For a brand new indie developer, the puzzle platformer genre is often an enticing one, for a lot of sensible reasons: once the core mechanics are established, it’s relatively simple to create a substantial series of levels using the limited tools, pushing the main gimmick to the limit of its usability. But for a game of this type to truly stand out among its peers, it can’t just be satisfied with doing the bare minimum, even if that bare minimum has a lot of potential. Fiddlestick’s first release, a colorful adventure by the name of Hue, is a strong example of this dilemma, providing a solid but unmemorable experience with a story that barely scratches the surface of its potential, and an intriguing core gimmick that is content with staying within its own limits.
Hue tells the story of a child by the same name who lives alone in a monochromatic world, free of color and guardianship. When a mysterious woman calls out to him in a dream, requesting that he help fix a powerful artifact known as the Annular Spectrum after it was shattered by Dr. Grey, Hue leaves his village and goes on a conveniently-located adventure, as all the pieces of the device are located in a nearby cave. Hue himself never speaks, with the dialogue instead being used for brief interactions with the handful of villagers, and, more importantly, through letters narrated by the aforementioned woman, who recalls her college years and the decisions that led her to her current predicament. The story often revolves around a few core philosophical themes, including color’s ability to connect us a society and how hope can help one overcome all obstacles, but it rarely dives into any of these complex concepts in any meaningful, instead content with just reminding players of its existence. Additionally, the plot also suffers from having no clear antagonist, and is often too vague to provide any real sense of motivation for either Hue or the player, despite the usage of a constantly reappearing hooded figure which isn’t as enticing as the game seems to make it out to be. The story does eventually reach an interesting conclusion, but it feels rushed and abrupt after the lack of progress made earlier on, which could arguably be considered unsatisfying after the five to six hour tale.
Fortunately, the gameplay offers a larger portion of the enjoyment found within Hue, as the kid’s continuing retrieval of the pieces of the Annual Spectrum allow him to slow down time and change the color of his world, located conveniently in the right analog stick, granting him the ability to overcome obstacles and evade danger as he affects the presence of a given set of objects, including platforms and movable boxes. This ability is interwoven superbly well within the gameplay, with each new shade relating to the themes of the story, and, more importantly, increasing the potential depth of the puzzles Hue must solve to progress. While the vast majority of the rooms offer logic-based challenges, which are satisfying enough to solve on their own through the introduction of new mechanics, the more entertaining challenges often revolve around the platforming, creating some intense, fast-paced moments that stick out among the other levels. For more veteran puzzle-platforming fans, a good portion of the puzzles may feel a bit simplistic, while less experienced players may find the last handful of puzzles to be a bit convoluted, but Hue avoids the common genre problem of overstaying its welcome, instead satisfied with solely offering a predictable yet mostly problem free experience that the color-changing abilities has to offer.
The presentation aspects of Hue are strong as well, with the relaxing piano-based soundtrack can help ease the stress of completing some of the more difficult tasks. The settings themselves rarely stick out from other similar titles in the genre, but the overall look produces a smooth and relaxing atmosphere. The animations and character design are well-produced, despite a zoomed-out camera which focuses too often on the dark background, diminishing the impact of the handful of colors within the game, contradicting their importance to both the gameplay and story. 28 easily-locatable collectibles are also present to be collected within the game, providing the only strong incentive to return to any areas, even if that process feels a bit repetitive and extensive, forcing players to re-attempt previously solved puzzles for no clear reward. Fortunately, due to the game’s large focus on color, a colorblind option has been provided at launch, allowing a larger audience to check out Hue’s journey.
Despite a lackluster story that doesn’t stand out until it’s too late, the color-changing gameplay provides a considerable amount of enjoyably unique puzzle and platforming sections for fans of the genre, with simplistic enough controls for players of all skill levels to experience. In an age where many mainstream games offer countless distractions to constantly pull the player in all sorts of directions, Hue’s straightforward and relaxing presentation offers a nice, brief reprieve to play in between some of today’s lengthier titles. With a reasonable set of expectations, Hue can provide a pleasant adventure for players willing to give this unique game a shot; just don’t go in expecting it to stick with you beyond its playtime.