Review: Hue (PC)

Developer: Fiddlesticks Games

Publisher: Curve Digital

Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita

Genre: Platformer, Puzzle

Rating: E for Everyone

Price: $14.99

Hue is an award-winning indie game from Fiddlesticks Games and Curve Digital. Indie platformers are a dime a dozen, so what makes this one stand out so well? What I originally thought would be a cheap knockoff of Paper Mario meets Fez ended up being one of my favorite games this year, all because of the core mechanic. Whenever the titular hero Hue unlocks a new color in the game, the player can then select that color to make everything that specific color disappear. Is there a red brick wall in the way? Select red, then walk right through. Is a purple laser obstructing your exit? Pick purple, and the path is now clear. What sounds quite simple ends up being effective thanks to great level design and pacing, not to mention the excellent music and art in Hue. 

Content Guide

Violence: Hue can die a number of ways: impaled by spikes, crushed by a block, flattened by a rolling stone, zapped by a laser, and falling into a bottomless pit, to name most of them. Every time there’s a crunch and his eyes become “X’s,” the screen slowly fades to gray, and the game restarts you at the beginning of the room you failed in.

Religion: There isn’t any specific mention of religion in the game, but the rooms you find new colors in have a shrine-like appearance with various statues in the background.

Positive Themes: Hue is just a boy trying to find his mother. Without spoiling much, the story blurs who is the bad guy and who isn’t based on which character is doing the telling. There’s a strong central theme about how our perception changes, and how that can be a good thing.

Whenever Hue finds a new color, he lifts it up and does his best Link impression.

Review

As Hue begins, the boy Hue wakes up alone at home to a grey-sky world, and not because it’s cloudy. In the process of her research, his mother found a way to manipulate color and use it to overcome obstacles, but now has become lost in her work. Hue must follow in her footsteps, unlocking colors as he finds letters that flesh out the backstory and round out some of the secondary characters. How gameplay works is this: when you come up on an obstacle you can click the left mouse button to pull up your color wheel. Any colors you’ve found can be selected, and any color you pick makes anything that color disappear into the background. I reviewed Hue on PC with mouse and keyboard, but the game does suggest to use a controller.

If the obstacle is blue…

…pick blue on the color wheel…

and now there’s no obstacle!

The levels in Hue start off simple enough: obstacles or jumping puzzles that require little to no timing. Many of the puzzle rooms are not twitch or speed related, to where you could walk away or stare at the screen for as long as you’d like in order to make your next move. There are no enemies, despite the skeleton and wolf in the start screen, and no timer to urge you alongjust the obstacles and puzzles in front of you and Hue’s driving desire to reunite with his family. There was one time that I felt Hue tricked me, adding a twitch-response puzzle at the end of a long stairway, but if you pay close attention, you can pass most of the rooms in one or two tries, especially if you don’t do what I did and occasionally pick the color you’re standing on, impaling Hue on to the spikes below.

Hue has an impressive amount of background interactivity. The main character can bump into most things in the background including lights, ropes, chains, vines, or shelves full of awards.

The game starts getting more philosophical near the end. Whenever you find a new letter written to Hue it’s in a straightforward room with no death obstacles, so you can just press forward while listening to the letter.

Once you’ve unlocked the full 8 colors, the puzzles start ramping up in difficulty. The game does adequately prepare you by introducing new elements slowly, and by the end, you’ll have to apply all that you’ve learned in order to clear the final rooms. I was disappointed to find the game only took about five hours to finish. It’s a compliment to the game that I was disappointed when it was over; the pacing was fine up until the end; I simply wanted more. This is probably why they included the hidden beakers, tucked into alcoves and invisible walls throughout the game’s areas. There’s three to five of them hidden in each section; if you pull up the map overlay, it will tell you how many you have found and how many are left. As for the end of the story, I was waiting for a Braid-like gut-punch ending, but was actually somewhat disappointed by the easier route the developers took.

On occasion you’ll hit obstacles you don’t have the colors for yet, giving the game a tidbit of a “Metroidvania” feel.

This wasn’t even one of the hardest rooms, but it marked the first time I entered a new room and went, “WHAT?!?”

Overall, I’m pleased with the time I spent on Hue, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a short platformer that makes you think. Its original approach to color and excellent sound design help round out one of the more original indies I’ve played in years. If you have the means and don’t mind the short length, I’d suggest picking this one up.

 

The Bottom Line

 

 

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Andrew Borck

Christian/Husband/Dad/Gamer/Writer/Master Builder. Jesus saves and Han shot first.

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