told in the form of a letter, bits and pieces of which you discover as you progress in the game. You find out that the pleasantly voiced researcher is, in fact, your mother and as a student she had an academic and a somewhat romantic relationship with Dr. Gray. However, he chose to side with the faculty when they decided to stop her research into color, claiming that any experiment that had the potential to alter reality was too dangerous even to consider. The problem I have with the narrative is its design. I’m the kind of player who stops and pays full attention to the story being told. I simply feel that it deserves that commitment on my part.
The level design, however, assumes that you keep running, sending you through an arbitrary level devoid of challenge at roughly the same length as the audio file playing, in order to make sure you sit through the whole thing. I for one love an interesting story and would never skip it to get back into the game, but gameplay standards have changed since I was a boy and now, almost every cutscene in almost every game is skippable. Having the narrative play in a short level where those not interested could skip through to the next level and those so inclined could pay full attention would, in my honest opinion, be a much better design choice than having those not interested and those interested enough to stop and listen run through a challenge-free maze afterwards to get to the next puzzle. Additionally, when you first discover Aqua and color the sky blue for what is presumably the first time, the corresponding story clip states that “since the beginning of time, people have looked up at the sky and declared it blue.” Later in the game, the same researcher points out how interesting it is that nowhere in history is the color blue was mentioned. A bit of a disconnect there, if you ask me. Likewise, when you talk to a fisherman after introducing the blue sky into his world, he says: “looks like the skies have cleared up,” and not “What happened to the sky!?!”
A Gaming Rainbow
Hue is one of those games that are a shame to put down in order to write about them. It’s a very enjoyable and at times challenging experience that never feels unfair. At times, you’ll be faced with a puzzle that looks impossible, but as soon as you figure out its design, you’ll think yourself silly for not having seen it immediately. Although there’s nothing there to grasp for the achievement whore, the rumble function on the controller is missing, and the game requires you to play with a controller (well, it doesn’t, but it’s virtually unplayable with a mouse and keyboard) Hue easily gets my recommendation as a must have in any indie platform collection.
Charismatic aesthetics, responsive controls, smooth difficulty curve, and interesting puzzles
Occasional difficulty distinguishing the colours and problems with selection