First-person mystery puzzle adventures have a rich history that goes all the way back to Myst. Unlike traditional 2D puzzle games, they usually rely on an immersive exploration of deserted levels. In some cases, you can unravel an environmental narrative. Discolored is a rather stylized first-person puzzler where you’ll have to channel the color spectrum back into a colorless limbo world. I had the chance to try the rather short demo. According to the developer, it’s about one-third of the final game to be released in Summer this year.
Discolored begins in front of a classic American diner with a big triangle marquee. The same triangle is also the icon that appears when you point the cursor to an interactive object. On the other side of the street is a phone booth, which you can’t enter. There are two small alleys by the diner. To your left there’s a dumpster; to your right, a well. By the dumpster, you’ll find a bucket and a hook hanging from the well’s crank. You connect the dots.
In your classic adventure game inventory on top of the screen, you have a suitcase and one of those old stereoscopes that allows you to put a picture in front of the head-mounted display (like an old View-Master). The suitcase is the container for the stereoscope, showing how to use it with an illustration. It isn’t clear what you’ll do with it, but it looks like it may be instrumental to solve a final puzzle. It seems a bit counterintuitive to include it in the demo, though, as you never actually use it.
The diner itself consists of a ground floor and a first floor. When you enter the building, the soundtrack changes. There's an eerie ambiance like the world has just been abandoned, and you're the only one left. It's an effective atmosphere, but really basic. It makes exploring the two floors of the diner feel like something is about to go down, but then nothing ever does. Even when you encounter the only color available in this blank purgatory, a bright green triangle under a plant bowl, it feels like there's something missing.
On the ground floor of the diner, you find a device on top of one of the booths. When you pull a little lever on this device, it yields a ticket. You know there’s something written on it, but it’s just a blur in a colorless world. The inventory interaction is somewhat hit-and-miss. You can combine some items in the inventory, but in the case of this ticket, you can only inspect it up close. Again, you find yourself with an item in your inventory that you don't seem to have any use for.
At this point, I did find myself scratching my head trying to figure out what to do. It took about half an hour before I started piecing it all together. Once I did, I managed to solve the demo in about an hour. It takes some time to solve the puzzles because there’s that usual pixel hunt involved in adventure games. In the case of Discolored, it’s a polygon hunt. You’ll have to scour the level for every possible interactive object, then connect the dots.
The atmosphere and the sound are very austere and barren. It really feels like you’re in limbo. When you try to move beyond the level’s confines, it teleports you back to the front of the diner. Since this is most likely a work in progress, it’ll probably be different in the final release. Still, I like the idea of a limbo puzzler like this. There may not be much to do in it, and figuring out how to progress with no information could be frustrating, but it’s a good way to rub together some brain cells for a few hours.
The art style in Discolored is very minimalist and sparse, but I like it. Sometimes it does look like a showcase of assets in the Unity Asset Store, but it’s probably because it’s colorless. Once you manage to unlock some hues of color, it starts looking brighter. It’s nothing spectacular, of course, but it does match the overall style of the game. If you're looking for a highly impressive graphical experience, get ready for disappointment; but if you're just looking for something different, it's definitely worth checking out.
Discolored is the work of solo developer Jason Godbey, who’s previously released The Search on Steam. Discolored seems to follow in the footsteps of that game as a similar first-person puzzle adventure in the tradition of Myst. Based on Steam reviews, it could have some of the same issues as The Search, being too short and too easy. The highlight of the demo for me was seizing the moon with a toy crane. It’s a nice touch in an otherwise realistic game. If the rest of the game includes more quirky puzzles like that, count me in.
TechRaptor covered Discolored on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.