Review: Colorz (WiiWare)

Colorz
Genre: Action/Puzle
Developer: Exkee
Publisher: Exkee
Release Date: 09/07/2009

I was first introduced to Colorz by a trailer I found on the developer’s website. It featured colourful worlds with lighter backgrounds, a soothing ambient soundtrack and pretty straightforward instructions as to what the game was about. Quite frankly, from this small demonstration of the game in motion, it looked like a kid’s game, something that would be quite easy to go through and which I would be quickly done with. I have to admit that I approached the game not without prejudices, but all of these were swiftly destroyed after a couple of minutes. The truth is, Colorz turned out to be a pretty punishing game.

However, as a lot of fans of old-school games will know, “hard” does not necessarily means “good”. There’s a difference between a game that is difficult and challenging by design, and one that is simply frustrating because of its flaws. As you can guess, Colorz, while presenting some fun and clever mechanics, unfortunately falls into the second category.

Let’s take a closer look.

STORY/MODES
After a while of playing the game, it dawned on me that no story had been introduced at all. The only thing you know is that you are a weirdly-shaped alien controlling a spaceship, and that you must smash into what looks like viruses or disembodied alien heads with spikes around them. The reasons for doing so are never explained. You are only told what to do by what we assume is the chief alien: collect objects that are of the same color as your ship, avoid those which are not, and then land on pad at the end.

There are no cut-scenes to be found here, nothing that could give you a clue about what’s going on. I know that games of the past never really required a story move on, just a solid concept; still, in 2009, it would be nice to just have a little set-up, as small or silly as it could be.

The game only has one basic game mode, which can then be split depending on the number of players. There is nothing different between the single and multiplayer mode, except for the fact that there are now people helping you, thus making it easier.

Story/Modes Rating: Dreadful

GRAPHICS
Graphics are pretty much two separated parts which look nothing alike: the foreground is full of bright, bold and colourful sprites that give life to the game. The background, on the other hand, is paler and somewhat abstract. Both are beautiful, and the lighter backgrounds are perfect to make sure that no mistakes can be made because an enemy blended in with a similarly coloured part of the level. I actually like the nameless alien controlled by the player, as it possesses different expressions depending on what’s going on around him. The “chief alien” is also nice if a little bit weird in its design. I don’t really know what he’s all about, but he looks like what would have happened if the Roswell alien crashed in the middle of Woodstock. Quirky choice, but I appreciate originality.

The backgrounds are usually nothing more than an ensemble of lightly-coloured shapes that look like they are fighting for screen space. When combined with the music and the alien theme, it gives everything a trippy vibe that looks perfect for those times when you are under the influence… if only the game didn’t require as much coordination.

Graphics Rating: Good

SOUND
I’m not too good at describing genres of music, but if I had to try with the soundtrack of Colorz, I guess I would call it “smooth-techno-ambience”. Basically, it’s the kind of music that makes you gently tilt your head to the side, like rave music that was mixed while the engineer was on Prozac. It’s nothing that will stick in your head through the day, but it will not make you want to turn down the sound either. As bizarre as it is to say, it is not memorable, but I wouldn’t see any other kind of music fitting as well with the game as this one does.

No voice acting is provided here, even for the chief aliens. The sound effects are fitting without being annoying, which is all I could want.

Sound Rating: Above Average

CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY
This is where everything comes crashing down. The main problem of Colorz is that it is basically a multiplayer game with a single-player mode tacked on. Selling this game as anything other than a multiplayer affair is misleading, as the game becomes as frustrating as anything you have ever played before if you play it alone.

When starting a single-player game, you are first taken to a tutorial level. Your ship is controlled via the pointing feature of the Wii remote, and the only thing you have to do is to collect enemies of the same colour as your ship. Sometimes, circles of different colours will appear which will also change your ship if you touch them. This will permit you to advance when the line of enemies is of a different color. Basically the whole game follows this entire principle. Same colour = OK, different colour = not OK. The pointing is precise and efficient, even when you need to move your ship through tight spaces.

Trouble arises in the second level, where you are immediately introduced to a second ship, which is also under your control. This one is controlled with the nunchuk’s joystick. At that moment, the game stops being simply about matching colours and becomes an exercise in dexterity and coordination. Moving a single ship through a moving screen without it touching a single enemy is feasible, but it is significantly harder when you need to control two at the same time. With both ships being of different colours, one can be used to deflect enemies that would hurt the other, but you can also fusion both ships to become another colour. For example, the fusion of a red and a blue ship results in a purple ship, which can then go through purple enemies. This does lighten the load for a while, but this cannot be used at all time. Most of the game is spent guiding a ship to make way for the other, which is sitting on its own way behind. Even then, you have to hurry because the levels scroll automatically, which means that even the waiting ship can take damage if you don’t pay attention. Does that sound bad? It’s not over yet!

