Sometimes a game is instinctively brushed off as being just for kids. Although Color Guardians surely fits this description, it's far from child's play. You'll need the swiftest gaming reflexes around to master this hidden gem. If you're up for the challenge then let's get started!
It's difficult to fit Color Guardians into a single genre. If I refer to it as an endless runner then that implies that it never ends and that you run in a straight line and jump over obstacles. Neither of these descriptions is fully accurate. It also can't really be called a platformer or a rhythm game, either. So, what is it? Basically, you control an automatically running character by alternating between three lanes while changing colours (blue, red, or yellow) to survive the oncoming dangers unharmed. It sounds simple and the controls definitely are, but the amount of complexities that slowly become introduced throughout the campaign make this a fully featured package. It's incredibly difficult, too, so curb your initial expectations and be prepared for an intensely challenging yet ultimately satisfying adventure.
Color Guardians is an absolutely gorgeous game with brilliant use of colour. As you begin each level, the environment is rendered in greyscale and colour restores upon collecting more and more colour orbs. These environments come alive when nefarious-looking flora withers and background characters wave and cheer you on. If you have even the smallest sense of wonder in your heart, this style will make every second of gameplay a joyful experience. Characters are animated perfectly as you see them run, gobble up orbs, spin, flip, soar, and happily celebrate or crestfallenly sulk upon completing a level (depending how well you do). To complement the cheerful graphical style is a whimsical orchestral soundtrack. Even though the music is quiet, it does a fantastic job of adding a layer of wonderment to the journey. Where the audio stands out most are the effects which add tons of satisfaction to every little achievement. Additionally, your controller reacts to the gameplay as the colour of the DualShock 4's light bar always matches your current colour and effects come from its speaker. Overall, Color Guardians is masterfully presented from start to finish.
Color Guardians takes its simple gameplay and slowly morphs it into an impressive array of challenges by regularly introducing new mechanics. As you progress, you'll find yourself bouncing off springboards, holding onto flying helicopter plants, timing when to jump over oncoming boulders, battling bosses, moving platforms, avoiding enemies who try to squash you with hammers, travelling backwards, and much more. Keep in mind that this is all done while your character moves on their own. You can imagine how challenging it gets without being able to plan ahead. In fact, the difficulty in later levels can simply be too much to handle which may force you to turn the game off and come back to it later. An aspect of the challenge that's unfair at times is how transitioning between certain segments can mess with your head. This happens when you go from running on the ground to up on cliffs where it's hard to spot which bits of land belong to which plane. Another example is when you transition to driving a mine cart since you shift planes by changing colours instead of pushing up and down. This will definitely trip you up and when it does, it doesn't feel fair. Besides these grievances, the campaign does an amazing job of gradually introducing new mechanics which establishes a constantly changing and challenging difficulty curve.
One area where Color Guardians won't disappoint is in its replay incentives. You get rewarded with up to three stars on every level according to how many orbs you've acquired. If getting all three stars isn't difficult enough, you can try to get diamond stars by collecting each orb perfectly. How do you do that? You have to spin your character at just the right time before collecting each orb. In other words, good luck; you'll need it! Upon completing any of the campaign's five areas, little fairy-like creatures named Tokis fly to each of the area's levels that you can then replay in the hopes of spotting and collecting them. On top of this, you can play as three different characters plus a secret character and unlock extra levels, videos, music, concept art, and 3D models. To clarify, finishing the massive fifty-plus level main quest will take you hours on its own, but being able to achieve and unlock everything else is a task that'll have you playing for weeks. Simply put, if it's content you want, Color Guardians definitely has you covered.
Color Guardians is one of those overlooked gems that'll unfortunately go by unnoticed for the most part. However, if you're looking for challenging and rewarding arcade-style gameplay set in a radiant world then you'd be a goof to pass this up!
- + Simple, unique, well-paced, challenging, and incredibly satisfying gameplay
- + Wonderfully vibrant visuals
- + Packed with oodles of replay incentives
- - Transitioning between certain segments can often create confusion
- - In later levels, the intense difficulty can be too much at times