Colours should be easy, right? Take one primary colour, mix it with another and a whole new one blends into existence. Easy peasy. But take that simple notion and leave it in the company of a clever, puzzle-minded indie studio and things start to get… well, complicated.
Now those colours can be pumped from a gun - the titular semi-automatic, nano-acrylic firearm, to be precise - and used to solve all manner of puzzles involving spherical robots, switches, electrified tiles and questionable safety practices. And yes, with its test chamber conceit and sarcastic narrator it does share a passing resemblance with a certain cult series set in Aperture Science Laboratories, but that association is only skin deep. ChromaGun has its own, very different trials for you to face.
Within the guise of a first-person shooter, what you’re really dealing with is a physics-based puzzler with a devious streak. Your handheld launcher comes loaded with an infinite supply of primary colours - that’s red, blue and yellow for those of you who slept through that particular class - which can be painted on white, unpatterned walls and floating robots known as WorkerDroids. If a bot is near enough to a wall of the same colour, it’ll automatically be drawn towards it; it’s basically about juggling magnetised colours and once you’ve grasped the basics, developer Pixel Maniacs starts to riff on its seemingly simple setup.
With new elements introduced at a pace that’s nether overly rushed nor painfully drip fed, ChromaGun throws in more ideas to the mix that elevate each one before it until you’re juggling trick upon trick upon trick. Colours can mix in real life after all, so it only seems fitting for the same principle to apply here. With the colour count doubled by the addition of green, purple and orange, now you’re thinking about which WorkerDroid to shade differently when presented with a room full of floor-based switches.
It's then you start to see just how deep the paint-splattered rabbit hole goes. That ability to attract one colour to another can create momentum, enabling you to swing those droids around a chamber and through doors in a way that’s pleasingly reminiscent of Breath Of The Wild’s special abilities. It gets even deeper (read: more complicated) when you learn some droids are passive (and can only be moved by using painted walls to drag them around), while others are active and will chase if you have the temerity to splat them with isotope-laced acrylic. It’s just another dimension to a game that keeps blooming its own ideas into myriad clever enigmas; a puzzle game with a colourful twist.
You’ll certainly feel stumped a few times, but you rarely feel cheated or oppressed by the number of principles being juggled. Difficulty spikes are there, especially in the latter half of the game, but its trial and error format adds to the experience rather than detracts from it. Everything feeds back into itself to create a systemic set of physics that will test that squishy, twitching muscle in your skull with ever-increasing chambers of perplexing conundrums. With 26 levels to complete you’re looking at a playtime of around 4-5 hours at most, and it’s a credit to Pixel Maniacs that by the time you put ChromaGun down you’re left hungry for more.
And let's not gloss over just how relatively smoothly it runs on Switch, either. While its environments do lose some the aesthetic details present on other platforms - such as a greater use of dynamic lighting or more detailed windows/partitions - those sacrifices ultimately ensure ChromaGun runs as smooth as fresh paint. There’s rarely any slowdown or asset tearing of any kind; even the loading times between retries (and there will be many considering you can turn walls black with too much paint or accidentally destroy droids) pass swiftly. There is some noticeable aliasing, with a fair few jaggies to be found when you get a little close to a droid or scenery element, but it rarely impacts the game's overall aesthetic.
The analog sticks of Nintendo Switch do feel a little cumbersome at times, but we find adjusting the sensitivity settings in the menu improved this considerably. We’re also impressed with the inclusion of a ‘Colourblind’ mode that adds a corresponding symbol to every colour so you can play the entire game, from start to finish, even if you’re missing a few colours from your eyesight. It’s a thoughtful touch and one we haven’t often seen implemented elsewhere.
Despite feeling a little too short in all, there’s no denying the satisfying allure of ChromaGun’s first-person puzzlery. More a hat-doffing love letter to Portal than a clone, it offers a unique experience on Switch - one sure to having many a cheek flushed with happy colours.