A colourful take on reality.
Hue, a puzzle-platformer from Fiddlesticks, is a game obsessed with colour – with what that means for a world in monochrome, and what it tells us about ourselves. It uses this central conceit to good effect, exploring it in surprising depth and creating intricate levels. Appropriately, it’s a beautiful game, and scored by an equally lovely soundtrack. The world’s a joy to traverse, but for all that it’s so empty.
The game tells the tale of the titular Hue. Your mother has created something called the ‘Annular Spectrum’ – a ring that makes it possible to see colours. But the ring’s been broken, turning her a ‘strange shade’ and making it impossible for her to be seen or interact with the world. Now, she needs you to bring the ring together and save her.
Hue’s gameplay is centered around colour and the manipulation of it. You discover these colours scattered across the world – the first, blue, lies within the village that you start in. The rest lie further afield. With that, the game introduces you to its core mechanics. Selecting a hue on the wheel fills the world with it; objects of that colour disappear while you have it selected. The game builds its puzzles around this. Hearteningly, it has a colour-blind mode – in this, the colours are coded with symbols.
The levels of Hue are filled with platforms and obstacles of varying shades and type, disappearing and reappearing as you cycle between colours. At the beginning of the game, they’re fairly simple but develop in complexity as you journey further into the world and fill your colour wheel. You use the left-stick to move and you cycle through the colour wheel using the right-stick. The game’s difficulty curve is largely forgiving: whenever it introduces a new mechanic – such as colour coded lasers- it generally does so in a simple puzzle, before integrating it into more complex levels. Death is low-consequence, restoring you to the start of the level, no worse for wear. The gameplay provides a satisfying experience; the level-design is often cunning and the puzzles can take creative thinking to get through.
There are several levels connected to a hub. The entrance to the various areas of the game is blocked by colourful obstacle. Since you don’t get most of the necessary colours until later in the game, your progress is naturally staggered. You can travel between worlds you’ve discovered through the game’s map. Traps and puzzles are reset by travelling, and since the only reason to do so is collectable flasks scattered throughout the world, mostly there’s no need to do so unless you’re aiming for total completion.
Hue’s narrative is slight, and its world mostly empty but for a few NPCs. These few wanderers don’t have much to say to you, interaction with them limited to a few lines. Hue’s a silent avatar: the plot is delivered largely via letters from your mother as you travel. She writes to you, from wherever she’s trapped, musing on what’s happened to her but also on colour in general. She talks about her research at the university, and what led to the present events. The story comes out slowly and as light a presence as it is, it’s still a tale that’s at times heart-breaking and heart-warming.
It’s in the monologues on colour that the game shines. It raises interesting philosophical points on our perception of colour – whether one person’s red is truly the same as another’s- and discussing how language shapes our reality. The two-dimensional nature of the world isn’t just an artistic choice either; in one of her letters, your mother jokes about discovering a third one.
Hue’s world is beautiful – the style of the game is a silhouette based design, Hue and the landscape of the world a solid black against the sky. It makes for an elegant picture, and it’s a joy to explore the game marvelling at the environments. The soundtrack makes this a particularly enjoyable experience: it’s an exquisite, piano-driven score, at times contemplative and at others urgent. Throughout, it makes for a fantastic sonic background to Hue’s travails.
Hue is a deceptively simple game, near guaranteed to draw you in to its world. The game’s levels develop in complexity as you progress and by the latter stages of the game, they can be fiendishly complex. At the same time, it’s also a meditative experience with its beautifully drawn world and soundtrack. Hue is a game well worth your time.