Soon after, a third ship becomes available, which is controlled with the d-pad on the remote. You read that right: you must control three different ships at the same time. I will assume that dividing one’s attention between three tasks going on at the same time is something difficult for any human being, and that I am not the only one born with a missing part of his brain. At this point, the game became more than frustrating, getting to the point of being virtually unplayable. The fusion mechanic is still there, but it becomes too much to manage with that many ships on screen, and with all of them being controlled in a different manner. I guess it could be done with practice, but it is not a skill I aspire to possess.

Of course, the rest of the game is not entirely spent in three-ship mode, but the majority of it is still spent with two characters on the screen. Be aware that the entire game (four worlds of five levels each) can be played with up to three players, which makes the game much, much easier. In fact, it is apparent that the entire game was designed with more than one player in mind. The problem is that the game was not marketed as such, which guarantees a lot of angry people who bought the game for themselves without people to play along.

If you plan on playing this game alone, be prepared for outbursts of madness. If you are buying this for you and your friends, then by all means, go for it.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Mediocre

REPLAYABILITY
As mentioned before, the game has 20 levels divided in four worlds. Depending on the number of lives you lose and the number of enemies collected, you can acquire medals and try to make your place on the leaderboard. Other than that, there is no reason to replay this game. Of course, if you are playing the single-player campaign, the 20 levels will still take you quite a bit of time to complete, but that doesn’t mean that you will want to play them again.

Replayability Rating: Poor

BALANCE
A game that goes from hair-pulling levels of difficulty when played alone to relatively easy cannot hope to score good in this category. The early levels are quite easy, but the problem is that by “early”, I mean “the first three”. Anything beyond that raised the bar in term of challenge in ways that shouldn’t be experienced by anybody who wishes to stay sane. The graphics and theme may mislead you into thinking this is a game for children, but don’t be mistaken. Unless your child has friends willing to play through this with him, I just cannot see him or her enjoying this in any way.

At 700 Wii points, I have seen worst deals, but you really need to be prepared for what you are going to get.

Balance Rating: Poor

ORIGINALITY
I have to admit that the concept is pretty clever; it’s simply the execution that is lacking. The idea of mixing colours to make your way through levels is not one I have seen before, and while it is a simple idea, it is definitely a good one when applied properly. I really would have liked to see more of this game if the single-player levels had been tweaked a little bit.

Originality Rating: Good

ADDICTIVENESS
To be completely honest here, after the first five levels, I already wanted to turn off this game and call it quit. It is only because of my duty as a reviewer that I kept going on, and there wasn’t much pleasure involved. Playing with a second person makes it much more enjoyable, but even then, my partner was bored after an hour or so. This is a game that is better when played in short bursts with a friend, so don’t come in expecting something that will keep you up at night.

Addictiveness Rating: Poor

APPEAL FACTOR
Unfortunately, this is a game that could be quite appealing for parents looking for something cheap for their kids while shopping on the Wii shop channel. The bright colours definitely catch the eye and the concept is a good one. The trailer does a very convincing job that this is a smooth game that can be enjoyed by the whole family. It’s a shame that the actual game is more or less the complete opposite of what I just described.

Appeal Factor Rating: Above Average

MISCELLANEOUS
The engine created here by Exkee is a good one with a lot of potential. I honestly believe that with some tweaking, notably in the single player mode, this game could be a real winner, the kind of gem that can quickly catch fire because of word of mouth and become the sleeper hit of the year. The potential is there, but the idea isn’t properly developed.

If taken solely as a multiplayer game, the rating for the entire game would have been much better. When played with a friend, the game is much easier, and almost reaches the level of quirkiness that I expected to find by looking at the trailer. The game really would have benefited of being marketed as such.

Miscellaneous Rating: Above Average

THE SCORES:
Story/Modes: Dreadful
Graphics: Good
Sound: Above Average
Control/Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Poor
Originality: Good
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Above Average
Final Score: Below Average

Short Attention Span Summary
Colorz is at its core a fun concept that just hasn’t been exploited correctly. With a little bit of retooling, I could see it being much better than it actually is. As it is, I can’t see anybody who isn’t a masochist or a freak with tremendous multitasking skills enjoying this, unless you have a partner ready to play this with you at all time. If you are going to buy this one and you are the only person in your circle of friends who enjoys video games, then send me an e-mail. I will keep you in my prayers.

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