All too often modern indie games try to wow players with a high-concept premise but fall into the trap of sacrificing execution and accessibility to cater to their novelty. Thankfully, Fiddlesticks Games’ Hue is a refreshing departure from this norm
Hue is a puzzle platformer where everything from gameplay and story to visual design has been designed around one central idea without sacrificing its cohesion and accessibility.
Exuding qualities similar in some aspects to Limbo and in others to Braid, Hue focuses on a unique puzzle platforming mechanic that is reminiscent of the colour changing gimmick from the Wii U game; Runbow.
The game puts players into the shoes of the titular character; Hue, who is a boy living in a monochromatic world and searching for his mother, Anna, who had been researching colours.
Equipped with his mother’s Annular Spectrum ring that allows him to perceive the world in different colours that he has encountered, he tries to uncover the mystery behind his mother’s past and her current predicament.
Told via notes from his mother and great voice acting, Hue’s narrative not only emphasises the theme of the each stage and its relation to a colour, but also delves into interesting arguments on existentialism and the role of perspective.
While Hue purposefully keeps itself light on story, the game still manages to beautifully intertwine its narrative with its core game mechanics and its visual presentation.
The control scheme for the platforming portion of the game is pretty simple. Players can move left and right on the 2D plane, jump and push/pull certain objects. That’s all it takes to traverse the game-world.
Hue has its world and levels designed similar to the style commonly referred to as Metroidvania, where each level is connected to one another, but set in such a way that everything is not open at the start and different routes organically open up as the player acquires new skills during the game’s progression.
In the case of Hue, that skill is finding new colours and their manipulation.
The player can change background to any colour within their Annular Spectrum ring which causes platforms and obstacles of same colour to appear and disappear when the background changes colours.
This mechanic of objects merging with the background of same colour and blinking out of existence is the core puzzle element in Hue and utilized by the game in very creative and inventive manner whereby demanding the player to think outside the box.
Shifting colours in Hue is fairly intuitive. The game allows player to access and select any colour that the character has encountered with a simple touch of the analogue stick. Mapped in shape of a “weapon wheel”, the colour selection ring can be accessed any time in the gameplay.
What makes this mechanic interesting is the fact that the game slows down to a crawl but does not completely pause when the player is selecting colours from the ring. This brings a sense of urgency and tension to the gameplay and plays a big part when the player has to make decisions at a breakneck speed later in the game.
When things get hectic, some players might occasionally have difficulty distinguishing between Orange &Yellow, Yellow & Green or Pink & Purple in the heat of the moment dependent on the background colour chosen by the player.
However players who suffer from colour vision deficiency should not worry, as the game allows players to select a mode that denotes each colour with a sign. This is a very welcome option that takes into consideration the needs of colourblind gamers.
The art style of Hue is very clean and minimalist. Composed entirely of blacks and whites, the people, objects and levels that populate the game feature just enough detail to convey their purpose without making the screen too plain or too busy.
Even with this minimalist design and the silhouetted levels, the game manages to bring enough visual variety to make each area seem fresh and distinct.
Dark silhouette-like design of characters and objects in foreground also forms visual contrast with the changing colours in background and creates a unique visually stimulating tapestry of vibrant colours.
Hue also features a soundtrack that perfectly matches the tone of its visual presentation. Its soft piano music also plays with the player’s perspective as it can be calm and soothing in face of progress but hauntingly somber when stuck.
While Hue’s 5 hour story campaign is paced well in terms of introducing new challenges and upping the difficulty curve, most of its puzzles are so tightly designed that they don’t leave much room for improvisation.
And even though the players are given incentive to revisit the game to collect 28 potion vials from hidden areas throughout the levels, the lack of flexibility in puzzle solving might affect its replayability and make its price tag of $15 a little steep for some players.
However the fact that the game steadily builds on its last puzzle and never overstays its welcome, makes it a satisfying experience that players can go back to whenever they feel the urge to experience its unique visuals and game mechanics.
Hue is a game that is full of personality. From its premise to its presentation, from its core mechanic to its level structure, everything in the game is clever, crisp and responsive. If those are the qualities you value in your 2D platformers then Hue should be right up your alley and you should definitely give it a try.