“But are you really seeing blue the same way that I see it?”
Hue is a 2016 puzzle platformer which was a PlayStation Plus offering in October of 2017. It was through PlayStation Plus that I obtained a copy and played it for the first time. Since then I have not only beaten it but I have obtained 100% game completion.
Hue is set in a monochrome world that gradually becomes more colourful as you progress through the game in an attempt to find your mother. The game is reminiscent of Limbo albeit more colourful, which is such a pleasant experience in a time where games often forsake bright, colourful experiences for realistic graphics and palettes of brown.
The story is slowly fed to you through the use of an apocalyptic log. At the beginning it seems like a simple tale where you are the main character; Hue has to find your missing mother. As you obtain letters progressing through the story, you slowly learn what happened between your mother and Dr. Grey which resulted in her disappearance. A story that seems simple at the surface throws the reader curve balls as it takes quite a philosophical turn through the discussion of a fourth dimensions, true colour and do we really all see certain colours in the same way?
The puzzle platformer gameplay has you using a colour wheel to change the colour of the background environment to make objects in each level appear or disappear. Doing so provides you with platforms you can use to reach areas, a way to avoid potential hazards and many more creative situations. Whilst the colour wheel is present on the screen, time is significantly slowed down. This allows you to change colour mid-jump and slow down onslaughts of oncoming colourful boulders.
Whilst the difficulty does increase as each new colour and puzzle mechanic is introduced, Hue does a wonderful job of showing you the ropes as opposed to throwing you in the deep end. The first level puzzles are always mechanically simple and as your confidence grows, so too does the level of difficulty presented through the challenges. The main difficulty found within the game was changing to the wrong colour incorrectly in a panic. Once the colour wheel was memorised, changing colours in a pinch was a simple task.
Speaking of changing colours, Hue does a wonderful job at including all players with it’s colourblind setting. This setting gives every coloured block a unique pattern so that these players can also enjoy the game. It’s a simple inclusion yet at the same time it so often isn’t present, so props to Fiddlesticks for incorporating ways to include all players.
The game has a Metroidvania feel to it as it contains sections earlier on in the game that you are unable to reach and have to backtrack to at a later point in the game once you have unlocked the correct colour for manipulating the environment. These areas contain vials which are the collectible in the game. There are 28 vials to collect all up and whilst collecting them is straightforward and is necessary to obtain 100% completion in the game, the vials serve no purpose themselves.
The 8-Bit Review
Whilst the graphics are on par with what you would expect of a game produced by an indie development team, the game’s main charm comes from its colourful palette. Against the bleak, monochrome environment the colourful puzzles pop out. I was always in awe at the vibrant background that resulted from the collection of a new colour.
It’s so hard to explain just how solid Hue’s gameplay is unless you’ve experienced it yourself. Transitioning between colours is such a smooth process and with the slowdown during colour selection it’s easy to change between multiple colours on the fly. Whilst reminiscent of games like Limbo and VVVVVV, Hue’s gameplay is much more player friendly.
There’s something special about being able to change colours to slip through a wall, rise up to new heights on a balloon and other puzzle elements. I’m yet to play a game that uses colour both as its focal visual point and its main gameplay element in such a fantastic way.
I remember doing a philosophy unit in my first year of university back in 2009. The lecturer stood in front of all of us and asked us what colour he was holding up. It was obviously blue. Then he asked us to describe the colour to the person sitting next to us without using the word ‘blue’. It was impossible and got me thinking about the possibility of no two people seeing colours in the same way.
I had forgotten all about that moment until I began to play Hue and it was one of the first questions that Hue’s mother presents the player with. It is quite an interesting concept, as are the concepts of true colour and fourth dimensions that the game presents as narrative elements.
These concepts are things that I mulled over. They’re all so interesting and added a whole new layer to Hue’s narrative. It became more than just a child searching for his mum.
I will tell anyone and everyone that I am not great at puzzle games. I tend to miss obvious clues and stumble over the same area for ages. So when I give this game a high score for accessibility, I really mean that it has done a fantastic job in that regard. Hue starts you off with one colour and moves you through puzzles that get you used to changing between colours. Each new area that you encounter has new colours and puzzle elements that you need to overcome. This is never a daunting process however as the beginning of each section has levels that let you comprehend the basics of the new puzzle requirements before you get into the nitty gritty of the levels.
One of my favourite things about the game is how it is accessible to every player. With the game being so focused on colours it would be impossible for people who are colourblind to be able to beat it. Fiddlesticks took this in their stride and have their colourblind mode which assigns each colour with a certain pattern so that all players can enjoy the game.
Looking back at the game, having collected all of the trophies, I can say that Hue doesn’t provide too much of a challenge. The main challenge in the later game is in the memorisation of the colour palette so that you can change colours on the fly. Death is not a huge penalty as you just need to start the level over.
I collected the 28 vials on my second playthrough and I was able to get through each level incredibly fast. What took me time the first time around became a cinch when repeated. The controls are tight and any death that I experienced was a fault of my own such as choosing the wrong colour or just happily watching a boulder roll on top of myself.
The only reason that I replayed Hue was because at the conclusion of the game I was only one trophy away from 100%. I had already obtained a few of the vials so I decided to just play through the game again.
Most of the fun in Hue came in messing around with the colours and when you remembered the puzzles and could do them at lightning speed a lot of the magic was gone. There just isn’t enough to keep one coming back after you’ve beaten it.
I am yet to play a game that has incorporated bright, vibrant colour as both its main graphical element and gameplay element and done so in such a wonderful way. Hue is definitely unique in its confidence to splash neon green, fuchsia and yellow in a time where most games prefer to have more realistic palettes.
My Personal Grade: 8/10
When I finished Hue I sat there and I thought “wow I really enjoyed that more than I thought that I would.” Hue surprised me with its vibrant colours, interesting puzzles and the perfect amount of hand holding before letting you free to complete the puzzles yourself. I’ve been playing games which can be described as short experiences lately because of personal time restraints and I have no qualms in saying that Hue has been the best that I have played in some time. I would recommend both people with a love of puzzle games and those who are hesitant to try it a go. It’s an experience quite like no other.
Aggregated Score: 7.4