I’ve been writing about the Dead Rising remasters lately, and this brings to mind an interesting aspect of the games industry: namely its iterative aspect. The original Dead Rising was a groundbreaking game that was unlike anything else at the time it came out. It was an instant recommendation…then Dead Rising 2 came out and did everything better, rendering the original something to play if you wanted to visit the series’ roots rather than a must-play by its own merits.
Likewise, indie games have been beholden to the iterative aspects of game development as well. Braid was unique among platformers for its time…and that game’s success and critical acclaim proceeded to define how a significant portion of indie developers would look at games. We ended up with tons of gimmick-focused puzzle platformers as a result, many of which built on the foundations Braid laid down and many of which just aimed to scratch the same itch without innovating all that much.
With Hue, from the awesomely named Fiddlesticks Games, we see a game that would have made much more of a splash if it wasn’t weighted down by the many similar games that came before it.
Hue is about the adventures of the titular hero who lives in a monochrome world. Hue’s mother was working to bring color to their existence…but something went wrong and now she’s gone with her magnum opus, the ring-shaped Annular Spectrum, split into several fragments. Hue needs to explore the world, find the fragments of the ring-shaped Spectrum and use their power to progress if he wants to find and save her.
It doesn’t take long to find the first fragment, which is where Hue’s gameplay starts to come into focus. By using the pieces of the Annular Spectrum, Hue is able to flood the world with a chosen color. Anything that matches the color of the background effectively ceases to exist, allowing you to move past obstacles of the same color.
Objects of other colors continue to be solid, so much of Hue revolves around precisely timing your color-switches to create platforms, pass through obstacles and shield yourself from danger. Changing the color of an object by, say, painting it will also affect how it reacts to the Spectrum’s color-switching; an orange box that suddenly becomes pink will now vanish if you switch to pink. The colors of the Spectrum are mapped to the right analog stick, which is important for later puzzles that require quick reactions.
It’s a cute idea, one that works well, and back in 2009 or so it would have been a guaranteed hit. In 2016, though, this makes Hue feel a little dry. We’ve played dozens of indie gimmick-focused puzzle platformers over the past eight years, and Hue doesn’t do a whole lot to stand out from the crowd. It’s even got an overarching narration theme similar to Supergiant’s indie darlings Bastion and Transistor. A puzzle platformer with airy, pseudo-philosophical narration just isn’t all that original these days, and Hue seems derivative as a result.
Still, if you haven’t been burned out by the many indie puzzle platformers that the landscape has been saturated with over the past few years, then you’ll probably enjoy Hue. It’s an entirely inoffensive little game with an easy-to-understand gimmick that plays to expectations rather than toying with them. While that’s not going to change the face of gaming, it’s enough to make for a decent few hours of jumping and color-switching.