PC, PS4, Vita, Xbox One
No matter what unearthly powers you’re given in a 2D puzzle-platformer, there’s usually a point at which you end up dealing with crates. You’ll push them, you’ll pull them, you’ll clamber on top of them to reach higher areas, and, on occasion, stack them. The first crate is always the most disappointing: a sign that however unusual a game’s core mechanic may be, it’s happy to rely upon the most rudimentary of puzzle ingredients. Hue’s colour-changing hook is a strong one, but too often it’s in service of the kind of conundrums we’ve seen many times before.
With characters and buildings silhouetted against a grey backdrop, at first it looks like a CBeebies remake of Limbo. A paper trail of letters reveals that you’re looking for your absent mother, a scientist conducting dangerous experiments with colour. Before you can locate her, you’re tasked with locating eight colour fragments, steadily unlocking more of the world and eradicating the grey. In real terms, your power amounts to making things disappear and reappear: the colours attach themselves to a radial wheel bound to the right stick, and you nudge it in the appropriate direction to reveal or hide objects from view. The only limit to your ability is that you can’t be in the A highlight is a puzzle that invites you to formulate a multi-step plan to proceed. Remembering the order you need to switch colours is simple enough, but combining that with timely movement is something else same position as an object you need to reappear; as a result, you can never paint yourself into a corner, which cuts down on the frustration of having to restart a room after a mistake.
Some puzzles will, however, require a few retries. Hue smartly mixes up more thoughtful, sedate challenges with those that demand sharp reflexes. In one room, you’ll ascend a stairway as coloured skulls bounce down towards you, forcing you to shift colours with the right analogue as you climb with the left. Later, you’ll run across platforms of the same hue as descending lasers, leaping for safe ground and shifting in mid-air before the beam connects. If most puzzle games try to make you feel smart, Hue is often most successful when it makes you feel stupid; in the heat of the moment, with your feet resting on a crumbling platform and a large gap in front of you, a panicked shift might just make it disappear all the quicker.
Even during its most demanding sections, Hue never stoops to frustrating fussiness, while its smart pacing ensures that no ideas outstay their welcome. Its story is nicely narrated, its art is charming, and its puzzles are decent enough. In other words, it’s a perfectly pleasant way to spend a few hours, if that’s all you’re looking for. But mere hours after playing it, Hue is already vanishing into the background of our minds, leaving only a vague sensation of something more tangible.