Chromagun: review

  • Format: PS4 (version reviewed), Xbone, PC
  • Unleashed: 23rd August (PS4/Xbone), Out Now (PC)
  • Publisher: Pixel Maniacs
  • Developer: Pixel Maniacs
  • Players: 1
  • Site:
  • Game code provided by the developer

Here at Critical Gamer, we don’t like to copy what everybody else is doing. So, while we’re reluctant to say ‘Chromagun is a bit like Portal’… it is a bit like Portal. A gun that doesn’t fire bullets, used to solve puzzles in a series of test chambers while a disembodied voice (rarely) encourages and (usually) mocks you. The developers embrace the similarities, and acknowledge their inspiration; there’s a trophy/achievement called ‘Not a Lie’, earned for finding a cake “that we actually have, as opposed to that other game”.

The Chromagun is, basically, a futuristic paintball gun. You have an infinite supply of paint for the three primary colours, and you can switch between them at any time. You can change the colour of walls and the spherical floating droids that you encounter, except when you can’t because of a paint-resistant mesh covering. Why would you want to? Well, droids are attracted to walls (or paintable spots on the floor) of the same colour. Doors in the facility are opened via switches you’ll need to get these droids hovering above. Naturally, this isn’t quite so simple as it may sound.

There’s a colour-blind-friendly option, so nobody need be excluded. Another reason you might want to delve into the menus is for the aim sensitivity slider, as this is extremely wooly (but easily fixed) on console. With that done, you can concentrate on shooting paint everywhere and getting annoyed with yourself when you get it wrong.

The eagle-eyed amongst you may notice these are Xbox One press shots. But it looks the same on all formats, okay??

Things very, very quickly require more thought than ‘make this wall right next to the switch the same colour as that droid six feet away’. As previously mentioned, the colour of some droids and walls are fixed, and some droids will chase you (and kill you, if you let them) until attracted by a wall of the same colour. An extra layer of thought is required when you take into account the fact that the primary colours can be mixed to create new ones (just like real life!). There’s no way to remove or undo colours; mess up, and you need to restart the level. This is fine as a mechanic to punish mistakes, but can be frustrating on occasions where a specific colour is required… if said colour is only revealed behind a door or around a corner, after you’ve unwittingly burned your bridges on the way.

Considering the theoretically limiting core mechanic, the ways the developers have found to consistently offer new puzzles and a thought-provoking experience are impressive. These include suspending droids between two walls, temporarily activating switches yourself, traditional videogame demands on your reactions, ensuring that a droid is not being attracted to a certain wall, carefully coaxing a droid along a certain path, and more. Another similarity the game has with Portal is a very short run time, but this does at least ensure that things never come close to outstaying their welcome.

It all goes a bit dramatic sometimes. Crikey!

Unfortunately, Chromagun briefly yet painfully manages to kick itself up the arse right at the end. One of the final puzzles can not be solved without ricocheting paint pellets. The problem here is (a) it’s literally the only chamber in the game that cannot be completed without doing this, (b) judging the angle is very difficult, (c) the game doesn’t even explain that it’s possible to ricochet the paint, and to top it all off, (d) the ricochet is poorly visualised to the point that you can’t even see that’s what’s happening. We had to search the interwebs (using Google Chrome, of course) to hunt down a video of somebody completing the chamber in order to even understand what we were expected to do. You can do the same, but you really shouldn’t have to.

That misstep is a smudge on what is otherwise a smart, funny, and very well-designed game. Original and fun (plus an easy platinum trophy/1000g if you care about that sort of thing), if you’re looking for something different then you won’t be disappointed with this.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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