Eurogamer Expo 2013: Chroma hands-on
One of the most exciting things about going to a videogame convention is the chance that you might happen across something new, exciting and unexpected. This year at Eurogamer Expo, that something was Chroma.
It’s easy to reel off a list of comparisons that describe the feel of this independently developed puzzle platformer. Your protagonist looks like a pixelated Super Meat Boy; its mostly monochromatic aesthetic is reminiscent of Limbo; and its sound design, all synthetic resonating notes, reminded of Fez. See, that was easy. But simply describing Chroma though its inspirations doesn’t convey the promise that it showed in the short ten minutes I spent engrossed by it.
And when I say engrossed, I truly mean it. I commented to its developer, Mark Foster, that his demo was the only one that I had played after two days at the show that I felt really compelled to complete. If you’re read this Mark, I wasn’t lying.
Chroma’s central premise is elegant and full of potential. You have two forms – light and dark. The former illuminates the two-dimensional world, creating shadow and light; the latter can walk on top of the dark, shadowy platforms that your former form has created. In essence, it’s a puzzle platformer in which you have to create your own platforms to progress by using the interplay of light and dark.
Switching between these two forms is as simple as tapping a button. I spent a short amount of time with Chroma, but in play this mechanic was instantly understandable, and I was toying with it, devising solutions on the fly within minutes.
Initially, shaded pathways could be created by standing next to a slightly higher platform than myself, and progressing was simply a matter of figuring out the distance away from that platform that I needed to stand at to create a walkway at the correct angle. Later on, this shadow-creation became more complex. Angular pipework cast a background shadow against my illuminatory presence, essentially doubling up the number of platforms in a scene depending upon where I stood. That seems to be where Chroma’s puzzle aspect will come into play. It’s about figuring out where to plant your light bulb form so that your shadow self can reach the otherwise unreachable.
But again, simply describing how Chroma plays isn’t enough to tell you why it’s one worth watching.
There appears to be a focus on shapes in the game, one that I couldn’t deduce the purpose of during my time with it. I collected a triangular object that seemed important, and another little triangle followed me around Navi style, bringing me back to life when I fell from too great a height and shattered. It was these kinds of touches that made Chroma feel like a game being created with a reverence for classic eight and sixteen bit era titles, very much evoking the same warming nostalgia that Fez did. But at the same time it felt refreshingly new, simple and enjoyable to play.
Yet, again, it’s not just this aspect of Chroma that made it such a pleasant, promising surprise. It’s no one thing, really, rather it’s all of those things that I experienced during the too short preview: the nostalgia, the intuitiveness, the simplicity and the beauty. It’s this combination that makes Chroma such an exciting prospect.