Ever since the fantastic Valve-developed Portal launched in 2007, we’ve seen several first person puzzle games attempt to recreate the same magic. Of those, ChromaGun is the latest in line. Developed by indie game studio Pixel Maniacs, the game draws an obviously large amount of its tone to the aforementioned Valve epic. However, many games have tried to replicate the Portal formula to meager success (and more often, complete failure). Where does ChromaGun fit into all of this? Is it a great puzzle game that will tease your brain, or a disappointing attempt?
Chromatec: Your ChromaGun and You
A lot of games attempt to cover up their Portal inspiration, but I admire ChromaGun‘s “wear it on your sleeve” mentality. ChromaGun is light on story, starting you off in the lobby of Chromatec, a futuristic testing facility. You’re hurried through the lobby towards a collection of test chambers, all which contain puzzles for you to complete. As you play the game, a guiding narration plays out occasionally. The English voice actor (there are multiple languages for localization) is a smooth and low talker, similar to something you might expect from an audio book. This nameless narrator is your main connection to the outside world, and serves as a reminder that there’s a story underneath the puzzles.
Except there isn’t. When I say the story of ChromaGun is light, I mean exceptionally so. With a singular narrator (and some stuff I won’t spoil), ChromaGun attempts to form some world building, but it never manages to hit home. Between the narrator’s rather unfunny negging and general uselessness, I found myself more annoyed than pleased when his voice popped up. Towards the end of the experience, ChromaGun tries to add some narrative flavor, but it’s a bit too little too late. Generally speaking, ChromaGun doesn’t really need a story, but chooses to attempt one. It’s not terrible; it’s just there. If you come to ChromaGun expecting subversive comedy and a gripping twist, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Playing With Colors
Although the story is weak and barely of note, the main gameplay loop is interesting and well thought out. Using the titular ChromaGun, you fire out three primary colors: blue, yellow, and red. Your ChromaGun never upgrades or changes function, you simply fire colors. Using your expensive prototype paintbrush, you activate and move colored droids by utilizing magnetism. The game builds on itself nicely, and the core concepts are introduced at a nice pace. With a total of 8 chapters (each with 6 levels), the game eventually sees some puzzles that will truly stump you, but not for a while. It wasn’t until roughly halfway through the game (middle of chapter 4, to be specific) that I was truly challenged by a puzzle.
Early chapters deal with primary colors and demonstrating the main gameplay mechanics. Different colored orbs are usually found floating around a test room, and those orbs are attracted to their own color. For example, red orbs are attracted to red walls, orange to orange walls, and so on and so forth.
Further chapters start having you mix the colors, but the game never really changes it up. There’s a few different types of orbs, some of which chase you down, intent on killing you with their protruding spikes. The puzzles get more complex, but the overarching theme never changes. I was waiting for quite some time to see a puzzle that required me to think outside the box, but it never came. For better or worse, ChromaGun is 90% magnetizing orbs with color, attempting to guide them onto switches or through hazards. There’s a chapter or two that flips the script, but these are short-lived.
The Bottom Line on ChromaGun
Whether or not you like ChromaGun will depend on your expectations. While a few test chambers require a bit of timing and quick movement, but majority of the game is quite relaxing and leisurely. If you purchase ChromaGun expecting wild narrative twists and fast paced puzzle solving, you’ll be disappointed. Conversely, if you’re looking for a relatively slow paced puzzle game that plays with colors, you’ll be delighted.
ChromaGun is not a bad game, it just doesn’t take very many chances. With such a brilliant concept, I expected some equally brilliant changes to the puzzle loop. These changes never came, but I can’t dock ChromaGun for what it could’ve been. Instead, it succeeds in what it sets out to do, and that’s just fine. ChromaGun won’t blow your mind, but for the $15 price point and collection of nearly 50 puzzle rooms, it’ll scratch that puzzle itch. Additionally, you’re likely to get upwards of 8-12 hours of gameplay from ChromaGun, which makes it a deal as well.
Note: This game was reviewed on an Xbox One with a pre-release code provided by the developer.