In the past few years, independent games have risen to popularity through their unique methods of storytelling. Be it Journey, which helps you interpret its story rather than flat out tell you, or Thomas Was Alone, which used its incredibly basic visuals to tell a robust story. These games set the standard for what independently developed games can be and have been for the better half of 4 years. Granted, not every indie game aims to become the next Thomas Was Alone, but there are games that go out of their way to imitate it and don’t do the best job. Hue is one of these.
Hue starts out on just a black and white pallet, your character outlined in white. The colour has been sucked out of the world after somebody known as ‘Dr. Grey’ attempted to steal an object known as the Annular Spectrum, a ring that allows alteration of colour. The story is told through audio-logs from the main character’s mother, the creator of the Annular Spectrum who has been trapped on an opposite plain, full of colour. Your goal is to venture into a cave to collect the coloured shards of the Annular Spectrum and put it back together, saving the creator in the process.
The game creates its atmosphere around its story and causes it to act as the central focus of the game, which would be good if it was worth becoming invested in, but it isn’t. The first few audio-logs you hear from the creator are definitely intriguing as she discusses her relationship with Dr. Grey and what brought her to create such a device, but these quickly become an underwhelming reward as you explore deeper into the cave. This is because, being a puzzle-platformer, Hue trying to tell an emotionally investing story is a waste of effort because of the inevitable pacing issues. The goal of the gameplay is to keep the player scratching their head for extended periods of time trying to solve puzzles, but really all they want is to progress through the story. In this regard, the puzzles are both the game’s biggest achievement and biggest detriment.
Hue‘s most important gameplay mechanic consists of changing the colour of the background for puzzle solving. When an object the player can interact with, such as an obstacle or a moveable platform, is the same colour as the background, it will become invisible when you select its matching colour on the Annular Spectrum. This opens seemingly infinite opportunities for puzzle gameplay, and it is a very well implemented and designed game mechanic that brings a lot to the table. Some puzzles are better than others, and I found that a lot of the earlier ones pale in comparison to those found later in the game. It’s really just a case of the more colours you unlock, the more creative the puzzles get, and it’s nice that the game keeps getting more challenging as it goes on. There is a big curve in difficulty around the third unlock though, which is definitely noticeable and out of nowhere.
Switching colours during gameplay requires the player to use the right analogue stick to spin through a ‘colour wheel’ of sorts, and while this is very common in games (case and point, the famous ‘weapon wheel’ in many shooter games), in this game, it feels clunky. The developers could easily have kept it this way but also mapped a button for you to quickly cycle through the colours, but because they didn’t it becomes very uncomfortable when you have to make tight jumps and also change the background in mid-air. It adds frustration in some puzzles that could’ve very easily been avoided.
The game uses an art style similar to Limbo‘s in which it uses a primarily black and white colour pallet with 2D animated characters. The main characters even look alike. The game runs at a 1080p resolution with a nice framerate of 60 frames-per-second that definitely doesn’t dip considering this type of game. I never encountered any glitches aside from a few physics-based ones with the chains that hang from the walls in the background of some areas, but none of these impacted gameplay. The music is also a beautiful piano soundtrack that never really had any catchy tunes, but it worked in the context of the game and to set up the atmosphere and tone of the adventure.
Hue is a charming little puzzle game with very good level design and a unique concept, but it falls short by setting up its entire tone through its plot which is not worth getting invested in. The story pacing is too convoluted to allow the player to pay attention to due to this being a puzzle game, but the puzzles make up for it. The platforming is very well done, and the puzzles make great use of the colour switching mechanic, but some work could’ve been done on the controls when it comes to using this mechanic. Overall, for developer Fiddlesticks’ first game, Hue shows great potential in level design, artwork, and music from the team, but not much more.
Publisher: Curve Digital
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita
Release Date: 23rd August 2016