You know what? There are just times when you need to go mellow. You know what I mean. Soft colors, round edges, smooth beats. That's what I'm talking about, something to just lean back and let all the tension just wash away from you. And this is exactly what Arkeus' platformer Chromatic would be if, you know, it wasn't also completely finger burning, brain breaking, throw your laptop against the wall insane. Aside from that part of it, it's totally relaxing.
The goal in this skill intensive puzzle platformer is to nab as many coins as you can and then make it to the exit in the shortest time possible. As you might have guessed, there's a twist. Actually, there are lots of twists, and all of them have to do with, you guessed it, color. As in most platformers, you move using the [arrow] keys, with an option to jump using the [space] bar, and stroke [V] to do a horizontal dash. But you can also change your chromatic blob of goo's color by hitting [Z] to turn red, [X] to turn blue, and [C] to turn yellow. Each color has a certain advantage; red moves faster and can dash for longer distances, blue can wall jump and slide slowly down walls, and yellow can double jump.
But this is only the beginning of how color affects the game. There are jump blocks that only bounce you if your colors match, platforms that only support you if you're the right color, and beams of lethal electricity that will fry you in place if you are any color but the right one. And if you thought that all you had to keep track of were the primary colors, guess again. There are stationary fields of color, and collectible pickups that combine with your chosen color to turn you into one of the secondary colors (during which time you will have the powers of both component primary colors. For instance, when green you can wall jump and double jump at the same time).
So, okay, maybe this isn't the place to go to relax. In fact, after you're done with Chromatic you'll probably need to spend an hour or two listening to soft rock and drinking something with an umbrella in it just to decompress a little.
Analysis: Chromatic strikes a wonderful chord in providing an original idea and executing it brilliantly while at the same time providing outstanding gameplay in a well established, perhaps even overcrowded genre. But be warned, for all of its beauty Chromatic can get insanely hard and it's highly recommended that laptop users strap down their machines before frustration gets out of hand.
All the staples of a good platformer are here. Controls are tight and responsive, and hit detection is for the most part fair and reasonable. But what really makes Chromatic stand out is the color shifting. Admittedly, this isn't an entirely new mechanic in gaming, but Arkeus incorporates it in an original and complex way here. What makes this such a bold move and an ambitious game is not just having a new color swapping mechanic, but employing this into a tough as nails skill based platformer. But Arkeus pulls this off with an approach to level design that borders on sheer brilliance.
This is all rendered in a pleasing aural and visual package that is quite pleasing, even by Flixel standards. The music is soothing (which you may need especially on the trickier levels) and the graphics are gorgeous in a very simple kind of way. I particularly like the little details, the chink sound made when collecting coins, and the wind chime sounds of changing colors. Even the splashes of colors when you jump or swap hues feel like a pleasant little treat.
But part of what sets Chromatic apart can also be its largest weakness. In being so difficult, and having such a color intensive scheme, Chromatic is not very accessible. Unlike most puzzle based platformers that forgive lapses in skill and grant you plenty of time to plot out your next move, Chromatic rarely offers up this luxury, and sometimes puts you up to the seemingly Herculean task of coping with something as complex as swapping colors mid jump to hit a double jump after a wall jump, and then anticipating an involuntary color change after hitting a stationary color field, and all of this in less than a second. If it sounds hard, that's only because it is.
It would be a shame to let that scare you off though and there are a decent amount of easier levels and a level editor if the original stages just get too intense. Despite being insanely hard and none too friendly to the color blind, Chromatic is itself an awesome achievement. It molds together blistering skill platforming with puzzle platforming whilst injecting a unique concept into the gameplay, and it does this with few hiccups and awesome production values. If you're looking for the next big challenge, or just want to see a great concept incorporated into great gameplay, you'll want to at least give Chromatic a chance.