What if you couldn’t see colours? What if you see different colours to other people? Would you ever know, if you both refer to the colour with the same name? What if your purple is my orange? What if colour was stripped from the world and created alternate realities? You won’t find any of these answers in Hue, but you’ll find a fun little videogame.
Hue is a colour-based puzzle-platformer that gives you the power to change the background into any colour you want. By doing this you can make objects disappear as they blend into nothingness. For example if you make the background blue you can now walk through blue walls. You start off with nothing and slowly grasp more colourful powers as the game goes on. It’s as simple as moving the right analog stick to bring up a colour wheel, and selecting your colour from the circle. The controls in general are quite good with smooth character movement, stable framerate and generous hitboxes. You can grab a ladder even if just one of your hands is near it which feels nice when so many games seem to have finicky ladders. Just a small thing that impressed me, along with random objects having collision detection for no reason other than making a sound effect and mild amusement.
The game starts off incredibly easy and I was beginning to think this was a narrative driven experience where you just hold right and listen to the game. I was absolutely okay with that as well, as the aesthetic is quite chill. The difficulty escalates quickly when you get more colours however. Not only do the puzzles get harder but the rooms get bigger, and you get more puzzle rooms in a row while the story kinda fades away. The puzzles aren’t overly ambitious but they are fun and creative. They’re just hard enough that you have to stop and think to avoid mistakes, and my brain was stimulated almost the whole time. The feeling is almost like a Picross puzzle that slowly reveals itself, as you change colours in a specific order. You also have to be very careful in a lot of situations to not kill yourself with spikes, or an object falling on your head. The punishment simply sends you back to the same room to retry, but after switching so many colours around it can be a headache to remember what you did.
Despite the fact that you can die, the game doesn’t have a heavy emphasis on action platforming. Death will most likely come from the colour mechanic itself, by switching to the wrong colour and getting a laser in your face, or falling through a platform. It’s all very slow-paced, step-by-step decision making and problem solving. It’s much more of a puzzle game than a platformer. The game gets more difficult simply by adding more steps, as it introduces keys to the doors and different elements like ink that changes the colour of anything it touches. Makes me wonder what a Splatoon puzzle game would be like. By the way, if you die you need to do the entire room again including getting the key. Each room is usually one big interlinked puzzle.
The visuals are very simple but they do the job for the most part. I say “mostly” because I actually found the colours to be too similar in a lot of cases. I mixed up Pink and Purple and Lime Green and Yellow a lot, not to mention they look very ugly when over the top of each other, with no outlines to distinguish. The game has a “colour blind” option that I turned on, and didn’t notice any difference in the colours. I’m not sure if that’s a glitch or if it’s just too subtle. Also some important things like spikes were not very visible in just a couple of rooms. It’s not something that happens often enough to be a drag, but for a game with such an easy silhouette style this really shouldn’t have been a problem at any point. The minimalist style is the only strength the visuals have really. It has good music at least. Nothing too melodic or memorable but nice instrumental background noise, perfect “thinking music” for a puzzle game. The slightly dark piano tones complete the broken world feeling.
The story exists but it felt a bit flat to me. There are NPCs who say a few lines, but the bulk of the story is told through letters you pick up. The voice acting is good but the story never really goes anywhere. After a somewhat interesting introduction I was intrigued, but the rest of the game is pretty linear, with room after room of puzzles and not much breathing room for the story. After you get each colour you hear a few words about that colour, which I enjoyed. Many ancient civilizations didn’t consider blue as a colour, for example. It’s unknown whether they could see it or not, or just considered it neutral. Besides some interesting facts there’s a loose story about a love interest, a university, colour experiments gone wrong, but it never really ties together properly and just kinda threw words at you. It came off as more pretentious than meaningful. GRIS is a good example of a minimalist game that tells a better story with less words. In Hue there’s a couple of nice thoughts about how people see things in different ways, but nothing you can’t get from reading some quotes or good song lyrics. It felt like a waste to me because the scope of this game’s concept is enormous. The story pushed above its weight and should have either been simpler and more focused, or went the whole way to insanity.
I would have guessed this game was made by one person but there’s dozens of people in the end credits to my surprise. The credits are so big that you get an achievement for watching them. On that note, while I was streaming this game an achievement popped up that actually obscured the in-game text. Maybe that was the huge story revelation that would have changed my mind about the whole narrative.
Hue is a short game that I beat in about 4 or 5 hours. I think that was just the right length, because this kind of gameplay risks feeling repetitive. Luckily the puzzles were just varied and smart enough to be fun for the whole duration. I’ll give it credit for providing a new gameplay experience when so many games have had colour or similar “switch” mechanics before, it must have been hard to come up with new puzzles. Let’s just say it’s a very…. saturated genre. I bet you wish you never red that. I’m sorry, I’m officially a cheesy game reviewer now. Hue would have guessed.