Developer(s): Pixel Maniacs
Publisher(s): Pixel Maniacs
Platform(s): iOS, PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 1/22/2018 (Switch)
ChromaGun is a first-person “Portal-like” puzzle game involving a multi-color paint-shooting gun, and while not entirely original, its basic premise is really interesting.
Heavily based off of the genre that Portal carved out, the gameplay mechanics involve painting specific walls either red, blue or yellow, with a special gun, or mixing them together as green, purple or orange. You use these colors to attract orb things (they have names but let’s just call them that) toward the paint. The colors have a magnetic quality to them, which is the main mechanic at play here.
The puzzle difficulty mostly remains on a casual level, which isn’t a complaint really, as the game never seems to want to come off as a hardcore challenge. Issues with the gameplay, however, make a lot of the puzzles a repetitive chore that’s more frustrating than fun.
There are several things that can go wrong when playing ChromaGun, things that feel like they could’ve been ironed out. It’s very easy, for example, to aim at the wrong panel on a wall, or a color-able orb, or to simply mix the wrong color, all without any recourse.
If you end up making a mistake, such as mixing the wrong colors together, you end up with an unusable black shade and, well, you have to start the entire level/floor over at that point.
Considering how easy it is to aim at the wrong thing due to the highly imprecise aiming controls, you might end up messing up the last piece of a puzzle at the end of a floor, maybe even multiple times, even if you already knew what it was you were supposed to do.
On top of this, some of the laws of magnetism in the game, relevant when shooting the same color on multiple parts of the wall to sorta balance the orbs between, are never clearly explained or introduced in any concise way to ensure the player understands the concept.
Considering the casual nature of the puzzles, all of this is an odd and confusing punishment and/or oversight. ChromaGun isn’t like playing a skill or memory-based trial-and-error challenge, so starting over from the beginning of a level simply comes off as a lazy, or at least maladroit, design choice i.e. a checkpoint or redo system would have required actual planning to implement to the game — It comes off as if though it was simply easier for the game’s designers to make the player start over.
If it were a trial-and-error game, repetition would be great, even necessary, to fully comprehend certain gameplay mechanics that would be relevant in future puzzles. The lack of actual challenge, however, where there’s nothing really to learn or gain from replaying, makes it a chore to retread old ground.
As mentioned before, It’s safe to say that ChromaGun is heavily inspired by Valve’s Portal series, which isn’t all that surprising for a puzzle game of this kind in this day and age. The aesthetics of ChromaGun however, come off less like an inspired derivative of Portal but more like what you would get from a weird, bootleg-ish looking release on a cellphone app marketplace which would probably be called something like “Science Gun Puzzle”, complete with the very rushed, basic-assets that make up the visual design of the game.
Of course, gameplay-wise, ChromaGun isn’t a direct knock-off like that, not at all, but its presentation (including the less than stellar music and voice-acting, written to be like Portal without any of the charisma, or even sense, to go with it) makes it come off that way. The lack of a proper visual direction wreck any kind of identity ChromaGun could’ve otherwise had.
It’s unfortunate. The concept here in ChromaGun has the potential for a lot of depth, style, and creative originality, but even ignoring the failed attempts at copying Portal, the concept just isn’t fully fleshed out enough to constitute a complete product.
ChromaGun‘s gameplay, on paper, is a solid idea that I would’ve loved to have seen realized in a cohesive way, within an original setting. I would still love for that to happen, maybe within a follow-up game, but that simply isn’t present here right now.