Chromagun is a first person puzzle game with more than a passing resemblance to Valve's much loved Portal games. Despite the immediate similarities, its developer hopes to impress with its own sense of witty humour and fiendishly clever colour based puzzles. With only three colours to choose from, it might seem that ChromaGun is keeping things simple with the challenges that lay ahead, but when you discover the colours can blend into new ones, the puzzles become that bit more fiendish. It's a portal, but not to the experience you're expecting. With ChromaGun set to lock and load on Nintendo Switch on 22nd January, we sit down with Steve Crouse, Creative Director at Pixel Maniacs to find out more....
Nintendo Life: Congratulations on bringing Chromagun to Nintendo Switch.
Steve Crouse: Thank you, it’s an awesome step for us to see our first game out on a Nintendo console.
When did development start on the Switch version?
We were quite quick with the Switch version, I think we began development last November.
It seems like a simple idea, but with a lot of scope for upping the challenge of using multiple colours.
That’s true, ChromaGun is based on a super simple idea, but the difficulty ramps up quite fast after the first chapter.
How was the design process regarding the use of colour for the puzzles?
The idea for the color attraction was the first thing we had, that’s what the game was developed around. The puzzles themselves evolved through the entire development cycle. Basically, what we did is build an empty test chamber, with an entrance and an exit – and then tried to find a unique way of blocking the player’s path. Then, we found a way for the player to un-block that path. After doing that often enough, certain mechanics and elements began to crystallize, and at some point we had enough mechanics to stretch them out over the course of the game.
How was the progression regarding puzzles and introducing new gameplay elements handled?
It was difficult to determine the difficulty of a chamber. We playtested over and over, and re-sorted the cambers every time. Overall, the difficulty increases from chapter to chapter, and we tried to sprinkle a few no-brainers in-between here and there, sort of as breather-levels to avoid player frustration.
Were there any ideas you wanted to include but didn't/couldn’t?
We cut a bunch of ideas out of the final game. Some because of time constraints, some because they just turned out not to be fun. For example, we had a sort of paint-waterfall, that would change the color of your shots. Maybe we’ll use some of these ideas in ChromaGun 2, if that ever becomes a thing.
What was your interest and exposure to the rumors of Nintendo Switch/NX?
We’re all fans of Nintendo. I don’t think there’s a single person on the team who never had at least one Nintendo console – so obviously, we wanted to see ChromaGun on the Switch.
What's the reception of the Switch been like in Germany?
I don’t have any specific sales numbers, but based on what people are telling me, people here love the Switch. And I see a lot of them on trains and buses (accompanied by their humans).
How was it working on a title for Nintendo Switch?
Porting Chromagun for the Switch was super rewarding. It didn’t take too long, and Nintendo has been really great in terms of supporting us with any problems.
What do you think of the console and its success so far?
In all honesty, I was skeptical when it was announced, and I didn’t intend to buy one. But after getting some time hands-on with the Switch, I absolutely fell in love with it. It’s a great console, and an amazing handheld, and I think it’ll perform really well in that sort of crossover market.
Many in the press and the gaming community make comparisons to a certain Valve first person physics bending puzzle game...!
Is it Half-Life?
How do you feel about that?
Well, ChromaGun is obviously influenced by Portal. In a way, it’s a love-letter to Portal, so we knew that it was going to draw comparisons, and that’s cool.
Is that flattering?
Being compared with Portal is absolutely flattering. Imagine people comparing your garage rock band to AC/DC, that's fantastic.
What differentiates Chromagun from it?
Well, at a superficial level, they are very similar – and that’s by design. We added some jabs and nods towards Portal – The art style reminds somewhat of Portal, the narrator has strong parallels to a certain psychopath lady-bot, and both games share a genre. But at its core, ChromaGun is a completely different game. For one, there are no portals. The puzzles rely more on analytical pre-planning, and environmental manipulation, in that you paint walls and move droids around the chambers, rather than moving around them yourself as much.
What Nintendo games did you and the team play growing up?
I spent probably way too much time catching fish in Ocarina Of Time, and destroying friendships in the original Mario Kart. Between all of us at the office, I don’t think there’s a lot of games that haven’t been played around here.
What's next for the team and the IP?
Right now, we’re working on finishing our next game, Can’t Drive This, which will also be released for Nintendo Switch. In terms of ChromaGun, we’ll just have to see. Maybe, some day, we’ll do a second part, but there’s no way of telling as of now.
Thanks to Steve Crouse for taking the time to speak to us, and you can grab a copy of ChromaGun on 22nd January via the Switch eShop. And be sure to let us know what you make of the game in the comments below...