Originally released in 2015, ChromaGun might owe a debt to Portal and Splatoon for its visual style, but makes up for it with unique colour-based puzzle mechanics. As part of the indie gold rush on the Nintendo Switch, it’s time to revisit this first person puzzler.
You play as an anonymous test subject who has been brought in to test out the all new ChromaGun, a weapon that can shoot coloured paint onto various surfaces and bots. The game’s quirky narrator explains that the gun’s evaluation will be conducted based on your performance through the various test scenarios that you must complete.
Throughout your time testing the ChromaGun, the game’s narrator will make playful jabs at the players expense based on success or failure, but thankfully the narrator also offers a tip or two if you’re struggling for too long. The parallels to Portal’s narrative style are clear, but as you’ll see in the trailer above, they really don’t care.
The ChromaGun weapon itself can shoot three colours: red, blue, and yellow. These colours can then be mixed together on surfaces to form purple, orange, and green – don’t worry if you’re colour-blind, as there are options to work around that.
Every stage in the game requires the player to open the test room’s exit door by positioning WorkerDroids on top of activation pods that unlock them. These droids are attracted to the colour you paint them, so a WorkerDroid covered in red will travel to the nearest red surface in the test room, and this works the same for every other colour. It’s a simple concept to grasp, but things do get quite challenging and unforgiving deeper into the game.
The test rooms will start to throw obstacles your way while you’re completing these objectives, so you can expect to see things like electrified floors, invisible walls and surfaces that quickly get rid of the paint applied to them. This certainly made the game a bit more challenging, but not in a good way.
The game definitely suffers from some severe difficulty spikes at random points, which can be extremely frustrating to try and overcome. Making a mistake can feel a bit too punishing at the worst of times and sometimes means that starting the test room over is an easier option when figuring puzzles out.
What works best in ChromaGun is the minimalistic design and level structure that it has borrowed from Portal. The game looks incredibly crisp in both docked and in handheld mode, but due to the art style of the game, it’s also equally easy to spot frame rate dips when entering new test rooms, particularly while docked.
The other issue upon entering new rooms is the amount of loading screens you have to sit through. You’re easily looking at around 60 load screens throughout the game’s 64 test rooms and 8 chapters. The load screens aren’t particularly long, they’re just very annoying and intrusive to see between completing rooms.
ChromaGun doesn’t rely on many buttons within its design, which helps to keeps things simple and consistently familiar throughout the entire experience. Tempting though it might be to try splitting the Joy-Con, this is really meant to be a single player game. Still, if you’re up for a challenge with a friend, you can have one controlling movement and the other handling the ChromaGun.
ChromaGun is, for the most part, a great port, but it doesn’t fix issues like the difficulty spikes that have always been present in the game. There’s some truly excellent puzzle design in the sharp looking test environments that will keep you entertained, in what is likely the closest thing to Portal that the Nintendo Switch will ever see.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch