PlayStation VR has had quite a few puzzle games recently, from the magical XING: The Land Beyond, to the physics-based A Fisherman’s Tale. However, the game I’m taking a look at today has technically been out since August 2017, ChromaGun. Well, the ‘Flat’ version of the game came out almost 17 months ago yet the VR version was released yesterday for the PSVR headset. Taking a step into a new dimension, ChromaGun VR enables you to play through all of the original levels in a much more immersive and satisfying way.
The game is officially by Pixel Maniacs but the PSVR port was put together by a single developer at the request of many fans who asked for this feature upon its initial release. There’s one downside though, for those who already own the game – ChromaGun VR is a separate purchase from the original ChromaGun, rather than an upgrade. So, I guess the main question is, should you pick up this title if you own a headset but you already have the game? Let’s find out…
ChromaGun VR feels a lot like Portal if Portal involved painting the walls so giant spiked balls don’t crush you to death! Okay, so the premise and the goal isn’t like Portal, but the aesthetics are. Without any story or exposition, you’re a test subject within ChromaTec who is tasked with taking the ChromaGun for a test drive as you try to solve and escape all the various test chambers. So, you’ll venture through pristine white test rooms, one by one, trying to solve the colour-based puzzles which are stopping you from progressing to the next floor.
At first, you’ll pick up a single colour ChromaGun which can shoot out a single colour to help you solve the puzzles, yet you’ll soon pick up a tri-barrelled gun which can alternate colours. Sounds pretty simple so far, doesn’t it?! Paint walls and droids so that the doors open and you can move on. However, it’s obviously not going to be that easy! The droids which reside within the test chambers are there to help you, but if you don’t watch what you’re doing, they can turn on you and literally plummet you to death with their big spikes.
So, do you feel like you’re the right candidate for the job? If so, read on and I’ll explain how the game actually works.
The VR implementation
Before I get into the actual ins and outs of the game itself, I need to talk about the VR implementation as I’ve had a strange reaction to it. Okay, first of all, the whole VR conversion was done by one person and that’s quite amazing. The game itself works great in VR with no loss or tracking, a perfect height and Zero Point location, and a mostly clear image with great performance. Initially, when we received review codes, the game only supported snap turning, this was soon resolved as smooth turning was implemented via a patch before launch. I had personally requested this as the snap was fine but it wasn’t accurate enough to always end up aiming the way you want to.
And here lies my issue – the smooth turning makes me physically sick. Now, I really don’t know why this is – maybe I’m still a little queasy from playing Eden-Tomorrow, or maybe it’s because I was a little tired when I played it? Either way, I managed to play about half an hour on smooth turning before I had to literally take off the headset to avoid my body reacting badly to the device. This is strange for me, as I’ve never had an issue with VR before, yet recently a few games have affected me in this way. However, I went back on it a few hours later and turned on snap turning and it was fine. Also, I think the degrees you turn in may have been lowered as snapping seems a bit more responsive than it was initially.
So, your mileage may vary as to whether you wish to go smooth or stay snappy, but both ways seem like a great way to play the game. Also, the game doesn’t use move controllers, but you can use either the DS4 or the Aim Controller – that’s right, it’s a new official Aim Controller game! I don’t actually own an Aim controller though, so I can’t comment on how well it works, but I imagine it works great as the DS4 usage is as expected. In-game, you initially have a floating DS4 controller, but that soon gets replaced with the ChromaGun once you pick it up, you aim it via moving around your controller in real life as well – no ‘looking at what you want to shoot’ here!
So, putting aside the VR setup, how does ChromaGun VR work, if you’ve not played the original version? As previously mentioned, your goal is to open the exit and move on, this requires you to get the drones to sit on top of various switches so that they are turned on. In the early stages, this is as simple as painting a panel on the wall with any colour and then painting an orb the same colour. Unlike magnets, the same colour attracts and pulls in the orb.
This later becomes a little more complicated where you may have a switch in the very centre of the room – this will require you to colour in the panels on both sides of the room as both panels will begin to draw in the orb, thus making it hover in the middle (like a game of tug-of-war). Other mechanics come into play such as orbs which can’t be coloured (so you have to work with whatever colour they are) and black orbs which won’t get pulled in by any colour on the wall. Also, I hope you know what colours you can create by matching the three primary colours together! You’ll have to mix together red, blue, and yellow in order to make orange, purple, and green for some puzzles, add the third colour and the wall or orb becomes black and useless.
But wait, there’s more! The further you get, the trickier the puzzles get. First, you’ll have water-like barriers which stop your paint going through, then you’ll have barriers you can’t walk past, and you’ll even have to ‘take the orb for a walk’ as you get it to follow you until you can hook it to a coloured wall piece. Each new puzzle makes you think and some will require multiple playthroughs as it’s so easy to accidentally screw yourself over and make it impossible to complete.
