"That‚Äôs colour with a ‚ÄėU‚Äô, by the way."
It‚Äôs a polite pointer from Finn Morgan, the lone, Australian-based programmer of physics platform puzzler Colour Bind, as he demos the game at PAX Prime 2012. It‚Äôs good to know that Morgan‚Äôs not prepared to compromise on our chosen UK English when entering the global video-game market. I guess it also helps to legally distinguish it from another, existing game that goes by the name ‚ÄúColor Bind.‚ÄĚ But I digress‚Ä¶
Colour Bind (with a ‚ÄėU‚Äô) is an upcoming game releasing via Steam for PC and Mac, with a Linux version on the way shortly afterwards. And it employs one of those concepts so simple and clever that you begin to wonder why no one ever thought of it earlier.
The player must navigate a basic, two-wheeled vehicle through 2D landscapes in order to reach a goal. However, obstacles in their path must be moved in order for the player to get there. It sounds easy enough, but in the world of Colour Bind, the laws of gravity that apply to an object are dictated by that object‚Äôs colour. And when flicking a switch that alters gravity can create just as many problems as it solves ‚Äď if not more ‚Äď then you know you‚Äôve got one twisted puzzler on your hands.
For example, the gravity affecting blue objects may send them falling to the left of the screen, while green objects may fall upwards. There are switches situated around some levels that can change the direction in which certain colours fall, and this is indicated to the player with coloured icons at the bottom of the screen. Players can brake on a dime at the press of a button, which can cause the back of the vehicle to flip over the front wheel ‚Äď something I‚Äôm told is a useful manoeuvre in some situations.
They can also inflate the wheels of their vehicle at the press of another (which, among other things, causes the vehicle to jump.) The player‚Äôs vehicle can push objects around the environment; edged objects slide, circular objects roll, and so on. It all sounds simple enough, and in the early levels (from a total of 50), this is certainly the case as the core mechanics are explained.
But like the best puzzlers, things begin to get super-complicated as you progress. The player‚Äôs vehicle is not exempt from these laws of coloured physics, for example, and switching the direction in which a colour falls just might send your vehicle hurtling to the roof.
Similarly, the player will eventually encounter laser beams ‚Äď some of which are virtually unavoidable ‚Äď that will change the colour of objects, including the player‚Äôs vehicle. Correct use of these lasers is crucial to the successful completion of some levels, where their incorrect or unintended use can put the best-laid plans to rest.
Even trickier still ‚Äď some puzzles require the player to blend objects with a combination of two primary colours. It can all get mind-bendingly complicated.
Manage to get through the game‚Äôs 50 single-player levels (which I‚Äôm told will be quite some feat), and you‚Äôll find that there‚Äôs also a particularly devious, 20-level cooperative campaign to master. As a point of difference to the solo campaign, it demands well-coordinated teamwork to progress, and it‚Äôs further complicated by the fact that players‚Äô vehicles may be different colours in some puzzles.
Unfortunately, Colour Bind supports only local, split-screen co-op. But as Morgan contends, for a game that requires impeccable timing and, often, visual coordination (‚ÄúYou need to move that green block to this point while I hit this switch!‚ÄĚ), it‚Äôs the ‚Äúbest way to play it anyway.‚ÄĚ
While there‚Äôs no online multiplayer, as such, Colour Bind does support online leaderboards (the Linux version excepted). And with Morgan‚Äôs mention that Xbox Live Arcade/PSN versions aren‚Äôt altogether out of the question, he adds that an online multiplayer feature could potentially be implemented by then.
If you do manage to make it through all singleplayer and cooperative levels, besting your friends‚Äô times along the way (and still haven‚Äôt managed to seek professional help), there‚Äôs another treat in store. With the purchase of Colour Bind, Morgan‚Äôs included the very same level editor he used to build the game, so expect some wild community creations to surface.
Finally, don‚Äôt go thinking that the game‚Äôs title is an insensitive dig at colourblind individuals, or even that they won‚Äôt be able to enjoy the game. Morgan‚Äôs included a host of accessibility options, including one where object colours are replaced with patterns, and laser beams become dotted lines (with varying lengths to allow players to distinguish between their effects).
Fans of devilish puzzle games, platformers, and even simply downright-clever gameplay mechanics should keep an ear to the ground for this one.
The Good: It's innovative, forward-thinking, and intelligent
The Bad: Made in Australia? They're bound to brag about it
The Ugly: It's aesthetically challenging