Version Tested: PS4
Also Available On: Vita, PC, and Mac
Developer: Fair Play Labs
Publisher: Niffler Ltd.
Genre: Indie Action, Runner
My eyes were bloodshot, my head pounding. I had trouble focusing on objects. Noises came from everywhere at once. Was I insane? Had I finally lost it?
Nope. I was just playing Color Guardians again: navigating endless tracks of land, switching colors at the blink of an eye, and restoring chroma back to a grayscale world. The latest release from Costa Rican developer Fair Play Labs is just as colorful as the name suggests. Color Guardians functions as a runner game, similar to BIT.TRIP Runner, with a Mario flavor added. You play as one of three selectable characters: Rod, Lia, and Grock (my boy). These are the Color Guardians and their job is to restore color back to the world after a large dragon-creature named Krogma stole it.
In order to save the color of the world, our heroes must run over blobs of color and well… not die. The mechanics of the game are simple, you control an avatar who is perpetually moving forward and navigate them up and down across three paths. The Color Guardians are able to change their color at will, and in order to pick up the small, and sometimes big, globules, the color of the character needs to match of colorful sphere. X changes your character blue, square changes you red, and triangle changes you yellow. The directional stick moves you up and down the three tracks. That seems simple enough to remember. There’s even an on-screen key in case you forget.
You’re going to forget. Color Guardians will fry your brain like an egg. The game moves fast and the player is tasked with not only matching colors with quick reaction speeds, but also avoiding obstacles, many of which are also color coded. Color Guardians slowly unfurls its bag of tricks over the course of 50 regular levels spanning across five areas, not including the five boss levels. Your character goes from platform hopping, to gliding on parasols, defeating goblins, and even riding in mine-cars. It’s platforming at lightning speed, but matching colors at the same time. My mind fired on all pistons as I repeatedly jammed the wrong buttons and fell to my doom. I recommend playing as Grock, the primarily yellow character. Each time you die the character will make an annoying sound that emits from the speaker on the controller. Grock’s is the least annoying, while Lia’s sounds like a puppy getting kicked.
The biggest problem I had with Color Guardians was that I found myself mentally exhausted after only playing a couple of levels. The colorful art style, cheerful music, twitch gameplay, fast pace, and color switching resulted in sensory overload. It wasn’t a game I couldn’t stop playing, it was a game I had to stop playing. There are certain points where if you match the color of an object, you die. These are often in between sections of color matching. Drool came out of my mouth and my brain packed up his briefcase and left.
That not to say that Color Guardians isn’t a solid game overall. The controls are responsive, the graphics seem polished, and the gameplay at it’s core is fun. It just suffers from a case of identity crisis. The art style and storytelling seems geared toward children, but the gameplay is often times quite challenging. The game has plenty of replay value geared towards hardcore gamers. Each level, when completed awards between one and three stars depending on how many color globules the character picked up. The only way to achieve three stars is to collect all the globules. Diamond stars are awarded if you get a “Perfect” while collecting each color orb. This is a matter of hitting the right color button and performing a spin move at the same time you collect the orb.
Getting these stars unlocks character models, concept art, and game music. After clearing an area (ten levels and a boss), creatures called Tokis will be released. If you go back to each level a collect all the Tokis, secret levels will be unlocked. That’s a lot of content, but if you’re not into the gameplay and art style, you will be sorely disappointed. Color Guardians is essentially the same game from start to finish. The boss levels switch things up, but each of the boss levels functions the same way and with the same enemy: Krogma.
Unfortunately, I found the gameplay and style overbearing. Color Guardians is a game that many will surely love, but just as many others won’t care for it. My advice would be to try before you buy. If you play a couple of levels and really enjoy it, good news. You’ll probably enjoy the rest of the game and the challenges that await. For this reviewer however, Color Guardians left me exhausted and unfulfilled.
Color Guardians is currently available for $14.99 on PS4, Vita, PC, and Mac.
What did you think of Color Guardians? Is your brain still functioning? Do I need to call a doctor? Oh, you’re ok? A glass of water then? Lets us know in the comments below.
And we’ll be right back with that water.