Portal 2 is in my top 5 games of all time. I love Portal. Portal is funny. Portal is challenging. Portal is at times infuriatingly tough. Portal is my perfect example of a Puzzle-Platformer. So when I get an email through from Ben, the CEO of Pixel Maniacs, with a code for Chromagun and a link to a PlayStation Blog article that says the word “Portal” 11 times, including the title, I got excited. I got excited… and sceptical. Could this be the next Portal?
I should preface the rest of this review by stating that I only played an hour or two of the game, so I’m still in the early stages. I feel like this has been enough to go on for a “first look” review that I can come back to after playing more to give a final verdict.
What is Chromagun?
Chromagun is a puzzle game where you move droids to hover over buttons to open the next door. Droids (I’m just gonna call ’em balls) are attracted to walls that are the same colour as them, so that is when your gun comes into play. You can paint some balls and some walls, but you can’t paint them alls. Take a look at some of the pictures in the article and you can see that some objects have a hexagonal mesh which protects them from being painted; these ones are staying whatever colour they start as. You can fire all three primary colours from the Chromagun, mixing them together for a total of 7 different colours, including mixing them all together to make black. (See my fabulous rainbow above!)
Balls are attracted to any same-coloured walls they can see in a certain radius. (I think they heard the saying, “Balls to the wall!” and just went with it.) This sets up some interesting gameplay as the ball will sit in the average point of all the walls it is attracted to. If the switch is in the middle of a room then you need to have a coloured wall on all four walls to keep the ball in the middle. You also have a bit of danger mixed in with these electric floor panels. If the ball hits one of those then the ball disintegrates, so be very selective with your sacrifices!
To add even more danger you can get some seriously pissed off balls. These balls just want to murder the crap out of you. Sometimes you might deserve it for shooting an innocent little spiky ball, but some are just bloodthirsty monsters. Don’t mess with the wrong balls. The only way to stop them chasing you is to distract them with a wall. Their love for same-coloured walls is your only solace!
Is it like Portal?
Errr… kind of? Chromagun definitely takes some inspiration from Portal. You have your gun that isn’t a gun. You have white lab test chamber things. You have a sarcastic guy commenting on your abilities in a GLaDOS-esque fashion, albeit not quite as funny. It feels reminiscent of Portal, but it isn’t Portal. Of course it has it’s similarities, but it has some major differences too, which isn’t a bad thing. For example, instead of moving yourself through a level, you move the balls around and just walk through doors. So far everything has been on one level, as in there are no slopes, steps or drops, at least in any of the puzzles I have played so far. It is very much a puzzle game rather than a mix with a platformer.
Again, that isn’t a bad thing; it is just a different kind of game. They key to Chromagun is taking your time to trace the lines from doors to switches, making a note of what colours are around, as well as what colour the balls are. Once you’ve made a mental note of all of these it is a simple case of piecing it all together. Or is it? A few times I have turned a ball from one colour to another to get it to move, or changed a wall to another colour to make the ball move away, only to go through a door and see that I need that ball or bit of wall to be a different colour. So how do you remedy this? Get another ball? Use another bit of wall? Break the puzzle in some way? These are all options, but sometimes nothing works. Once you get to that point you either have to let a murder-ball get you, jump on an electrified panel or just press pause and restart the level. It is a bit annoying. I feel like in Portal you never had to pause to restart a level and that is where being compared to Portal is a disadvantage; you compare it to what it is not, rather than judging it for what it is. This kind of thing ruins the immersion. they could have had a reset button in the pre-puzzle lobby or something to start it again without pausing. Sounds pretty simple, right?
Anyway, to finish off this section I will just answer the question. No, it isn’t really like Portal. Yes, it has some similarities, but the puzzles are all completely different. I feel like the Portal comparison is both helpful but also harmful in a way.
Is it good?
Yeah, it is good. If you are a puzzle lover then this one is a must-have for you! It is great at working your brain, logically peicing the puzzle together and getting a thrill at the end when it works. However, it isn’t incredibly polished. You can kind of fudge your way through levels by standing on a switch and running through a door before it closes, or even getting a murder-ball through with you to help complete the puzzle. Also, if I’m going to nitpick then I should mention the frame-rate drops. Graphically the game isn’t amazing, so it shouldn’t really have any problems with the frame-rate, but it definitely gets juddery and lags at certain points.
However, I shouldn’t complain about it too much. It is a PSN game that is only £11.99 and has a further 20% off with PS+. More than worth it at that price point, even with my little niggles! It comes out on the 22nd August on PS4, so make sure you check it out if you’re into a puzzle game that is just that little bit different to anything else.