STAFF REVIEW of Hue (Xbox One)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Hue Box art Because there’s a huge amount of platforming puzzle titles out there, these days it’s becoming incredibly difficult for a specific game in the genre to stand out. With titles like Limbo, Braid, or Ori and the Blind Forest, new games have a tough time not being tagged as a clone or as one that is simply trying too hard to be one of the better known puzzle games. Many games in the genre either fall into the mediocre bucket or simply get passed by because of how many there are, but every now and again something special does come long, like recently released game called Hue, a title that utilizes unique gameplay and offers many challenges with its puzzle groundwork.

Living in a completely grey and monochrome world, you control Hue whom is looking for his lost mother. She was a scholar studying colors, and is now trapped in a new type of world, filled with many vibrant colors; something Hue’s world has never experienced. Hue happens to stumble upon colors during the search for his mother, learning slowly how to control and change the world’s color around him on a whim.

As you progress you’ll find letters from your mother, giving you hints of what happened to her as you search for why she is missing. The writing is great, but the voice acting is absolutely phenomenal. Even though Hue’s mom is the only narration in the game and it comes in spurts, it’s done perfectly in a calming and soothing motherly-like tone that brings comfort. The clever writing, while short, provokes thought and brings emotion into the narrative. Kudos to developers Fiddlesticks for nailing this part of Hue perfectly.

Hue’s core mechanics are based on being able to control different colors of the world once they are unlocked, which allows you to interact with the world in very unique ways, making for some challenging puzzles. The artwork is seemingly hand drawn, adding a great personal touch to the overall experience. The art style, while simplistic, brings a certain calmness to the drab pre-colored world.

Hue needs to pass from room to room, and area to area, to get closer to solving the mystery of his lost mother, but of course there are objects blocking his path. The only way for him to progress further is use his newfound ability to control the spectrum of colors, allowing him to change the background color. Objects in Hue are a variety of colors, so you must match, or purposely mismatch, the colors to move forward. For example, say there’s a red block is blocking your way, having Hue change the background color to red will make that block completely disappear, allowing you to pass since it’s blended into the background. It’s an incredibly simplistic mechanic, but is utilized in very clever ways.

All that’s needed to change the colors of the world is a simple flick of the Right Stick to the color wheel, landing on your desired color. In the beginning it’s quite simple, as you only need to switch between a single color or two, but by the end of Hue’s journey you’ll have up to 8 different colors to choose from, making for some frantic color switching. Since objects of specific colors can be hidden within the same background, you’ll need to frequently shift colors to reveal them, though that means other colored objects might become hidden in the process.

Hue does a fantastic job of slowly easing you into its mechanics, teaching you the basics as you slowly move onto harder puzzles before adding another color into the mix. The learning curve is very smooth and I never truly became frustrated until the massive difficulty spike right near the end. Fiddlesticks has also done an amazing job at making sure no two puzzles ever feel too similar. Sure, at its core you’re simply moving boxes, but the process to do so is varied and never feels repetitive.

As you play, using the color wheel becomes second nature, and eventually you’ll get to the point of memorizing where every color on the wheel selector is without having to think twice. This makes the gameplay become even more fluid, and factor this in with the intended slow motion that occurs when choosing your color, Hue simply feels great to play. Sure, in the beginning you’ll come across a few puzzles that seem literally impossible, but once you figure out that room’s ‘trick’, you know better for the next time you come across a similar type of obstacle. The only real restriction when choosing your color is that you can’t be standing ‘inside’ another colored object, as it would kill you if you make it appear from being previously blended into the background.

Many levels are simply trial and error, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. If you think logically, or try to solve it backwards (starting at the end point thinking how to solve each prior step), Hue plays right into your strengths. While it’s easy to distinguish the main colors of yellow, red, blue, and green, it can become a little tricky to determine if you need the dark blue or the purple at times, especially during frantic sections. The same goes with yellow and orange, which are beside each other on the color wheel. If this is an ongoing issue, or if you’re color blind, there’s an option to show symbols on all similar colored items, allowing a more visual representation of each shade.

The majority of achievements are gained simply by progressing through the game and watching the credits, with the only elusive one being for collecting all of the secret hidden beakers. The map menu displays how many you’ve found in each ‘section’ of the game, and you can continue playing after the credits roll, allowing completionists to continue on Hue’s journey a little longer.

As I said earlier, it takes a lot for a game in this genre to stand out among the vast selection of other games. Hue takes an incredibly simple premise and turns it into a unique, fun, and challenging game that I’m still thinking of days later. To be completely honest, Hue wasn’t on my radar at all, but I’m incredibly grateful it fell into my lap by chance, as I’m glad I got to experience it from beginning to finish. Hue easily stands out amongst the crowd, not just because of its interesting art style or its fun game mechanics, but because it’s a really creative game that tries, and succeeds, to not imitate other games, as it leaves you satisfied yet wanting more.

Overall: 9.2 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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