ChromaGun is a simplistic-looking title, but don’t let the graphics fool you: This title is heavily inspired by Portal and has a number of tricks up its sleeve for players of all ages.
Players begin ChromaGun in the lobby of a sickeningly white walled and well lit corporate facility, and are guided through a variety of test chambers by a voice over a loud speaker that commonly quips about the player’s intelligence. If that sounds familiar, that would be due to Portal making a name for itself using that exact same formula. While the test room and announcer presentation force comparisons to Portal, the relation is third or fourth cousin at best: ChromaGun implements its own puzzle mechanics the whole way through, without relying on ideas from Valve’s popular puzzler.
Walls in the testing facility can be painted with different colors of radioactive paint from your ChromaGun (patent pending), which conveniently has infinite ammo. The gun itself fires three primary colors that can be mixed through the same basic processes of subtractive color mixing in the RYB color model (sorry, no CMYK for you, ChromaGun went old school with it), so red and yellow make brown, yellow and blue make green, and so forth. All through the testing facility, there are white non-patterned walls and floating worker droids that may be white or may already be colored, depending on the puzzle. Painting a wall and a worker droid with the same color will draw the droid toward it, seemingly magnetically, and is the primary method of puzzle solving used throughout ChromaGun.
The physics puzzles of ChromaGun require players to keep track of the variety of combinations in magnetized color to press buttons or move worker droids out of the way by attaching them to walls. Sometimes players will be tasked with forcing a worker droid to hover in between multiple walls, painted in matching color, to press buttons in the center or the corner of a room. The ideas ramp up slowly, with some new minor adjustment in how you solve a puzzle using the same mechanics, in every single level. With each new stage, you’re going to do at least one thing differently than you were required to do to accomplish any level prior to it. It’s this approach to puzzle solving that makes ChromaGun an absolute delight- the difficulty curve is relatively constant all the way through (though there was a difficulty spike or two in the latter half that required stopping to think about what to do next).
A rewind feature of some kind would have been a much appreciated addition to ChromaGun. In fact, any method of undoing a move would suffice, honestly, as it can be a pain to work your way through 90% of a level only to accidentally shoot the wrong color and have to redo the whole level again. Once a wall or droid is painted a color there doesn’t seem to be a way to ‘un-paint’ them. A paint thinner shot would have been beneficial for younger players trying to reason their way through the game- my neighbor’s nine year old, for example, had to restart later levels five or more times while trying to figure them out (obviously I didn’t help him even though I already beat the game. Sink or swim, kid!).
Unfortunately, though, that seems to be the only way to pad out of the length of the game, as ChromaGun will only take between two and three hours to complete. This can be seen as a negative or positive, depending on how you look at it: ChromaGun doesn’t repeat puzzles nor does it exhaust the player with repetitive tasks, but also it doesn’t stick around long enough for a player who enjoys the gameplay, as just when you reach the more difficult puzzles, the game is over. It can be difficult to justify the price for the software when it’s this short, even if the game in question is a pretty fun experience.
The graphical appeal of ChromaGun isn’t exactly that great: The game appears as if it could be run on Windows XP desktops with little trouble. Objects are very simply rendered, and though the visual presentation isn’t cutting edge, players shouldn’t have any trouble recognizing what is and is not an object with which they can interact. The game runs great on the Switch, with no noticeable slow downs, screen tearing, or graphical glitches, too. The music is… well, it’s fine. None of it was particularly memorable, though the disembodied voice that entertains the player over the loud speaker perfectly fits the, “Corporate Hell” overtone of ChromaGun’s sparkly clean test facility.
Overall, ChromaGun is a very entertaining puzzle game for Switch. The game runs well, it plays very well, but the largest issue is that it’s 2-4 hours of content for $20. Those hoping for a sprawling, multi-hour puzzler like Portal 2 simply won’t find that kind of value in ChromaGun. If you’re open to quirky and inventive puzzle games that can be played in between other activities throughout the day, ChromaGun may be the perfect fit for you. It can be hard to justify $20 for such a short physics based puzzle game when World of Goo is already on the Switch eShop for $10 and offers around 7-8 hours of content, while Snake Pass is the same price and should keep you busy for at least 6-10 hours. If you have already exhausted the other budget puzzle game options on Switch, however, ChromaGun is a fantastic, if short, experience.