ChromaGun was a fun puzzle game when it launched on the PlayStation 4 in 2017. Reminiscent of the iconic Portal, but simpler, our reviewer Blake Grundman enjoyed his time with the indie puzzle shooter. A year and a half later, developer Pixel Maniacs has created ChromaGun VR. It, as the title suggests, is for the PlayStation VR. Is this puzzler a good match for VR, or should players stick to the traditional 2D format to paint the bots red? Find out in our ChromaGun PSVR review.
Familiar, but Different
ChromaGun VR has a few of the same elements as Portal. Players take on the role of a silent character who is tasked with reaching the end of a few dozen puzzles. Whereas Portal relied on its so-called portal gun, ChromaGun relies on its namesake, a gun that can shoot paint. Eventually, the chromagun can shoot all three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. By mixing these colors (which the game constantly reminds you is a pre-school activity), puzzles can be solved.
Most puzzles involve hovering robots known as Worker Droids. Some of these droids are passive, while others have spikes. Shooting these droids with paint can color them, unless they have a grid-like paint which indicates that their color cannot be changed. Either way, shooting a spiked droid will piss it off, as it will become electrified and come straight for you. However, if a certain type of wall is hit with the same color paint, then the droid will be drawn to it immediately. The cruxes of most puzzles involve moving these droids in such a way that pressure pads are pressed that to open doors leading to the exit. It’s simple on paper, but can become complex in practice. Many puzzles become multi-staged affairs that take a bit of thinking to solve.
Overall, the puzzles in ChromaGun VR aren’t too tough. If you’ve beaten Portal and/or its sequel, the puzzles offered here aren’t nearly as complicated. What can be frustrating is that there is no undo feature. Painting one wrong wall or accidentally shooting a droid can completely ruin a runthrough of a given level. It’s understandable that there is no undo feature, such as the replay ability we often see in other higher-budget games. But simply being able to paint a wall white to reset it would’ve been immensely helpful. As it stands now, making the wrong move will usually result in forcing a reset of the current level, unless you luck out and there are multiple blank walls near your intended target.
Virtual reality can often breathe new life into games, but they have to be ported with care. ChromaGun VR is a great PSVR port, though a lot of that has to do with the original game. It has a first-person perspective for starters, which already lends itself well to VR. It’s also slow-paced, which means most people can play through the entire campaign in one sitting without coming down with a case of motion sickness. However, it seems ChromaGun was simply ported over with the new control scheme and little else.
There is a new form of colorblindness assistance, whereby each of the three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) are represented by a shape: circle is red, a horizontal line is blue, and a vertical line is yellow. Combining these shapes combines the colors, and each secondary color is represented by a mixture of those shapes. It’s more intuitive than dealing with numbers, which is how the original ChromaGun dealt with this issue.
Most of the levels in ChromaGun VR can be played while sitting down. A few sections are easier when the player is standing up and able to quickly turn in either direction, but these moments are few and far between. While there are the aforementioned colorblind settings unfortunately there are no options to change the handedness of the gun. It always defaults to right-handed mode. This is fine for the vast majority of players, but for southpaws (yours truly is among those, at least when it comes to shooting), you’ll need to get comfortable with moving with your right thumb and shifting your view with your left. Thankfully, ChromaGun VR is usually slow-paced enough that this isn’t too big of an issue, but some people are so left-handed that this issue may be insurmountable.
The Unity engine powers ChromaGun VR, and it does so admirably in virtual reality. Tracking is incredibly accurate, especially with the Aim Controller. The frame rate stays high throughout the adventure, even as the action finally picks up in the fifth chapter of the campaign. (There are eight total.) There is the occasional instance where a reset of a level results in the player being stuck. This can be rectified by moving around a little bit, but every now and then it also requires another restart of the level to break free. It’s an annoying bug, to be sure, but not really a dealbreaker.
The audio in ChromaGun VR is a bit of a hit-or-miss. There is a narrator who progresses the barebones story along. He’s a sarcastic, deep-bass announcer, who almost sounds like he’s going for a William Shatner kind of vibe. Most of his lines are quips following the player’s death, and so the beginning of the game is going to consist of ChromaGun VR’s lone audio track for most gamers. His lines are good for a chuckle here and there, but the same (very) small set of lines are rotated in each time the player dies. This quickly becomes repetitive. The floating Worker Droids also make a few subtle noises, though the electrified ones give out a constant crackle of electricity. Pressure pads also make sci-fi-esque sound effects as they activate and deactivate. ChromaGun VR also does not appear to utilize the 3D positioning capabilities of the PSVR’s included headset, which is a shame.
ChromaGun VR feels like the form the game should have launched in from the start. The campaign is only a handful of hours, which is about the same amount of time most people can handle VR in its current state. The Aim Controller works quite well in this (mostly) non-violent puzzle shooter, even if lefties have to adapt to the control scheme. Still, an undo function could’ve saved players from some frustration when they either misfire or accidentally use the wrong color. ChromaGun VR is a funny, occasionally challenging first-person puzzler, and one that is enhanced in VR.
ChromaGun VR review code provided by the publisher. Version 1.02 reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.