ChromaGun review for PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Pixel Maniacs
Developer: Pixel Maniacs
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

ChromaGun is awfully similar to Portal.

I don’t think I’m saying anything that the game’s developers would dispute when I write that. In fact, seeing as they themselves titled their PlayStation Blog post from just over a month ago “ChromaGun is Like Portal, Except It’s Not,” it’s probably safe to say that it’s a comparison that they’ve actively tried to invite.

Even if they hadn’t, the comparison would be inevitable. I mean, it’s a game where you’re running around a mysterious research facility, using a special gun to open and close doors, while a sarcastic voice eggs you on. If that’s not Portal in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

There are obvious minor differences, of course. Where Portal had you opening and closing portals, ChromaGun draws on your knowledge of grade school-level colour-mixing as you spray the blank walls with colour using the eponymous weapon. “WorkerDroids” — quasi-sentient floating balls — are then attracted to walls of the same colour; drawing them over top of switches opens doors, which in turn lead you on to the next level. Also, Portal’s heroine was much more agile; whereas Chell’s jumps felt like, well, jumps, when your character here in ChromaGun hops, it feels like you’re barely moved.

There are other, more significant differences between ChromaGun and Portal, though they’re less to do with gameplay, and more to do with ChromaGun simply looking worse by comparison. This game’s sarcastic, unseen narrator is clearly meant to evoke GLaDOS, except where GLaDOS was hilariously menagcing, ChromaGun’s just comes across as kind of a jerk. The insults aren’t as clever, and the overall writing just isn’t as good.

Similarly, ChromaGun is far too prone to wasting your time with stupid little issues. The levels aren’t very long, but every time you reach a new one, you’re forced to sit through a loading screen. Individually they don’t take up too much time, but it doesn’t take long before they start to add up. Similarly, it’s quite easy to play yourself into a corner; all it takes is one wrong colour, and the level becomes impossible to beat. When that happens, there’s no way to fix your mistakes, and you have no choice but to restart the level from the beginning.

Don’t get me wrong: ChromaGun is undeniably fun for what it is. If you want more Portal in your life — and who doesn’t? — then it will give you precisely that. But at the same time, it constantly gives off a feeling akin to watching a cover band plod its way through a classic song. It may feature a lot of the same notes, but in the end, it’s all just a pale imitation.

Grade: B-