Review: Hue

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Hue wakes up alone in his house. A drab grayscale world surrounds him. A note from his mother leads him on a quest to find her and along the way, he learns that the world is much more than what everyone perceives. Through lessons left in letters by Hue’s mother, players discover that her education in color goes beyond the spectrum of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Her studies eventually led her to discover how to shift the perception of the world and see things in a whole new way. This new way of seeing the world is what makes up the gameplay of Fiddlesticks’ new puzzle-platformer Hue.

Initially the world is gray and drab, but quickly Hue learns how to control the color light blue. What that means in practical terms is the background of the world shifts from a colorless to a day time light blue, which causes any objects in the world–crates, walls, lasers, etc–that are also light blue in color to become invisible so Hue can walk right through without any repercussions. Shortly after learning mastery of his first color, Hue learns the power of dark violet, and that is when the game begins to build into some very interesting puzzles.

The left analog stick moves Hue left and right, the Cross button makes Hue jump, Square allows him to grab crates to move left or right on the ground, and moving the right analog stick slows down time and brings up a color wheel which allows Hue to alternate between the different colors. Initially the color choices are fairly simple: light blue and dark violet. Soon dark blue, pink, and orange become available, and as the color palette expands, so too does the variety of environmental puzzles. While puzzles are based around colors, a colorblind mode is available that provides additional visual aid through matching symbols (see screenshot directly below).

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Some puzzles are a mixture of moving crates around to rest on floor plates, opening doors when the crate appears and providing weight and naturally closing again when the background color matches the color of the crate, thus making it seemingly disappear. Positioning the colored crates in the correct order to allow Hue to pass through a series of sliding doors allows him to gain a key to unlock the doorway to the next level. Other puzzles are bit more twitch-like and require a deft level of agility with both timed jumping on platforms as well as keeping mentally ahead of which color to quickly switch the background to. One puzzle that took a few attempts to really re-wire my brain to comprehend both timing my jumps as well as switching out colors involved running up a long ramp way as different colored boulders rolled down in Hue’s direction. Timing jumps over spiked passageways while also switching the background to the same color as the next closest boulder required not only deft logic but also dexterous fingers.

What is great about Hue is that for every area that players move into, there is a perfect balance of tension from mental puzzles, quick dexterity puzzles as, well as eventually an amalgamation of both quick platforming and rapid color changing needs. But the game doesn’t just hit players over the head with increasing difficulty. There are moments where additional letters from Hue’s mother unfold more of her tale as well as a mysterious hooded figure who is always present (almost as if keeping an eye on Hue) whenever a truly difficult puzzle area is conquered.

By the end of the game the difficulty of puzzles is truly something to experience. While there are some passages that are a bit twitchy and frustrating, the fault in not completing a jump is never in a poorly designed puzzle, but rather squarely at the fault of impatience and not thinking through the next three or four steps before executing on a sequence. The puzzles are so smartly designed and the platform response of Hue’s jumps are perfect. I found myself getting frustrated at times but only because I was playing at the end of a 10-hour work day and pushing myself to get through a puzzle. At that point in the evening I stopped, shut off the game and would return the next night and find that I could easily solve the puzzle on the first attempt after giving my emotions and frustrations a chance to breath, and let my subconscious work through the puzzle. Rarely do I get a chance to play a puzzle game before any hints or walkthroughs are published. It’s even rarer still that when I do get a game early, I manage to beat the story without any help.

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Aside from the wonderfully smart puzzle design, the art design goes a long way to provide depth to the world in what at first glance would seem like a simple 2D side-scroller. Layers in the environment that aren’t part of the color palette add a dimensionality that brings the world to life. Chains sway from the ceiling when Hue jumps and bumps into them. There’s even a section where skeletons are hung from chains, and they too swing and sway in the air and provide a bit of comic relief as Hue jumps shoves them around.

While Hue’s search for his mother and the story she tells through letters provide a sense of wonder and melancholy, the one aspect of the game that truly adds nuance and emotion to everything that is at stake is the music by Alkis Livathinos. At times the music is a simple piano refrain echoing the loneliness of Hue as he searches for his mother. Other times, the music is grandiose and perfectly fits with the action and time of the puzzle. The soundtrack is one of the reasons I would actually sit through longer moments of frustration during some puzzles, because a phrase would catch in my head and give me a moment to pause and think about a puzzle instead of simply pushing through.

Hue is a special game worthy of any puzzle fan’s time. Plus, any video game that tells a story while also maintaining a clear and consistent gameplay style is a win in my book. When a game can nail a solid gameplay premise that also slowly ramps up a challenge while remaining fun, it’s an even bigger bonus. Hue manages to start with a visually incredible look and build an increasingly challenging puzzle-based platform world that ends with a satisfying narrative. Fans of puzzle games will find the levels fun and engaging while fans of platformers will also enjoy the challenge and smart level design.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Wicked smart level design
+ Incredible music
+ Tastefully simple art aesthetic

Cons:
– None

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS4, also available on PC, Vita, and Xbox One
Publisher: Curve Digital
Developer: Fiddlesticks Games
Release Date: 8/30/2016
Genre: Puzzle-platformer
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1

Source: Review code provided by publisher

Buy From: Steam, PlayStation Store, Xbox Games Store

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.