Puzzle games have enjoyed a renaissance in the last few generations since the popularity of titles like Portal. Suddenly, first-person puzzle games were all over the place, each one striving to make its mark. The results were mixed, but we've gotten some really interesting ideas over the years.
Enter ChromaGun for the PS4. This first-person puzzler immediately caught my eye for its unique paint mechanic. In this game, you'll be firing primary colors from your gun to solve puzzles. Is this a bright new twist on the genre, or have we see this before in a different shade?
Welcome to ChromaTec!
The premise of ChromaGun involves you arriving at ChromaTec to act as a test subject for their new device that fires colored paint onto surfaces. Your only companion throughout the adventure is a commentator who offers the occasional joke, direct insult at your abilities, or cautious disclaimer about the dangers of the gun and the testing rooms.
His jokes hit home most of the time due to his excellent cheesy delivery of each line. In one instance, I was continuously dying and his constant reminders of why I did started to grate on me, but it was clear he was getting annoyed too, so it was still funny for the first few deaths.
Beyond his interjections, which are pretty sparse, you won't get much story to go on in ChromaGun. It's a shame too because I really liked the writing and the voice acting that we did get. Your role as a test subject is never really explored, so you're left to wonder why anyone would need a gun that shoots paint from a narrative standpoint.
The lack of story leaves out an opportunity to further the humor, but let's look at the gameplay to see if it keeps things engaging throughout.
Mix, Match, and Try Not to Fail
The ChromaGun itself fires three colors: red, blue, and yellow. By firing multiple colors onto a surface, you can create other colors like purple, orange and green.
In order to progress through each puzzle, you'll need to coax moving spheres called WorkerDroids onto points that will unlock the exit. These droids will move towards color that matches them.
A simple example would be a hallway with white walls and a white WorkerDroid. You could shoot the far end of the hall with yellow and then paint the WorkerDroid yellow. It will then seek out that yellow wall, moving toward it until they meet.
By mixing and matching colors for both the WorkerDroids themselves, and the walls around you, you'll navigate through the game's numerous puzzles. Eventually, you'll come across environmental hazards and WorkerDroids that will chase you if you if they don't have a wall or surface to follow.
This brings me to my only real complaint with ChromaGun's gameplay. It's more than easy to make puzzles impossible to solve. If you reach this point, you have to reset the entire room, not just the puzzle you were on.
If you mix too many colors together, they turn into a muddled blackish color that cannot be fixed. An option to reset the panel would have easily fixed this, but if you mess up and fire the wrong colors, you'll need to reset.
Furthermore, WorkerDroids are susceptible to environmental hazards themselves. If you mess up the pathing when you're directing a droid with colors on the walls and they happen to hit a Deadly Maintenance Tile, they will be disintegrated, and you'll need to restart.
Again, the ability to respawn WorkerDroids would have fixed this issue and saved some frustration. It doesn't help that the game has a lot of loading screens between each of these instances.
It's by no means, a dealbreaker, but the ability to break the puzzle and force a restart should not be a feature in a puzzle game. If I step on a Deadly Maintenance Tile, that's my fault, but these other fail states happen far too often either by mistake or by accident.
Beyond these small gripes, ChromaGun makes excellent use of its core mechanic. Puzzles are quite ingenious and keep you on your toes throughout. There's never really a set difficulty curve, one puzzle will be easy, while the next could be a reall head-scratcher.
It keeps you on your toes, which I actually liked. While the need to reset entire puzzles can be frustrating, that doesn't stop the core mechanic from being very unique and well implemented in both the execution and design of the puzzles.
White with Lots of Color
ChromaGun embraces the sterile white look we've come to know from the test subject in a corporate setting premise. It manages to stand out as you progress through its use of color that breathes life into the environments.
The game plays very smoothly, and the colors in the environments really pop. The overall look is very simplistic, but that also makes it easy to tell what you can and cannot slap color onto.
The commentator that narrates your experience deserves special praise for his excellent voice acting as well. His tone strikes the perfect chord between overly enthusiastic and painfully condescending. The way he pronounces "spectacular" is a perfect example.
In the end, ChromaGun is a great little puzzle game with a unique core mechanic and sharply designed puzzles. The need to reset entire areas when you make common mistakes does hamper the experience a bit. The lack of a consistent narrative also seems like a missed opportunity, given the quality of the narration that is in the game.
Despite all this, puzzle fans will find a very innovative new set of brain teasers in ChromaGun, and should not hesitate to try it out.
Final Score: 7.5/10
A copy of ChromaGun was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 9/8/17