ChromaGun is a first person shooter/ puzzler from indie developers Pixel Maniacs. In it you must use the titular experimental prototype to solve a series of increasingly difficult chambers in a testing lab, while a sarcastic administrator-type makes snarky comments through the intercom. Puzzles are colour based, and revolve around using the ChromaGun to paint sections of wall in order to guide the floating spherical ‘Worker droids’ to pressure switches to escape and progress to the next room.
The basics are simple. The ChromaGun can paint certain surfaces either red blue or green, and a second colour can be added to make purple, green or orange. Attempting to add a third colour will paint the surface black and render it unusable. Dotted around each room will be some worker droids (which can also be painted). These droids will be magnetically attracted to a wall of corresponding colour. Painting a wall blue for example, will snag hold of any blue droids in the vicinity and hold them there. If a droid is floating above a pressure switch, a door will open and allow you to progress.
It all works surprisingly well. Early on in the game you’ll be jauntily painting walls and droids to solve simple one-switch puzzles with a wide margin for error. Slowly but surely the puzzles will get trickier. Danger will be introduced such as the ‘Deadly Electrified Maintenance Tile’ and worker droids covered in spikes. The administrator’s charismatic voice will make witty remarks at your expense and provide some light comedy to compliment the growing sense of achievement you’ll get from solving a tricky room. It’s all good stuff, but by no means perfect.
I think the main problem is that although the game has borrowed heavily from portal, the titular gun just isn’t nearly as exciting. Portal saw you solving physics-defying puzzles using teleportation and momentum whilst ChromaGun has you painting walls to escort floating spheres onto switches. Furthermore while Portal had GLaDOS and Wheatley providing a dark and hilarious narrative, ChromaGun’s administrator (while admittedly smooth-sounding) does little more than make sly comments in a condescending tone. Sure he’s funny in places, but overall lacks the menace provided by his robotic inspiration.
The visuals aren’t great either. While the ChromaGun itself looks nice enough and has a cool little effect that happens when you switch colours, everything else looks pretty textureless and basic. Considering the fact that they are one of the only objects in the game you see on a regular basis, the worker droids are little more that floating spheres with blocky looking spikes that pulsate large and small in a very basic animation loop. And the clipping on these things is absolutely shocking, with droids merrily merging a quarter of the way into one another as they float around the stage, devoid of any personality at all.
The sound design is pretty great though, and ticks a number of boxes for me. The music compliments the feel of the game nicely and manages to be menacing and soothing at the same time. The hints and general narration provided by the silver-tongued administrator were always welcome, and usually provided me with a smirk as I played, and of course bonus points go to Pixel Maniacs for incorporating the speaker in the Ps4 controller. That feature still impresses me to this day and is criminally underused in games, so it’s always nice to see it used properly.
It’s not a bad game, so if you’re into puzzlers don’t let my negatives put you off, because it plays well. Solving a level feels great, especially later on when they start getting really bloody tricky. Also, I know this game isn’t Portal, and judging an indy game side by side with one of the most innovative games I’ve ever had the pleasure to play might seem a little unfair. But the developers obviously knew that this comparison was inevitable. They went out of their way to actually include a hidden cake to find, complete with a PS4 trophy ‘Not A Lie’, the description of which reads ‘Find the cake we actually have, as opposed to that other game that doesn’t have a cake.’, so it’s not like they are ashamed (nor should they be) at all of such blatant imitation. I just couldn’t shake that knockoff feeling. I felt like I had a cheap imitation of the portal gun. A toy copy that shot paint instead of portals. Fun enough, but not just quite real thing.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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