ChromaGun VR isn’t a narrative-heavy adventure game or an open-world adventure in VR, so there are few accessibility options you’ll need. However, this is yet another game which clearly states English and German subtitles on the PSN store, yet there are no subtitles in the game. I’m beginning to think that PlayStation means ‘Menu language’ and not ‘Subtitles’ as this is not the third PSVR title this week which claims it has subtitles yet it doesn’t. Just like I said in those reviews, I always have them on but I don’t need subtitles, yet those who do may feel misled a little. Also, there is little talking due to it being a puzzle game, but hints are tips are delivered audibly, so subtitles would have been welcomed.
The main thing, which I imagine a lot of you out there are asking about is, for a game based on colours, what about colourblind people? Another game I queried this in was The Spectrum Retreat, an awesome indie title which was based on colours. In that game, you could literally re-colour all the parts using an RGB slider until they were all distinct for the individual to clearly differentiate. ChromaGun VR deals with colourblindness by placing a unique symbol on the panels, this is based on ColorADD, the colour identification system. So, the panels will still be coloured in as normal, but a symbol will appear to help people differentiate between the ones they are having trouble telling apart.
Finally, VR sickness. As you can move around freely – no teleportation, it’s all free-move, I feel we should have the option for blinders. Again, I’m not a fan of blinders and I’ll never use them, but there is a large chunk of gamers out there who get motion sick and will find the free movement very nauseating and sickening. As such, having an option to increase the size of blinders, as we saw in Eden-Tomorrow, would actually help a lot of people and make it much more accessible.
As I said though, this VR port was officially done by a single person, he did a great job in getting it working as well as it does, so I imagine a few things may have been overlooked or possibly left out for technical reasons.
Visually, ChromaGun VR looks good when you don the headset. You start off within the foyer of ChromaTec and it may take you a while before you even realise you can actually move as the menu is just floating above the desk! From here you can go and watch the credits within a cinema, go and pester Sheila (I don’t know her name, but she looks like a ‘Sheila’), or jump into the elevator and take on the next puzzle. Everything up close looks very clear and things only become a little fuzzy if they’re quite far back.
Now, there is one technical issue, which I believe is both for accessibility and performance purposes – loading screens. Don’t worry though, we’re not talking Anthem-level waiting times! After each test chamber, the original game had a staircase you would ascend so you can enter the next room; In ChromaGun VR you are met with a loading screen for about five seconds upon completion and then you appear at the top of the stairs. Again, this isn’t a big issue, as it’s there to serve a purpose (I presume), but it is noticeable.
Soundwise, the music is like a cross between Muzak (elevator music) and an ’80’s synth album – it’s great. I always say you need relaxing and calm music when playing stressful puzzles which you have to think about and ChromaGun VR fits the criteria here. The sploshing of the painting the walls is very satisfying and therapeutic as well as the stock sound of your character dying upon being hit by big spikey balls! I do wish the subtitles form the flat version of the game were present in this VR version, but for those who can hear the voice acting, it’s done rather well and the guy in charge is almost as patronising as GLaDOS.
Five levels of the game:
Despite the obvious influences, ChromaGun VR is a solid VR puzzle game which will get you thinking. The game feels like it was made for VR, even though it came out over a year ago as a flat PS4 title. The puzzles were entertaining and challenging the further into the game you got, with the constant threat of rogue balls waiting to follow you and squish the life out of you should you wake them up. I did suffer from a burst of motion sickness using the new smooth turning method, but I can’t guarantee if that was the game or the previous game which may have left me feeling a little queasy. As such, there are a few comfort and accessibility options missing such as blinders and subtitles, but these can be added post-launch if enough people request them I guess.
If you like to paint, and you like balls, then ChromaGun VR is for you. It’s challenging and satisfying, as well as relaxing, in a therapeutic kind of way. However, if you like what you’ve read and don’t own a PSVR headset, you can pick up the regular ChromaGun instead. Similarly, if you already own ChromaGun, there is nothing new in this version apart from the VR implementation and a new platinum trophy, so it’s up to you should you wish to re-purchase the game.
- - Over fifty puzzles to work your way through, at around five to six hours
- - It's like the game was made for VR
- - Very clever puzzles and solutions
- - Colourblind mode and option of snap or smooth turning with full locomotive
- - Supports the Aim Controller
- - No subtitles, even though the store says it does, and no blinder support
- - Exactly the same as the original Flat game, with no extra content or deal for owners of the original
- - I did get nauseous while playing (not affected the score as it may have been a previous game that did this)
- - Loading times between levels. It's not long but it's noticeable when playing for a while