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Monday, 22 January 2018

Review: ChromaGun

Shoot loads of bright colours at the walls... for science!

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Pixel Maniacs | Nintendo Switch | Digital Only
1 Player
Reviewed by - Curtis Chapman | 22nd January 2018

Developers Commentary by: Benjamin Lochmann - Pixel Maniacs

* Review Code Provided by: Pixel Maniacs *

Nintendo Play is joined for Developers Commentary by Benjamin Lochmann of Pixel Maniacs, Producer on ChromaGun.

Pixel Maniacs invite you to join them at Chroma Tec Labs to shoot paint at the walls and solve some puzzles in their new title, ChromaGun. Released today for £17.99, if you’re thinking that simply firing balls of primary colour is going to be a walk in the park, you’re going to be sorely mistaken.

A brand new colour-technology, The ChromaGun, is ready to be tested in a super secret military test facility. Enter, Chroma Tec Labs. Similarities to the Portal franchise are impossible to miss and it would be hard to go through the game without making the comparisons while walking the corridors of Chroma Tec Labs. From the high tech test labs full of whooshing doors to the wisecracking voice constantly quipping in your ear, all it’s really missing is the cake... and if you look hard enough I’m sure you’ll find that too!

Benjamin: Portal wasn't much of an influence when we began development of ChromaGun. In fact, the first version of the game was set in space, and the enemies were strange colour-blob-thingies. At some point we realized, that we had a chamber-based puzzle shooter, with a gun that doesn't shoot bullets – so we decided to have some fun with it and bring in the Portal flair.

With the ChromaGun in hand, the game falls into a series of rooms, each room contains the standard puzzle of opening the exit door and proceeding to the next room. The ChromaGun shoots balls of the primary colours red, blue and yellow. It can hit walls, changing their colour, or can also hit one of the robots known as WorkerDroids that hover motionless in most rooms. Having a robot in proximity to a wall of the same colour will cause the robot to move toward the wall, more than one wall in proximity and the robot will split the difference. This mechanic is used to position the robots over various switches around the rooms, causing doors to open and the player to move on. To increase the complexity all wall and robots can be painted twice, mixing the colours to make purple, green and orange, allowing for more complex puzzles. Extra challenges such as the inability to shoot certain walls and WorkerDroids, spiked WorkerDroids that chase you and electrified floors all add to the difficulty. Once you’ve finished a room or two you’re greeted with a set of stairs, beckoning you to the next level, and more puzzles.

The story, as an unknown entity with the opportunity to be a test subject at Chromatec labs, is something that, on initial inspection may just leave you thinking that the usual lab setting is just a coincidentally useful framing device to show off a prototypical weapon and its bizarre tri-colour gun gameplay mechanics without having to really provide any continuity with the outside world. While this holds true to some degree, the story does well to move the player’s story forward and offers a firm ongoing narrative.

Benjamin: ChromaGun didn't have any story at all, until the last few months of development. Until then, it only consisted of a numbered list of chambers. To make things more interesting, we added the narrator. That brought along the addition of several more story-elements, like (spoiler alert) the night chambers.

The game comprises of 8 chapters of varying length (around 6-9 stages each).I f you consider yourself an average puzzle solver the entire game should take you between 4 – 5 hours from start to finish. This isn’t a bad length at all, considering the flow of the game and the pace of the story. With the main premise revolving around a handful of ways to interact with colour, by the end you’ll probably be a bit burnt out shooting paint at the walls anyway.

Benjamin: Yes, we see about 5-6 hour average playtime for the first playthrough. We had a bunch more ideas for puzzle elements, which didn't make it into the game because of either time constraints, or because they simply weren't enough fun.

For a title entirely about mixing colours it does a fantastic job employing its colour-blind mode, which you can toggle on and off through the in game options. Icons are stencilled directly onto robots and surfaces along with the colour selected. It would have been really awesome to see this mode further developed upon, implementing the mode without any colours appearing at all. It would create a much greater challenge for those finding the games puzzles too simplistic and would in turn raise awareness and generate a greater appreciation for the issues faced with those living with colour-blindness.

Benjamin: We never thought of creating a literal color-blind mode for players without color-blindness. It's not a bad idea, though.

One shortfall of ChromaGun is the sheer amount the game finds itself in a loading screen. While loading times are fairly quick, early levels are short and you’ll find yourself back in a loading screen after you have just passed one or two intentionally rudimentary rooms. While not always easy to implement, contextual loading screens like the elevators seen in both Mass Effect 1 and Portal 1 are creative ways to disguise loading times, if Pixel Maniacs had implemented a similar feature it may have turned a room by room puzzle into a seamless interconnected journey through Chromatec Labs. Instead it has opted for a logo and progress bar, unfortunately breaking immersion every time it appears.

Benjamin: We tried to keep loading times as short as possible, and we would loved to have implemented a more creative way of loading subsequent chambers. ChromaGun was our very first game, so we had our hands full with the game itself.

The game controls well using the analogue sticks with either the face buttons or the L trigger changing which colour is currently in the chamber, ready to shoot. The omission of gyroscopic aiming for the Switch is a shame it opens the game up to those not necessarily as adept with the one stick look, one stick move first person control of console gaming. Considering ChromaGun is also on various other systems, the chance is high that they didn’t consider enough players would take up that would warrant them going to the lengths to add it in.

Benjamin: In all honesty, it didn't cross our minds – but it's something we've heard a few times now, and it's absolutely something we could see ourselves adding, perhaps in a future update.

A solid, fun five hour puzzle game with good production value can easily be found in Pixel Maniacs ChromaGun. With the new Portal title completely abandoning the first person concept of the puzzler, fans are now looking elsewhere for their Portal fix. If you’re one of them, or if you just fancy the opportunity to run around shooting paint and solving puzzles, then this is definitely for you.

Many thanks to Benjamin Lochmannfor his discussion during this review.


+ Challenging puzzles
+ Interesting ChromaGun mechanic
+ Entertaining narrator

- No Gyro aiming
- Relatively short

Verdict: Very Good Job - Recommended Buy

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