If you want colourful battles, video games have long been a good place to find them - at least in many cases. Colour has long shown us which barrels explode, which enemies take more hits, and where exactly our turf is. Chroma Blast takes the colour of competition and strips it down into a simple, abstract package.
Players control a diamond-shaped "ship" composed of four differently coloured smaller diamonds. These diamonds denote your weapons, which can be fired using the Y, X, B and A buttons. Whichever colour is in that respective position will fire its shot. So, for example, hitting the X button will fire a shot from the top-most colour, while A will fire off the right-most. Hitting the L and R buttons will rotate the positions of your colours.
The overall goal of the game is to navigate around a rectangular playing field, positioning the ship and cycling the colours to shoot down circular targets matching the colours of the shots. It sounds simple - and fundamentally it is - but there can be a surprising mental challenge when trying to move, spin weapons into position, and fire all at the same time. Starting off, don't be surprised to see the colour you want to fire, spin it into place, but still hit the button for its original position. It can take a little bit of practice to wrap one's head around the coordination.
Enemies all drift from one end of the field to the other. They don't make any offensive moves toward the player and feel a bit more like objects in Asteroids. Some will take one hit to down, others will take two or more. Some will change colour periodically, while others will change colours when shot at (and fire a sporadic shot in the meantime). It would be nice if there was more personality in play, but at least it's not difficult to tell the bad guys apart.
When you hit an enemy with the same colour shot as it currently displays it counts as a hit; it's also possible to ram an enemy with the same-coloured part of your ship to destroy it in Normal Mode. Use the wrong colour, though, and the shot reflects back at high speed, bouncing across the field for a bit before disappearing. Get hit with an enemy or shot and lose the coloured diamond it hit, reducing your arsenal. Lose all four diamonds, or get hit where one was already lost, and lose a life entirely.
Chroma Blast features two similar modes of play with slight changes in the rules. Normal Mode demands players take out a certain number of enemies to win. Survival Mode just asks players to keep alive as long as possible, but ups the ante by making any shot or collision instantly fatal. Otherwise, both versions operate similarly, with kills gradually cranking up the difficulty.
Both modes also contain the same power-ups and perks that add some spice to the game. Power-ups can be gathered on-screen to add points, restore a colour, make enemies vulnerable to all colours, and other effects. Even more interesting are the modifiers that pop up inbetween waves. These will often grant give-and-take bonuses, such as increasing speed or score at the expense of enemies also being faster or taking more shots to destroy. Two choices always come up and one must be selected, making modifiers both fun to fiddle around with and a potential source of dread.
The speed modifiers might become a favourite selection, as Chroma Blast can feel pretty slow, especially at the start when there's less on the screen at once. On one hand it provides more time to think and arrange shots, but it also feels like the game could benefit from a greater sense of threat from the enemies. It could also have been nice to have upgrades that stick around, such as being able to make certain colours stronger to change whether a player might favour them more.
Those who love to attack high scores will be pleased to see online leaderboards for both modes and the ability to post them to Miiverse. There is also a colourblind option that shifts the hues to make them potentially easier for those with this condition to differentiate.
The presentation is pretty basic, but very practical. The playing field itself is a somewhat bland layout of gray hexes, but makes the colours of the ship and enemies pop out as well they should. The soundtrack is not broad, but serves in the background well without becoming annoying.
Chroma Blast has an engaging "cycle-and-shoot" mechanic that can feel at first like rubbing your head and patting your stomach at the same time. It's still very learnable, however, and not frustrating to make the process of doing so. The power-ups and modifiers are also very welcome. Even so, there's still a certain level of intensity in the encompassing fight that seems to be lacking. It would be exciting to see what developer WizByte Games could add to this formula on a second attempt, and arcade-style score attackers who lean more toward tactics than twitch could certainly do worse than this.