With an abundance of puzzle platformers available on the market at the moment, it’s often difficult for new titles to stand out – well, unless they have some unique gameplay hook. Fortunately Hue, the first game from developer Fiddlesticks, has just that, with the player able to manipulate the game world through the power of colour. Neat, right?
My first impression of Hue was that the game shared similarities with both ‘Braid’ and ‘Limbo’, not only in aesthetic style but also with its gameplay dynamics too. They just so happen to be two of my favourite puzzle platformers, so naturally expectations were high from the start. Thankfully Hue met those expectations, even if it does stutter on occasions.
Hue’s casts you as a young boy named Hue who’s tasked with solving a plethora of puzzles, all whilst carefully avoiding harrowing hazards and manipulating the colours of the world around him. Colour shifting is easily performed through a flick of the right stick, each direction allocated one of eight different colours. The concept is fairly simple; you pick a colour and then any object associated with that colour will simply disappear into the newly tinted background. You won’t have access to every colour to begin with, though each colour unlocks fairly quickly as you progress through the initial stages of the game.
Of course, when you make one colour disappear you’re allowing every other colour in the palette to appear. You can only hide one colour at any given time, so if you’ve got a mixtures of red, blue and orange rolling boulders coming your way you’ll be needing to switch fairly quickly. It’s the same with every object in the environment though, with coloured blocks, balloons, pressure-pads and platforms assigned a specific colour – even the doorways between levels are colour coded. Thankfully, whenever you don’t have a colour activated or are in the process of switching colours the world has its standard monotone look, allowing you catch a glimpse of every coloured object in the environment. That’s where the aforementioned ‘Limbo’ similarity comes into play – when you’re not splashing the environment with colour, everything is simply monotone.
This colour switching is the basis of Hue’s many puzzles, with the game requiring you to shift a multitude of boxes, jump between platforms, line up lasers (you can’t have a puzzle game without lasers, right?) and weigh down touch-pads to open locked doors. Each puzzle in the game is well designed and enjoyable to complete, plus they become more intricate as you progress further into the game, ensuring that the game becomes more and more challenging up until the final (and most taxing) puzzle of the game.
In honesty, I found the basis of Hue to feel quite familiar. The way in which the puzzles and platforming sections were made up is fairly standard, so anyone who has played a puzzle platformer before will be right at home. Thankfully the colour shifting is unique enough that it won’t feel like too much of the ‘same old’, ensuring Hue feels special in its own right – even if there are plenty of gameplay dynamics you might have seen before.
Whilst you typically have plenty of time to switch colours and really think puzzles through, sometimes the game demands twitch-like reactions – especially during some of the trickier platforming sections. There aren’t just perplexing puzzles that need solving but also dangerous dashes that demand that your reactions are just as sharp as your wit. Fortunately time slows down a little whilst you switch colours, so you won’t find yourself in too much of a mess whilst working out which colours to switch between in a quick-thinking moment.
Unfortunately, it was in these moments where I noticed a few of the game’s hiccups. Some hazards could be a little too sensitive – one time Hue met an early gut-puncturing demise when I simply stood too close to a spike, whilst another time simply standing on some fallen rubble also caused Hue’s life to come to an end. Switching between colours could feel a little cumbersome too, with it often difficult to accurately select the colour you need. Colours are so close to each other on the colour wheel that quickly flicking between them with the right stick could often result in you making mistakes, such as accidently choosing orange when what you needed was red. It could be a little frustrating, especially when it would cause your demise during some of the game’s trickier puzzles – still, it’s easily avoidable if you take more care when switching colours, though I wish it didn’t require so much care…
Of course, you’re not puzzling through the game for no reason – there is some context, even if it is fairly obscure to begin with. As you work through the game you’ll find a series of letters addressed to Hue, some telling the plight that the female author is going through and others providing an almost enchanting outlook on how colours fit into the world around us. It’s pretty thought provoking stuff, and as you slowly learn more about the relationship between Hue and the woman, you’ll begin to eagerly anticipate each letter and its contents. Hue has great voice actors on board to narrate these letters too, the actors perfectly conveying the emotions behind each letter.
Along with the terrific voice acting, the game also features a stunning melancholic piano soundtrack that manages to feel haunting throughout most of the game, but also upbeat during levels when you feel a greater sense of progression. It really is a fantastic soundtrack; I’m a sucker for quality piano compositions and could’ve easily listened to the beautiful title screen music alone for hours on end.
The world of Hue is fairly simple in design with everything made up of black, white and grey, the only real colour coming through the splashes of vibrant brightness that the player brings into the world. Everything you encounter is typically vector based and fairly simple in design, but that doesn’t mean it lacks charm – the opening seaside town alone was packed full of quirky, charming characters, whilst there’s even room for humour in the shape of the delightful skeletons that make jokes based upon their skeletal appearance.
There are a wide range of locations you’ll visit in the game including the likes of caves, Aztec ruins and perilous mountain tops, though admittedly they don’t differ a ton in appearance. You’ll barely notice any change at all between the initial couple of locations, though I think a lot of that is owed to the fact that level designs often share similar shapes. Whilst you won’t get fed up of the locales, a bit more variety would’ve been nice, though that doesn’t mean the locations aren’t nice to look at.
It took me around five hours to complete Hue, with not much to offer replay value aside from the collectable potions that you can find. Whilst naturally we’re big fan of potions, there wasn’t much incentive to look for them other than the bragging rights. They’re fairly well hidden at least – whilst some simply require that you back track to earlier locations when you’ve unlocked all colours, some are behind hidden passage ways and blocks. In honesty, I wished that the game lasted a little longer – sure, it lasted long enough to provide plenty of entertainment, but I just wanted more. Take that as a compliment to the game’s quality as opposed to a gripe at its length, though.
One nice touch was the inclusion of a ‘colour blind’ mode that adds a shape to go with each colour in the game. Given the game’s massive dependence on colour, typically anyone who finds it difficult to differentiate colours may have had a hard time playing through the game, so the inclusion of the mode is a sweet move by the developers.
I’d mentioned at the start of the review that there are plenty of puzzle platformers around these days, but as long as they manage to keep providing the same kind of enjoyable experiences that Hue did, I say keep them coming.
Whilst Hue certainly isn’t perfect, it’s certainly an enjoyable, perplexing, though-provoking puzzler that had me entertained from start to end. Puzzle platformer fans need to check it out.
Publisher: Curve Digital
Release Date: 30/08/2016
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Playstation Vita, PC, Mac, Linux