We all have our own lens when looking at the world around us. Our lens changes our perception of events and how they fold out. The studio Fiddlesticks looks to question perception in their beautiful puzzle-platformer Hue. A game where the flick of the right analog stick changes your perception of the game’s world in this beautiful 2D puzzle-platformer.
The game starts off in a drab, colorless world where the main character, Hue, wakes up with his mother missing. The young boy soon discovers a ring invented by his mother that changes the background color of the world. When the color changes, objects in the foreground of the same color are no longer be perceived. You must go room to room, swapping colors and jumping over hurdles in an attempt to find Hue’s mother.
The color changing mechanic and how it is integrated into the puzzle design is the draw of the game. You can use a color wheel to select which color to change the world to next. The mechanic works in a similar way as Runbow, and shifting through each beautiful color is enamoring. For example, several puzzles force you to go through color coded lasers. When touched the lasers kills Hue. However, switching the background to the same color as the laser they can no longer be perceived and Hue can safely walk past them.
This clever mechanic supplies plenty of difficult puzzles that are satisfying to figure out. The issue is that, for most of the game, the puzzles presented don’t reach this satisfying difficulty. The first half of the six hour campaign can be easily passed through with little resistance. It is not until the final third of the game where Fiddlesticks pulls out their big guns and present you with consistently difficult puzzles, and this is when Hue shines. When the puzzles finally get challenging, finding the solutions is that much more rewarding.
Hue challenges both your platforming skills as well as your problem-solving. Jumping is responsive and predictable, as any solid platformer should be. It is slower than most other games in the genre but the methodical gameplay molds well with Hue’s relaxing aura. Several jumping puzzles present you with boulders rolling towards tumbling downhill toward Hue that can only be avoided by changing the world’s color. The challenged is eased due to time slowing down while selecting colors. This mechanic allows for precise platforming without wrestling to find the correct color for the situation.
Watching each jump and puzzle unfold as a vivid array of colors wash over the background is one of the most captivating parts of Hue. The art style is cartoonish and cute with bright colors contrasting with deep dark blacks. The simple and colorful nature of Hue greatly contributes to the game’s charm. The beauty also comes in the gameplay as the colors shift, objects disappear and others come back into perception. Screenshots of the game often look like a painting that deserves framing.
Several rooms reward the player with narrated letters from Hue’s mother. The letters are well voice acted monologues which ask about human perception and if perception creates existence. If a yellow box blends in with a yellow background it can no longer be perceived in-game, but does it exist? It’s interesting how these questions parallel with the gameplay, but they still feel somewhat disjointed from the way these story bits are integrated into the game. You are presented with the letters in long hallways that offer little gameplay. I felt as though the story was passively told to me instead of me experiencing it within the gameplay. Hearing the story is quite satisfying despite the jarring way of telling it.
Once the story finishes you can backtrack to previous stages to find hidden beakers. These bonus objectives add extra replay value once the game is done. However, backtracking becomes simple due to the Metroidvania-esque hub world. Getting additional colors unlocks routes back to town but it’s mostly used a time-saving mechanic post story completion. It would have been interesting to see Fiddlesticks flesh out those elements more to create a larger and sprawling world. With that being said, it is an ambitious request that could be fleshed out in a possible sequel.
Backtracking becomes quite relaxing as you get to experience the music all over again. Hue’s soundtrack primarily consists of soothing piano tunes and it always seems appropriate in the game’s setting. At times it becomes a haunting melody as you try to figure out the mystery of Hue’s missing mother. The tracks are consistently great throughout.
My first impressions of Hue were at PAX East 2016 where I compared it to Runbow and Limbo. While the sentiment is true, I cannot help but feel that undersells the game. The platforming is more precise than Limbo and the color changing mechanic manages to be both compelling and beautiful. it takes quite a while for the game to present a consistently difficult challenge. However, it is well worth breezing through the early levels to take in the beautiful and soothing experience that the game provides.
Fiddlesticks' Hue is a beautiful puzzle-platformer that questions reality and perception. While often a little too easy, it's still a clever and rewarding trip.