Republished on Wednesday 27th September 2017: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of October's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
Puzzle games often have a serious problem with striking an even balance between being challenging and fun. Too often developers will swing in one direction, making their game either frustratingly hard or a walk in the park. Indie developer Fiddlesticks has managed to strike the golden balance with its charming puzzle platformer, Hue.
Hue sees you take control of the titular character in a 2D side-scrolling adventure, as you attempt to rescue your mother. The key mechanic in Hue, and what sets it apart from other puzzle platformers, is the colour wheel accessed by the right analogue stick, allowing Hue to manipulate the background colour of any environment. This gives Hue the ability to make obstacles such as fallen rocks completely disappear, or make previously hidden doors suddenly appear. These are the types of simple puzzles you'll be fed in the opening minutes of the game, allowing you to wrap your head around and properly understand the mechanics.
As you progress, puzzles become more complex, with you needing to move crates around, open pressure-plate doors, and find keys to move on to the next area. Slowly, you'll have new colours added to your arsenal, allowing puzzles to become more intricate as well as allowing you to explore previously hidden locations.
Initially the puzzles are very static and require little more than changing the colour wheel to the correct colour, however the game soon combines platforming segments with the colour changing to create far more unique and thought provoking puzzles. Often you'll find yourself making jumps while needing to change colours mid-air so that a brand new platform appears. These sections are a thrill to play through, and the addition of a bullet-time mechanic when using the colour wheel helps make these sections more accessible to those less skilled with platforming, while those who want a challenge can switch colours with a flick of the stick.
Unfortunately, changing colours in platforming sections doesn't always work as well as intended, as often you'll find yourself inadvertently switching to the wrong colours. The wheel has eight individual colours, so you need to be incredibly precise with your analogue stick movement or you'll find yourself falling to your death.
The platforming in Hue isn't exactly the tightest we've ever seen, with jumping feeling quite floaty. However, it seems the developers realised this and adjusted for it by making the safe area where you can land on platforms quite lenient, which helps keep things from ever becoming frustrating.
It will take you about half a dozen hours or so to play through the entirety of Hue, but throughout the entire experience puzzles never become repetitive; they are constantly being changed up and new obstacles are always being introduced right up until the final level. This keeps Hue from ever feeling stale and makes the playthrough good from start to finish, as you constantly have new barriers to overcome.
While the consistent additions of new obstacles and new colours makes puzzles more complex, at no point do things become overwhelming or frustratingly hard. Each new puzzle is challenging, and some areas take many attempts to complete, but you'll never feel like there was a hurdle too great to clear. The solution to the puzzles always feels within reach, and each attempt gives you another jigsaw piece, until finally you put together the complete picture and make it through smoothly.
The only drawback of Hue's puzzles is that the pink and purple and the orange and yellow colours look far too similar at first. This results in a number of failed attempts at solving puzzles, as you'll switch to pink instead of purple and end up impaling yourself on spikes rather than landing safely on a platform. Fortunately, the more time you spend with the colours the easier it becomes to distinguish between them.
Hue's story is quite charming and seems to take some inspiration from The Unfinished Swan. Hue's mother turns invisible one day due to her experiments in trying to create the colour wheel, so it's up to him to try and bring her back, all the while receiving colours from a mysterious hooded figure. Almost the entirety of the game's story is told through voiceovers of letters Hue finds around levels. This actually becomes quite soothing to listen to as you travel from level to level.
Hue lacks replayability, as once you've completed the game the only thing left to do is find secret vials hidden around levels. This isn't much of a deal though, as the main story does take a while to complete.
Hue is a puzzle game rarity. It manages to be both fun and challenging, meaning it confidently accommodates the hardcore puzzle fans as well as those that are usually completely hopeless. The colour wheel mechanic gives the game a unique angle, while the level and puzzle design is incredibly clever with puzzles never becoming stale or repetitive. Fiddlesticks' charming puzzle platformer has coloured us impressed.