Looking like a cross between Limbo and Apotheon, Hue is a charming puzzle-platformer that distinguishes itself by employing a unique colour-switching ability as its chief mechanic.
You play as the titular Hue, a young boy who wakes up to find his mother has gone missing, trapped inside a monochrome existence by the mysterious Dr Grey (geddit?). Hue sets off to save her, aided in his quest by a magical ring that can restore colour to the world and help him navigate its many hazards.
Players start out with the ability to select just one colour, light blue. You change colours by using a menu wheel operated with the right stick. When you select a colour, the world's background switches to match it. This means that if there are any light blue objects on the screen, they will disappear, allowing you to pass through them. After solving a few basic puzzles, you add another colour to your inventory, and then another. As you do so, new areas can be opened up to explore, but the puzzles within become steadily more complex the more colours you have at your disposal.
It's a simple mechanic but one that results in some fiendishly difficult brainteasers, especially towards the end of the game. Some puzzles allow you to take your time, arranging different-coloured crates in order to reach a key you'll need to open a door; whereas others require quick reflexes, making you switch rapidly between colours mid-jump to avoid falling boulders or skip over collapsing platforms. Throughout its playtime, Hue does a good job of introducing these elements gradually, allowing you time to figure out your own solutions to new challenges before ramping up the difficulty.
Using the right analogue stick slows down time, allowing you to switch colours on the fly. Most of the time, this works well. However, it can be imprecise, leading you to select the incorrect colour at a vital moment often resulting in your death. There are no mid-level checkpoints or manual saves so when you die, you go back to the start of the puzzle. This can be a bit frustrating in the longer later levels, especially when it feels like it was the control system's fault that you died and not your own. An additional issue is that several of the colours you acquire look very similar to each other. Yellow looks like orange and pink looks like purple. To alleviate this problem, Hue has a "colour-blind" setting that gives each colour an icon to help you distinguish it. Even though I'm not colour-blind (or at least I didn't think I was), I found the game much easier to play when this feature was enabled.
Throughout his adventure, Hue finds letters left to him by his mother. They relate the details of her scientific experiments and how they led to her present predicament as well as containing some touching personal messages to Hue himself. Although it's a very minimalistic way of telling the story, it still has an emotional impact, especially when combined with the plaintive tones of the game's piano soundtrack. Hue consists of six proper levels in total with some hub areas linking them together. You'll find a couple of his mother's letters in each level, usually in sections that require you to do nothing more than climb up and down ladders while you listen to her narrate them. Unfortunately, when you want to revisit levels to replay them or find collectibles, you still have to run through these empty sections which, without the narration playing, are a bit of a bore.
Overall, Hue succeeds both as a cleverly crafted platformer and an emotional piece of story-telling. Its colour-selection controls mar the experience a little, but its charm and ingenious puzzles more than make up for that.
- + Ingeniously crafted puzzles
- + Well-judged learning curve
- + An emotional story told through minimalistic narration
- - Colour-selecting controls can be unreliable
- - Sections of dead time when replaying to look for collectibles
- - Some colours look too similar