The game that made me fall in love with games again
Available on: PC, PS4, PsVita, Xbox One
Released: August 30th 2016
Genre(s): Adventure, Puzzle, Platformer
I’m a big proponent of the ‘Games can be art’ argument. If you don’t believe me, watch the trailer for this beauty here.
Having recently picked up an Xbox One to satisfy my console cravings, I naturally worked my way through the AAA game that was strapped to the side of it. Let’s not dwell on that game, however, and instead focus on this vibrant puzzler that was my first installed piece from the Xbox Game Pass’ admittedly varied list.
Hue is a side-scrolling platformer that you’d find hanging round by a music store with Limbo, Braid and Thomas Was Alone. If all those games were on psychedelic drugs. The core mechanic revolves around the manipulation of coloured backgrounds in an otherwise bleak, greyscale world in order to solve puzzles, progress through the story, unlock even more colours, and ultimately rescue the titular Hue’s family.
The game’s main character doesn’t say a lot, but the story unfolds through a series of letters that are left behind from his mother. In a world that perceives only grey, she was studying and pushing the boundaries and discovering ways to bring beauty and colour to their world. Not wanting to spoil anything for those who’ve yet to play, it all went wrong and now it’s up to Hue and his mother’s magic ring to save the day.
The sublime voice acting and subtle soundtrack blend together beautifully as our protagonist plods along in the world, bringing brightness to the blandness and discovering more and more colours in his quest. There’s also something I just like about Hue. It could be his incredibly stylish neck tie and sweater combo, or the quiff that bounces around with every step, but he’s just a nice and innocent central character. The game also gives me the sense that Hue and I are discovering these new wonders at the same time, which just adds to the magic for me.
Like a scene from The Matrix, except I was actually having fun
I’d say anyone in the world could play this game, as long as they’ve got two hands and at least one eye. The controls are very simple and intuitive, but gamers know that simple mechanics does not always equal easy gameplay. Using just a thumbstick, the level’s background changes through up to eight colours – and the physical objects in the world change with it. It starts out as straight-forward as swapping hues to walk through some brick walls. One later level involves different coloured rocks falling from the sky, and you need to be quick on the colours to make it through alive. There’s some slower levels as well that can take a few minute’s thought, but the faster ones need rapid action or you’ll risk Hue’s quiff getting flattened. (Disaster)
The game’s easy charm and sense of fun lures you in so easily, and a few hours can fly past quickly as you’re racing to unlock the next colour. When I first unlocked the light blue and the world ceased to be grey, I thought to myself ‘Ooh, this is nice‘. Then I found the purple segment of Hue’s magic colour-changing ring, and I quickly realised just how complex these puzzles could get. Every new colour brings with it a whole new perspective, and a whole new element for the level designers to throw in.
I’m not even sure what’s going on here, but it’s giving me a headache
As this review drags on, I’d like to knock this game off its high horse and find some points to criticise. And yet I sit here, mind searching, and genuinely can’t find any gripe. Even when this game is frustrating, and Hue drops his cute little sweater-vested body onto some spikes because I’ve accidentally switched to the wrong colour… it’s an innocent, nice kind of frustration. I roll my eyes, slap my leg, and whisper ‘It should have been orange’ as my significant other gives me a strange look. The other downside is that as an indie puzzle game, there is little replayability for Hue. Once or maybe twice is enough, for those hardcore gamers who insist on earning every single collectable, but once you’ve passed all the levels once, there’s little point in doing them all again.
The absolute worst thing I can say is that some of the puzzles tend to get repetitive, like dragging coloured boxes in and around each other, but I feel this is intentional. The level designers at Fiddlesticks are nothing short of brilliant, and they know my small brain needs training to properly understand and get accustomed to some of its elements. For the most part, though, the puzzles are unique and challenging, needing a few minutes thought or some quick reactions. The satisfaction I feel when I finally figure out how to get that stupid orange box over to the pink stairs and finally get the key to unlock the next level is unbelievable, reminiscent of Portal and those infuriating Monkey Islands.
For the most part, though, this disgustingly charming puzzle game has reminded me that games are intended to be fun above all else. For too long, I’ve slaved away on realistic simulations or strategy games that drag on for hours and hours. What I really needed was something smart, sharp and quirky to drag me back to my childhood and plant a smile on my face. Hue has truly earned a place in my heart, but you don’t really need me to bang on and on about how good it is. The game’s many awards speak for themselves.
For more information and to purchase the game, visit Hue’s own lovely website.