There are numerous reasons why you likely skipped playing CHROMA at Eurogamer Expo this year. These are those reasons:
- It was hidden away in the indie section of EGX, where all good games go to die.
- On the surface it looks like a moody (read: black and white) retro-inspired (read: pixel graphics) 2D platformer (read: “It’s another indie 2D platformer? Great!”)
- Who wants to play independently produced video games when there are so many sweet 3DS StreetPass hits to be had?
None of these are what I would call “good reasons”. Except maybe that third one, and only because the 20th Anniversary Kirby animation in StreetPass is really quite delightful to behold.
But guess what, pal? Yeah, that’s right, you’re a chump for not going to see CHROMA, because it’s bloody amazing already, while being months away from release, and is coming to a PC and maybe some other platforms you probably own or are thinking of owning.
Now I know I’ve developed a bit of a reputation on TSA’s podcast for doing this, but I’m about to spoil something for you in this preview. It’s the “a-ha” moment of CHROMA, and it’s a beautiful thing.
It’s the instant you realise that the shadows you cast in your character’s light version, can be walked upon by your character’s dark version.
What a wonderful realisation it is, and it’s one not told to you too explicitly through tutorial, but one that comes from experimentation and simple visual clues. When I discovered that my tiny little on-screen buddy could split himself in two and traverse the environment in a brand new way, I beamed like a lunatic at its simple brilliance.
Here’s a super straightforward example of how this manifests in play: if you fall from too great a height, you shatter into tiny pixel bits upon the ground, so you must carefully descend large pits to reach the bottom. There are no bright yellow hand holds to clamber down – Nathan Drake-style – nor are you able to nimbly leap from wall to wall like a Meat Boy. There certainly isn’t a vial of magic to rewind time and undo your mistakes: you are a fragile creature and you must be intelligent in your traversal, or you will explode into teeny-weeny, itty-8-bitty pieces.
What you do to get down is stand at the lip of the ravine, emanating a razor sharp beam of light into the darkness, then press the A button to hold your position as the light version and change to your dark version. You then simply use the line between light and dark to saunter down the danger at a gentle angle, before switching back, which teleports your light version to wherever the dark one was.
If you want to do the reverse of this and climb upwards, you need only think about how a ball of light (which is effectively what you are) would illuminate its surroundings. Stand behind something tall to cast a walkable shadow behind said object and Bob becomes your father’s brother.
An ominous tone permeated my time with CHROMA, even amongst the big sounds, bright lights, and funky must of the video game expo I was attending. You’re alone in a dark cave which conceals many mysteries, alien plant life, and seemingly ancient technology. The occasional uses of colour often indicate impending obstacles, and instead of being comforting breaks from the gloom of black and white darkness, they bring gently glowing dread.
The world of CHROMA seemed absolutely massive too, with plenty of routes I could have chosen to explore and – no doubt – get lost in. You can’t rush through it either, due to your aforementioned fragility, and the fact that you are largely the only light source amongst the darkness. This forces you to take in its curiously uncomfortable atmosphere.
At the end of this short demo, controller in hand, I sat there – almost giddy – completely dumbfounded at the minimalist elegance of its core mechanic, and the potential it brings to play and plot. The increasingly honking man smog of the indie section cleared from my senses, pushed aside as I focused my attention towards breaking down what I had seen and fantasising about what might lie ahead.
Playing CHROMA is a moment in gaming you witness rarely: the germination of a smart idea, created by smart people, to be enjoyed by less smart people like myself.
Do not, under any circumstances, let the next opportunity to witness it pass you by.