TL; DR(eview) - Hue is a platformer set apart by a mechanic that requires players to change colors on the fly to pass through obstacles and solve its puzzles. The control scheme occasionally causes more headaches than the puzzles themselves but for those looking for a smaller experience, this is well-worth the time.
At first glance, it appeared as though the teams behind Hue and Runbow (Fiddlesticks and 13AM games, respectively) had landed on the same idea like the teams behind No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits or Deep Impact and Armageddon had before them. Both titles capitalize on vibrant color-based mechanics where the color of the world affects the obstacles in the players’ platforming space. However, where last year’s Runbow is built more as a competitive racing platformer with random color-changing affecting the players, Hue focuses on the single-player experience and instead puts the player in charge of this mechanic, using it to tell a story that feels a bit like a cross between The Giver and Limbo.
Playing as Hue, you begin in a world of black, white, and gray and discover a letter from your mother who, due to an experiment researching color, has disappeared, leaving nothing behind but a trail of letters. Picking up these letters leads to narration providing her backstory for the small simple world the game inhabits. Additionally, Hue comes across new colors in his journey to find his mother, which he can then switch to in order to work through the game’s puzzles. For example, if there’s a light blue boulder in your path, switching the color wheel to light blue causes the boulder to blend-in with the background and allows you to pass through freely.
As Hue discovers more and more colors*, so too do the puzzles become more and more complex. New elements are added like boxes that need to be pushed and pulled through other colored boxes, platforms that will crumble beneath you once stood on, lasers and spikes that will lead to instant death, etc. The puzzles themselves often felt incredibly well thought out with introductory puzzles teaching you the new mechanics before they ramp up in difficulty.
*Fiddlesticks is to be commended for wisely recognizing the number of color-blind players out there and including a Color-Blind mode of the game that associates different symbols with each color, allowing color-blind players the opportunity to experience the platforming as well. It may come across a little tone-deaf though as many of the mother’s narrated letters talk about the awe she felt upon discovering colors in a world full of gray.
Really, my biggest gripe with the game came any time I had to switch colors mid-jump. The color wheel doesn’t freeze time when it pops up, just slows it dramatically. But because the jump button on the PlayStation 4 was X and the color wheel was the right analog stick, I often found myself failing not because I didn’t know what to do, but because my thumb didn’t move quick enough from the jump button to the color wheel, and I would pick the new color after enough time had already passed and Hue was already below the newly-revealed platform I had aimed him at. Fortunately, there was enough other variety to the puzzles that I was able to enjoy the rest of the game in spite of the overwhelming desire I had to break my controller in half in these few instances.
The only other complaint worth mentioning was the game felt, at times, padded unnecessarily. Nearly every new color found in the game comes after completing a series of puzzles, serving as the climax of that section of the game. The denouement, then, typically involved discovering a new letter from Hue’s mother, furthering the game’s narrative. But, presumably in an effort to keep the player active while the narration occurred, the room that follows is almost always just a winding route of running, jumping, climbing ladders, etc. Not as part of a puzzle or anything. Just a long winding path to ensure that there’s no way the player will make it through the room before the narration finishes. I found myself wishing there had been more of a “game” to these sections instead of just traversing the long, straight-forward path. Especially when I would have to traverse it again, in silence, if I returned through a section to grab some of the game’s collectibles.
All told, these are minor squabbles in the broader scope of the game. More often than not, the puzzles were wonderfully designed. Despite my occasional frustrations over the controls, I never felt the game was unfair in how they were executed as the rules all remained consistent and immediately understandable. And the excitement in solving a particularly confusing puzzle is always accompanied by a great sense of accomplishment.
Hue is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam, with a promised PlayStation Vita version coming soon. For more information, visit the game’s website.