The “big headed child in scary world” trope is so prevalent now it may as well be a genre of its own. Ever since Braid and Limbo hit the scene we’ve been inundated with numerous malformed children puzzling and platforming their way through all manner of places kids really shouldn’t be, with incredibly mixed results. Like most overcrowded genres, though, occasionally one comes along that shakes up the formula for the better. Fiddlesticks’ Hue is one such game.
Players take on the role of the titular Hue, a young boy searching for his mother, a university researcher who went missing while investigating the power of color. After finding a fragment of a ring that his mother developed, Hue gains the ability to bring color to his otherwise monochromatic world. This enables him to essentially wipe elements of the world out of existence as they blend into the background, Then bring them back again by changing the colour of the world around them.
This results in all manner of colorful puzzles crossed with traditional platforming, which gets progressively more complex as Hue finds more colors to use and the game continually tosses new curve balls at you. Initially, changing color will open a blocked path or stop a rock falling on your head. But by the time you have completed the ring and have all eight colors, you’ll be powering lasers, painting crates, and dodging angry skulls that might as well be Thwomps from Mario Bros. (There’s one section that’s ripped pretty much wholesale from Super Mario Bros. 3, in which you have to avoid an entire area full of the things, while alternating the color of the room to take down barriers and reveal new platforms.)
This being said, the game does a marvelous job of slowly ramping up the complexity at a steady pace, but nothing ever feels like it can’t be solved. After providing you with the tools you need and showing you how each new mechanic works, it sets you loose on several stages before tossing a in new mechanic on top of the ones it has already established; it all mixes together to create an oddly compelling series of chambers that test your brain as much as your thumbs.
The only problem is that the controls occasionally feel at odds with what the game demands of you. You change colors via a wheel controlled with the right analogue stick while you jump by pressing A/X. For the best part it works fairly well, however, in moments when you have to jump then shift colors in mid-air to remove a barrier or create a platform to avoid being dashed on the spikes below, you need to hit several buttons in fairly quick succession — in a manner that most people’s thumbs will hate. With no other way to control either changing color or jumping, it became incredibly tricky to make what should be a basic maneuver, which resulted in a lot of unnecessary deaths. This could be completely avoided if jump were mapped to RB/R1 or players had the ability to shift to the next or previous color on the wheel with the shoulder buttons.
Despite these slight annoyances — during the game’s more cerebral moments where thinking about the next few moves is more important than jumping from rock to rock — Hue really excels with solid level and puzzle design that tie into the game’s aesthetics nicely.
Hue‘s presentation is simple but bold. The game’s single color backgrounds and strong black foreground characters and structures make Hue look like the love child of a Game & Watch and Jet Set Willy. Simple, yet haunting piano music helps to keep the mood sombre but strangely soothing.
The weakest part of the Hue is its narrative. Told via a series of letters from mother to son, it’s an odd and rambling affair in which a love struck student might have had an affair with her tutor, who might be Hue’s father. She then makes a marvelous discovery and begins regretting it because she should have spent her time being a better mother… before vanishing. That being said, the person they got to narrate the story did a good job given the source material, and it is easy to overlook given the quality of the gameplay.
Hue is another decent addition to the puzzle/platform genre and can hold its head high. Although its narrative is a little weak, it’s more than made up for by some superb puzzle design, charming visuals, and unique color switching mechanics.
Hue was reviewed on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.
Developer: Fiddlesticks | Publisher: Curve Digital | Genre: Puzzle Platformer | Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One | PEGI/ESRB: 3+/E | Release Date: August 30, 2016