Hue – Review (Feb ’17)

Close your eyes, and imagine a monochrome platform-puzzler, using all the colours of the rainbow – simple, no?

This review was done on the PS4 version of the game, and a review key was generously provided by the developers, Fiddlesticks, and Curve Digital.

Introduction

Hue takes place in a stylized black-and-white world, where you play as the titular boy Hue, exploring the world around you, solving puzzles and learning what happened before the start of the game.

Initially, you’re in the little fishing village where Hue lived with his mother, and as you explore the surroundings, you locate shards of colour that allow Hue to change the world and reveal or hide objects; Change the world from black-and-white to black-and-blue hides everything blue, and lets you pass by blue obstacles. This is the core mechanic of the game, and used to solve puzzles and avoid dangers.
As Hue delves into the world below the surface, he encounters more colours and nuances to help him deal with the world around him, changing his view of the world to move forward – yes, it is almost as if the game-mechanics and the setting is allegorical in nature.

Story


The story itself, which I’ll refrain from spoilering, is told in a series of letters from Hue’s mother, and read out in-game by the actress Anna Acton. It is no secret that I’m a sucker for good voice-acting in games, and in Hue it is done perfectly hitting the tone and pacing of the game, and matched elegantly with the background music.

Music

The music is also a key part of the atmosphere in Hue, played primarily on Piano by Alkis Livathinos. Throughout it all, it shows what a good scoring can do, and is fully as integral a part of the experience as anything else in the game. A piece by Livathinos was originally used for the early demos of Hue, and when it was time to work on the full game, the developers at Fiddlesticks soon realized that they wanted him to do the full sound-track, resulting in 29 original compositions.

Lights

Of course, with a name like Hue, and a core mechanic revolving around colours, it is no surprise that the game can make use of 3rd party components to show, well, colours, and the developers have even been working on supporting Philips Hue. Unfortunately, this feature is limited to the Windows PC version of the game, while on the Playstation it is only the lightbar on the DS4 controllers, that lights up and matches the in-game colours.
The various LED lights, bulbs and LED strips, that I have at hand here, are also not on the list of supported platforms so there was precious little to play with.

Puzzling

Now, the meat of the game are the puzzles, and solving them by changing the colours of the game. They start out easy enough, and through each set of levels the various challenges are introduced and then built upon. For experienced players this will at times seem like a slow pacing, but for the younger audiences it works perfectly, and with the overall atmosphere of the game, the relaxed pacing is just fine.

As you progress, and collect more colours, the challenges do step it up, with some requiring simply choosing the right colour on the wheel, and others making demands on the timing of the changes.
All the usual suspects are there, dropping-stones, spikey death, moving bridges, crumbling platforms and pressure plates. The colour-mechanic also allows for challenges about placing coloured boxes of varying heights in the right orders, where you have to hide a box to drag others past it.
Where it gets fun is when you have to drop things from a height by removing a coloured box, trigger pressure-plates with invisible boxes, or navigate a maze by swapping around coloured walls.

Controls

The controls are simple, with a stick for movement, a stick for choosing colour, jump and push/pull, it stays true to the simplicity of a pure 2D puzzler. This also helps making playing the game nice and relaxing; there’s an early upper limit to how many fingers you have to track, and while some might find this boring, being able to plop down and thoroughly relax with this game is frankly part of its charm.

Scores

Design: 9
The core design is strong, built around the colour-changing mechanic, and a soft but clean visual style which supports this. As mentioned the music only helps to bring this out further, along with the story-telling.
With the 3-party integration of lighting equipment, the game also pushes its design into the real-world

Challenge: 8
Most of the earlier puzzles are trivial for experienced players, and can be a bit off-putting having to slog through, but later challenges step it up and requires some thought. For younger players, the level is perfect, and grows nicely.

Fun: 7
Fun is perhaps not the correct word in relation to Hue, but entertainment is definitely to be had – whether you focus only on the puzzles or only on the story, or the mix, there is something to be had for a varied crowd.

Replayability: 6
As with many puzzle platformers, there’s not the greatest amount of replayability, and I found no hidden story-elements that would make you go a 2nd round looking for more. There are the usual collectibles throughout the levels, which will make you go back to past levels as you unlock colours to access other branches, but there’s not incentives for speed-runs and global score-boards and neither would really make sense given Hue’s style.

Price: 7
At 14.99 Euro on Steam and PSN, with PS4/PS-Vita cross-buy on PSN, the game hits a decent price-point, and for owners of both a PS4 and a PS-Vita there’s good value with the cross-buy.
On steam there’s also a bundle including the soundtrack, which is definitely worth considering, and right now on PSN there’s a 29.99€ “Instant Indie Collection: Vol. 4”, which includes Hue, as well as Dear Esther and The Flame in the Flood.

Final verdict: 7.4/10
A clean, good fun, simple-but-challenging game, playable by all ages, with a nice story, and excellent execution on almost all levels. Colour me impressed.

 

Summary
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Hue
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