Available On: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows
Developer: Pixel Maniacs
Publisher: Pixel Maniacs
Genre: Action / Puzzle / Shooter
Official Site: Pixel Maniacs
Release Date: September 13, 2015
Where To Buy: Steam, PSN Store
ChromaGun is no Portal, but the good news is, it isn’t trying to be. While the similarities are inescapable- a first-person puzzler that has you moving through a high-tech facility using an unfinished weapon – ChromaGun is able to carve a place for itself with the unique (and challenging) use of color mixing. Hope you all paid attention in kindergarten.
Players assume the role of an unnamed test subject, who must move through the ChromaTec facility while using a new weapon named, you guessed it, ChromaGun. The ChromaGun is more or less a type of paint gun that allows you to fire off a variety of colors in order to escape your current room. These colors can be shot at white walls and used to re-position the various hovering balls known as WorkerDroids in order to progress through the levels.
Yes, those are killer spikes on the Droid.
Initially, the whole thing sounds pretty easy, but ChromaGun definitely has its challenging moments that can make even the best of puzzle players stop and think, or at least have to restart the entire level for, quite literally, painting yourself into a corner. The more you progress through the game, the easier it is to get stumped or chased around by the WorkerDroids that are just dying to attack you. There are eight levels for all of the eight chapters, and each one is more well-crafted and challenging than the last, requiring a good amount of thought and patience.
While ChromaGun starts you off easy in the beginning with only the color yellow on your weapon wheel, you are soon upgraded to a multi-color ChromaGun with blue and red options, in order to create orange, green, and purple (now is the time to recall your lessons from kindergarten).
With your upgraded ChromaGun, this is where the game really starts to show its…colors (sorry) and just becomes pure fun. Not every white wall needs to be colored in order to progress through the level, but rather some of the blank walls can serve as your very own color-mixing board- you know, just in case you forget that yellow and blue make green.
When the WorkerDroids are the same color as a wall panel, they are drawn to it like magnets. It gets more intense depending on the size and layout of the room, but to make things even more challenging, the spiked WorkerDroids will attack if there isn’t a colored wall to which they can attach. I have had many an angry WorkerDroid chase me around the room while I desperately tried to mix the appropriate colors.
Pixel Maniacs has found the perfect balance between player engagement and each chapter’s level of difficulty. Playing ChromaGun never feels like a chore, and it also manages to escape the moments of deep frustration that can plague even the best of puzzle games. It’s never not enjoyable. Although you don’t technically “win” anything for making it out of a room, there’s a sense of accomplishment that lingers after doing some heavy color mixing between the walls and the Droids. Your five-year-old cousin would be proud.
There does come a point, though, where mixing colors to paint a wall becomes more of an act of precision than simple instinct. Sometimes the WorkerDroids need to be positioned just right in order to unlock the door and exit the room. If you mix too many colors, however, the wall will become black; and if you just so happened to need that particular, now-black wall, you can kiss your hard work goodbye, because the entire level has to be restarted and not just the puzzle that stumped you.
It can be challenging to find your rhythm with ChromaGun. While no two levels are obviously alike, there’s no steady trajectory of the levels getting increasingly difficult. Even as late as chapter six, some levels are easy to fly through, while others take way more thought and trial-and-error.
Making your way through the ChromaTec facility is a lonely experience, both in terms of companionship and lack of music. There is an unnamed voice that speaks to you every now and then, with just the right amount of snark to prompt you in the right direction, but it’s not excessive. The silence is not immediately noticeable, given how much of your attention is on escaping a room, but there does come a point where the silence of ChromaTec is all you can hear. While all of the colors are visually stimulating, there really isn’t much else that gets the senses going, or which contributes to the gameplay experience. However, this may be a plus for players who solely want to concentrate.
Verdict: ChromaGun is an indie title that is able to carve a place for itself in the puzzle genre, despite any comparisons to other games. Pixel Maniacs took a unique concept and created a steady balance between making it exciting yet challenging, and each level leaves you with a sense of accomplishment.
- The concept of color mixing for puzzle solving
- Each puzzle offers its own unique set of obstacles
- Pixel Maniacs found the perfect balance between challenging and fun
- Having to restart the entire level if you mess up
- Maneuvering through ChromaTec is a solitary and quiet experience
Tori is a writer and gamer originally from Vault 111, but now she resides in Chicago. She has an MFA in creative writing-fiction, runs primarily on coffee, and is an expert on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Follow her on Twitter @torithatnerd.