Review: Color Guardians

Runners are a rarity on the PlayStation 4. While the Vita has a handful, Sony’s newest console is lean on them. Color Guardians blends a regular runner with platforming and rhythm games. Color Guardians isn’t quite a stealth release, but is something that can easily slip between the cracks. It’s not a big-time release or from a massive company, but it’s still a lot of fun and something that fans of the genre should look into.

The platforming aspect is more timing-sensitive than most runners. Most just require proper timing, while this requires timing and a bit of rhythm gaming prowess as you hit your springboards basically as you would a button in a rhythm game. This mechanic is also what maximizes points as your character comes into contact with a variety of colored spheres. Sometimes, they’re all by their lonesome and just need one in-time press. Doing that will give a spin attack to properly release the color that has been trapped inside the ball. Multi-colored balls can use any color to open up. X turns you blue, Square is red and Triangle is yellow. A proper press results in a “perfect” marking and more points for the multiplier. Getting a big chain of perfects results in a huge score boost and an on-screen explosion of whatever that color is.

The core game may sound convoluted in theory, but the execution is superb. The controls are responsive and the rhythm aspect of things makes this one of those runners that doesn’t just make you play it without tuning out, but does so while keeping you engaged with things to do. You’ll go from a round of jumps to a variety of rhythm sections and then a super-tough combination of the two. Completing ten stages with this general makeup gets you a boss battle. These sections combine everything you’ve learned up to this point and then mix things up even more with using an enemy’s weapons against them by tossing them back. They can be tricky, but aren’t too frustrating.

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The game is generous when it comes to offering checkpoints. You’ll generally get one after every obstacle course, and while that might seem like a game-breaker, it isn’t. Each one will test your skills because your reaction time needs to be on-point. You need to make sure you not only press a button at the right time, but the right one that corresponds with the color in front of you. It’s a bit tricky at first, but the learning curve is fair overall.

Color Guardians is one of the most user-friendly runners out there. It may seem like faint praise given the genre, but for a game that tries a lot of new things, you’re always given the on-screen tools to get the job done. Going between blue, red and yellow would be tricky if you had to remember exactly which color did what, but an on-screen display shows  which commands correspond to the color, thus eliminating that problem.

Many multi-lane runners have issues where it’s hard to tell which lane you’re in during a fast section. CG fixes that by putting a bright white outline around the portion of the screen you’re currently jumping on and then places one on the area you’re jumping to. Anyone with depth perception issues will find this seemingly small feature to be a godsend since it makes the game so much more playable. Now, you always know where you’re headed and that cuts down on deaths quite a bit.

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Otherwise, Color Guardians doesn’t do much new. The world is reminiscent of De Blob‘s, but in runner form. It’s a visually pleasing art style, but isn’t going to push the PS4 to its limits. The bright colors are the best part of the visuals. There’s something special about the world starting in black and white and then getting some life as you progress and unwrap all of the colored balls. Grass is green and dirt is brown, so the once nondescript world suddenly gains personality. Each world stands out and has a different vibe depending on the color scheme used.

It’s a pleasing game to listen to, but not quite top-tier. The soundtrack is incredibly chipper, and while it might entertain someone younger, the music never gets out of first gear except for boss fights. Many of the songs are enjoyable to listen to, but aren’t things you’ll want to listen to outside of the game. The DualShock 4’s speaker gets into the act a bit, playing the pre-race chime that honestly sounds kind of bad coming through the speaker, but it’s a nice little touch that does add something in theory. Since it seems to be impossible to avoid, it winds up being annoying in practice.

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Closing Comments:

Color Guardians blends a variety of fast-paced genres together nicely. It controls perfectly and every set of stages changes things up enough to use the core runner/platformer/rhythm game template and keep it interesting. Boss battles add some fun wrinkles as well. The game looks nice, but doesn’t push the PS4 to its limits. Color Guardians makes use of the DualShock 4’s speaker, although neither the sound effects or soundtrack are all that memorable.