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Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Curve Digital
Developer: Fiddlesticks
Release Date: Aug. 23, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PS4 Review - 'Hue'

by Brian Dumlao on Sept. 27, 2016 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

Hue is a vibrant puzzle-platformer, where you alter the world by changing its background color.

The PS4 has a number of puzzle platformers. Grow Up, Inside, Oxenfree and Teslagrad are just a few examples, and here are lots more if you're willing to dig through the PlayStation Store. As such, Hue enters an already crowded market with the disadvantage of no fanfare. Those who are willing to give it a shot, though, will find that it's a pretty impressive title.

You play a character named Hue who lives in a rather monochromatic world. In a dream, you find a letter informing you that your mother has been trapped due to her research in light and colors. It seems as if her research has caught the eye of a university professor in a bad way, and the encounter caused her invention to break. Thus, she's now been painted in a color that renders her invisible to everyone around her. With only your wits to help you out, you search for parts to fix her invention and hopefully return her to visibility.

Your first impression of Hue will likely be that it's trying to emulate Limbo, only less dreary. The world is completely done up in grayscale with loads of deep blacks and a few spots of white. There's not much in the way of disturbing imagery, though, and lots of what you'll see looks like it came from an old cartoon. For example, some of the skeletons that are used for decoration fail to look menacing, and your deaths see you getting knocked out instead of anything more gruesome. The only eerie thing you'll see at all times is a fog that lingers in the background of every stage.

The basic gameplay is presented in a 2-D plane and is similar to many puzzle platformers. Most of your time is spent pushing and pulling blocks and hitting switches to open your pathway to the next door. In most cases, the door is completely open, but as the game progresses, there are a few rooms where you'll need to find the key before unlocking the exit door. You're a pretty durable kid in that you'll survive long falls, but you're still susceptible to spikes, drowning in water, and any other possible hazard. Luckily, respawning from death is quick, and the game features no loading as you transition from one room to another.

The hook comes from your ability to change the visible colors in the world. It works a bit like the Wii U game Runbow, where every colored object is visible at one time, but choosing one dominant color for the world renders all other objects of that color invisible. For example, painting the world in a shade of blue causes the blue brick wall that's blocking your path to disappear, letting you pass by as if it never existed at all. Change to a new color, and that wall comes back, making the objects of the newly chosen color go away instead. One thing some players may wonder is whether those with color blindness will be able to effectively play the game. Luckily, the game already came prepared for that, as there is an option to add symbols to the colors.

The color-changing element adds much to the game, as every new color you discover adds more variations to the puzzles you have to solve. The puzzles also start to ramp up in complexity as more colors are added, but that increase comes in at a good pace rather than at a sharp curve. You'll get one or two puzzles that can test your color-changing reflexes, and one in particular tests your ability to guess the correct exit path. For the most part, each of the puzzles is either simple to comprehend or rewards you for not acting too hastily.

Once you get almost all of the colors, things start to become more difficult, as you'll avoid moving lasers or falling, oversized spiked skulls. Paint spigots also appear much later so you can paint over objects with different colors and add even more variations to the problem. The increase in puzzle complexity also makes failure feel harsher, as you'll respawn at the room entrance and must solve the previous parts of the puzzle again. However, you'll make it through much of the game before encountering something truly brain-teasing that takes a while to overcome without help.

The actual time spent on Hue is pretty short, and unless you're stuck on one puzzle, you'll likely only spend a few hours on the title before reaching the conclusion. Like many offerings in this genre, the game is meant as a one-off journey, since repeated playthroughs only serve to get you to complete the game at a faster pace. The only other reason to replay the game is to find the hidden beakers in the world, though that's mostly a goal for Trophy hunters.

Aside from the aforementioned graphics, the sound plays a big part in making this game intriguing. This specifically true of the music, which is mostly comprised of piano pieces, though other calming melodies are included. It works well in that it creates an atmosphere of exploration no matter the situation, and it doesn't ramp up as the puzzles become more difficult or provides a feeling of failure once you expire. Elsewhere, voices are restricted to the letters you receive from your mother after you get a new color or enter a new environment, and the letters serve the same effect as the rest of the presentation. The letter readings are calm but fascinating as she describes the circumstances that led to her disappearance without sadness or malice, maintaining the idea that the next obstacle is exciting.

Hue may be a short experience, but it is a very fun one. The color-changing mechanic is handled quite nicely and adds a little something to the basic block-and-switch puzzle the game uses most of the time. The puzzles don't get complicated until you're much closer to the end of the game, but they never feel frustrating enough that you'll be forced to quit. The story is fine, but it is the presentation that players will find quite charming. For puzzle platforming fans who want something that's fun but not too involved, Hue is worth checking out.

Score: 8.0/10

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