It’s testament to the strength of a good piece of introduction music when you leave a game’s title screen playing for fifteen minutes. The haunting piano heard here is your first step into the incredibly stylish world of Hue, but despite the arresting audio, it is a game singularly centred on its visuals.
Hue – which is also the name of our protagonist – is a puzzle platformer that sees you altering the colour of the background in order to hide coloured objects in the world and make your way through a series of ever-more challenging conundrums. Each area begins in monochrome, but you acquire different shades of vibrant colour from the spectrum you unlock access to new areas, or find new ways to tackle an area you’ve already been to.
The very first example of this is an azure pile of stone that blocks your way. There’s no way past, or at least there isn’t until you’ve acquired the abilility to shift the background to light blue, at which point the blockage completely disappears from view and you can saunter past as if it never existed. That’s the fundamental basis for the whole game, with the acquisition of new colours having the same effect as new abilities or weaponry in a Metroidvania title, allowing you access to previously off-limits areas.
Of course it’s not quite as simple as that, with different coloured moveable boxes creating some early brain-teasing highlights as you try to position them in the best way to get across to the opposite side of the level. You use the right analogue stick to change the colour of the background, at times under immense pressure as you leap from one surface to another, and it’s here that one of the only real problems with the game rears its head.
The eight different shades that you eventually have access to are at times too similar to accurately choose at speed. Time slows down as you open up the colour wheel, but doesn’t stop, and while this retains a sense of pace, danger and action it would have been welcome at various points to have time stop entirely. Trying to differentiate between garish purple and hot pink is difficult at the best of times, let alone when you’re trying to nail a tricky platforming section that needs you to switch on the fly. I’m not sure what the answer would have been, in terms of picking replacement colours, but I find it interesting that it made it all the way to release with these..
The colours are doled out one by one as you progress, and the game was really at its absolute best with just three shades, each in distinct spaces on the analogue selection wheel. This meant that on a manic run, where opening the way forward also allowed boulders to fall from the roof, you could always be certain of hitting the right one when you flick the analogue stick, with a thrilling Indiana Jones-style rush being your reward. The longer that you spend with the game mind you, the more accustomed you become to where the colours are, but some of the shades are simply too similar.
Having said that, the stark silhouettes of your character and the level furniture set against the ever-changing backdrop make Hue a visually distinctive title that’s a genuine pleasure to experience. Hue himself is charmingly simplistic, and the outline of his sweater and tie pulsate with the changing background in a manner that works very well. This minimalist approach brings everything into stark contrast, emphasising the search for your mother, and your journey through this world.
The story is brought to you by the silky voice talents of Anna Acton and Matthew Wade, and is surprisingly heartfelt, despite the game’s basis as a platformer. The narration fits perfectly into the world that Fiddlesticks have created, and though it’s the puzzles that will truly draw you in it’s heartening to find an actual plot in a genre that often purely pays them lip-service.
A charming puzzle platformer, Hue’s colourful aesthetic and thoughtful tone make for an enjoyable, if slight, adventure that will leave an indelible mark on your soul.
Version Tested: Xbox One