It was hard not to immediately draw comparisons to Limbo when I started off in control of a young boy named Hue, who lived in a monochromatic world who basically starts off the game with the ability to jump around with little context as to who he is or why he is there. The Limbo comparison one is meant with only the best intentions, as that was a game I absolutely loved when I first played it.
I will wind up making a lot of comparisons to Limbo in this review, because I could not get the notion of how similar the two games felt to me. They had completely different mechanics, yet they reminded me of one another frequently as well. However, the differences in the game and tone become evident even before color is introduced. The town that you start in is small, but friendly. There are a couple of people that Hue gets to interact with, and not everyone is out to get him as is often the case for the boy in Limbo. Hue's journey is an isolated thing in many ways, but he has touch points to humanity that make his experience all the more endearing.
As you progress through the game, Hue's mother will leave behind letters that are read aloud in a pleasant woman's voice as more context is given for Hue's journey. Her comments start simply enough, talking about the color of the sky, and how people have shared visions of things. Over time her introspective notions begin to weigh in on topics such as imagination, original thoughts and more. It is somewhat heady stuff that works more often than not, but these letters spaced throughout the game do give Hue a sense that while he is undertaking this journey of discovery on his own, he is never alone.
To that end Hue is a far less creepy game than Limbo was. Also, the game's primary gameplay mechanic shines through as the monochromatic universe Hue inhabits is slowly peeled away. The game's greatest strength is its unusual use of color to solve puzzles. There is plenty of platforming here, but there is a hefty amount of puzzle solving that takes place as well. The end result is mind-bending at times, but it never completely stumped me. Having played it weeks before the game came out, there were no walkthroughs or hints out there. I knew one other person who was reviewing the game and he got stuck on a part about a quarter of the way in, and I helped him come up with a workable solution. In fact, something about the puzzles here in Hue really tickled my mind. Even when I was frustrated, I could always just barely sense that the solution was right there waiting for me. And at the end of the day, it was.
That is because I started to play the game about noon on a Sunday, and wrapped it up around four in the afternoon that same day. I took the occasional restroom or soda break (I decided not to dull my mind or reflexes, so this is not a title I decided to go Beeps and Beers with on my first playthrough, though I suspect you will see it as part of that series soon enough), but I never turned the game off. I plugged through it and in a few hours I had reached the end of Hue's adventure. The duration actually felt just about right, especially if you do decide to go it in a single setting. Not that there is a need to do so. Hue has frequent checkpoints and saves constantly.
The way that colors are used is very interesting. You gain the color blue early on, and you use the right analog stick to select which color from the circular palette you want to activate. This changes the world's background to that color, and with it any objects specific to that color also fade out of view. This can be a blessing as the giant skulls or laser beams looking to kill Hue will fade out of site, but it can also be a curse if you needed to stand on a particular crate to reach a higher ledge, only to have faded it out. Most of the rooms have a particular puzzle or theme in mind for them, and the majority of the time I got through them on the first try. Dying is fairly common later on, and it can be annoying when the room feels somewhat lengthy to complete (there was a particular room with lasers and moving platforms that nearly made me swear off that ban on Beeps and Beers I died so many times), but there is always a solution. In fact, in many instances, there are multiple solutions.
As you progress through the game, Hue's range of colors expands, giving the game a somewhat Metroid-like feel because each color opens up a new area and adds to the complexity of the puzzles. By and large this works really, really well and most of the room puzzles felt creative. The one thing that holds Hue back is something I don't have a solution for - but it was without a doubt my biggest point of frustration with what is otherwise a charming and enjoyable game. Because the color switching is mapped to the right analog stick, it can be hard to switch a color and then jump, or to jump and switch a color in mid-air (say there is a platform you need to create or a wall you need to remove by juggling color in mid-flight).
Hue goes into Matrix-like slow-mo when you press and hold the analog stick in any direction. In theory that works, but sometimes the window for selecting is pretty darned narrow. Not that pausing would necessarily solve the issue either. Some of those puzzles would have been very tough if the game had just ground to a halt. However, that issue combined with how inexact the color selection process can be (just a little down and to the left instead of straight left can mean death when you accidentally pick red instead of orange) led to more deaths than my handling the room puzzles wrong. There were only four or five rooms however, that were truly mind-wracking for me, and another two or three that challenged the limits of my reflexes/patience, so in the grand scheme of things? Not too bad.
While Hue is not a terribly lengthy game, there is a little extra content in the form of vials you can pick up along the way. If you look at the map option in the menu, it shows you which of the stages you are currently in, and how many of the hidden potions you have found. While I did beat the game before writing this review, I did not yet discover all of the vials - that will be a project for one of my Beeps and Beers articles I suspect. I will say that at least early on, they are not terribly difficult to reach, but you have to have some environmental awareness. There might be a ladder that you can't reach when you first enter the room, but after some boulders fall, you can go back into the room and climb them to reach said ladder, and therefore the tucked away potion.
This encourages you to further experiment. There is a great deal of trial and error to be had here - emphasis on the error. As Hue gains new colors, new game mechanics get rolled out as well. Early on it might just be a matter of making doors appear or sliding behind moveable crates. Later in the game however, you might have to use different paint sprayers to alter the color of the same box so it can be used a few different times to complete the room's puzzle. I will say that the very last puzzle killed me a couple of different times, but each death brought me closer to cracking it. I would just let the game run, staring at the screen as I considered my next move. Completing it brought about a considerable sense of satisfaction with a short but charming ending to boot.
Hue is a delightful game with a simple but stark art style and beautiful piano pieces for music that help to wrap up the presentation side of what is a beautiful, entertaining game. It reminds me of Limbo in a few ways, not the least of which is Limbo was probably the last puzzle/platformer I sat down and played all of the way through from start to finish in a single afternoon sitting. Well, the most recent until Hue came along. The fact of the matter is, I found Hue's adventure to be more interesting and the gameplay provided greater variety as well, making it a better overall experience than Limbo was.
Article by Nick