The most terrifying explanation of blindness is that you don’t see endless blackness; it’s been described as seeing nothing. If black and white are still colours on the visible spectrum, if those colours are still seen by light bouncing off our retinas, then to see nothing means those would be absent. No constant black, no constant white, you just see nothing. It’s a hauntingly real yet inconceivable aspect of human life.
In Hue, your world starts with the basic colours: black and white. As you plop along the flat streets of your village, you can easily make out the contrast between the light and dark. There is depth; there’s a believable world. You can still see, but for some, it’s not enough.
Narratively, Hue has a simple premise. A mysterious woman leaves you letters asking you to come and rescue her from a dimension beyond yours. She claims the world is blind: the skies and waters should be blue; the grass should be green; the sun should be yellow. Of course, the world isn’t blind. The world doesn’t see nothingness, it’s just without colour, and nobody seems to mind.
As you travel through the world to rescue the mysterious woman, you’ll bring colour to your dim world, but you aren’t bringing it back. The colours haven’t been lost; this world just never knew it existed. Over time, through voiced letters, you’ll learn about experiments that went wrong. Through screwing with reality, by trying to see colour, the woman broke her own reality. Despite being told to stop, she didn’t listen.
Hue’s storytelling talks ethics, but it never really acts upon them. You won’t get a choice to bring colour to the world, despite the fact that others may not want it. You’ll simply follow a set path until the end. This story is engaging and thought-provoking, but it highlights the experience’s linearity; it reaches for meaning but is void of any meaningful player input in a narrative sense.
Set within a Metroidvania hub, Hue tasks you with finding the “mysterious letter woman” and unlocking the control of eight different colours: Aqua, Navy, Purple, Pink, Orange, Red, Yellow and disgusting 'DS Lite' Lime green.
Unlocking a colour grants you mastery of it. With a flick of the right stick, you can change the background hue, making any colour-matched object pop out of existence. It makes for some interesting puzzles: moving coloured boxes, manipulating a coloured laser, matching bounce pads that change colour every time you jump on them – it’s all rather inventive.
Unfortunately, Hue’s puzzles don’t really become complex or satisfying until the end of its journey. Its novel concept of taking colours in and out of existence is brilliant, but it never gets the chance to truly stretch its legs.
Later puzzles can prove both difficult and engaging. One memorable section involving colour-coded Thwomp alternatives, spilling paint pipes and lasers was a thoroughly entertaining and left us totally befuddled for a while; when we solved it, a real sense of satisfaction occurred. But these moments are few and far between; for every thought-provoking conundrum, there’s about four that feel like you’re simply going through the motions.
Outside of collectable Erlenmeyer Flasks hidden within levels, there’s not much of a reason to replay Hue at any point. Its story is clear and concise, its levels are memorable enough, but it certainly feels like a one-and-done experience. It’s unique and inspiring – and it looks absolutely stunning at times – but this is a game that feels lacking in either challenge or motive, or both.
Hue is an interesting title. It’s unique and striking, but it always feels just a hair's breadth away from true brilliance. The few moments of exasperation after finding your way out of a confusing situation are some of the best a game of this type could possibly have, but they happen so rarely throughout the four-or-so hour running time that their impact is dulled. Hue could have been something more, but what’s here is engaging enough if you’re gasping for an inventive indie puzzler.