Hue is a game that could have very easily slipped past my radar, but as it happens I follow the Major Nelson blog, was intrigued by the box art and was in the mood for an old school platformer. I was looking for something a little different and in that regard this game was perfect. The game is made by Henry Hoffman and Dan Da Rocha from the indie developer Fiddlesticks.
When you first load the game up the world is a bland monochrome and the mechanics are fairly familiar, 'left' goes left, 'right' goes right, 'up' climbs ladders and 'a' jumps . But once you unlock your first colour for your ring, things get a little more interesting. Using the right thumbstick you can change the colour of the background to any colour you have unlocked, initially you can only make it blue, but at the end of each level you unlock another colour. Any objects in the level that are the same colour as the background essentially disappear, this is useful when a block is blocking your way, but not as useful when the block is protecting you from spikes or holding back a bolder. As you unlock colours, the puzzles become more complicated.
The game revolves around the titular character Hue and his search for his missing mother. Hue lives in a world devoid of colour, where everything is shades of grey and no one has ever heard of the spectrum of colours we know. When his mother's experiments at the university create a ring that can allow the perception and alteration of colour, the villainous Dr Grey tries to steal it. Something goes wrong, Hue's mother is turned a strange shade and is made invisible and the ring is fractures and scattered. Hue's goal is to navigate the world and reassemble the ring while finding letter's his mother has left him along the way. The story plays out through narration of the mother's letters. Through these the game tries to philosophise about the properties of colour and perception and at times is rather insightful, but can be a bit on the nose at times. In saying that, there was more than enough narrative to keep me intrigued for the 4.5 hr story.
The puzzles start off simple, clearing the way by matching colours to obstacles, but ramp up in difficulty as more colours are unlocked and new mechanics are revealed. There are the skulls which drop when something passes beneath them, the laser beams that power gates but also kill, the cloud blocks which change every time they are jumped on and the gel that changed blocks to that colour etc. This combined with tight timing required for some jumps and colour changes make the game very challenging in the later levels and you will die numerous times.
The thing I found challenging with the game, was the similarity in shade between the yellow and orange shades, and the pink and purple shades, though this did make me question if I had the same colour contrast as other people or was I a little colourblind. The game offers a colourblind mode where all objects and the background are given a symbol in the middle indicating which colour they are. The symbols are different enough to easily tell what colour things are and it is great to see a game about colour providing effective accessibility options. After some tests I can report that I am not colourblind, but I still found the game easier with colourblind mode turned on.
The music in the game is beautifully minimalistic, with the composer Alkis Livathinos using the piano to evoke strong emotions. It has a certain melancholy to it, that matches the sense of loss and abandonment found in the story. The music ties in nicely with the narration by Anna Acton and Matthew Wade, resulting in a game that sounds as good as it looks.
Completing the game and watching the credits nets you 800 Gamerscore. Beyond the core story, the game tasks you with collecting mysterious flasks for the remaining 200G. Some are hidden just off the beaten track and others are behind coloured blocks you have not unlocked yet. This offer some replayability as you venture back through levels with your newly unlocked shades. All up my Xbox tells me I have spent 7 hours 45 minutes playing the game, but who knows how much of that time was idle or background. For the $20 price tag, I am happy with the amount of entertainment I got out of it. I give it 8 colours out of 10.