Chromatic is a colorful twist on familiar classics, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that this is just a modernized version of Asteroid. Chromatic is a ruthless survival arcade game that is out to take no prisoners. This PC game by Marc-Antoine Jacob and MAJ Studios will leave you frustrated, just a touch epileptic, and strangely compelled to keep coming back for more.
Your Chromacore is lost in space, and it’s up to you to survive! Use your trusty Chromabeam to blast away enemies and stack combos to rack a score you can brag about (or cry about when no one is looking). Fight black holes, bosses, and bouncing baddies until your shades are safe or your colors are drained away forever.
Well, I hope you came here for a game that is ready and able to kick your sorry ass. Chromatic is fast-paced as all hell and with a steep learning curve to boot. It starts out so unassuming; you have this tame tutorial stage that gently grabs hold of your hand just to shove you into a first level that won’t relent. You had better get comfy in that seat you’re in because there’s a good chance you’ll be here awhile. Don’t be surprised when you get to the first boss and die within minutes, just to go back and try the whole thing over again. Chromatic will pull you in like that.
The controls are simple, but that doesn’t automatically mean they are intuitive. If you’re using a mouse, you’re looking at two buttons to play – left click to shoot and your scroll wheel to cycle through colors. And I think inherently that is a fine concept, but something in the controls felt forced to me. Like I was aimlessly spinning away at the wheel like a contestant on The Price is Right, hoping to get as close to that dollar mark (or in this case the correct color) as I could manage.
When you shoot, your projectile can only travel in one direction at a time. That means that when one of those damn colored diamonds comes at you from behind, you’re shit out of luck if you’re already facing opposite. Rolling through a rainbow of colors situated in a line seemed weird too. I kept wondering why they weren’t oriented in a wheel shape instead so that the mouse could navigate smoothly and the underlying concept of the game could be more clear. If the whole point of the game is to maximize damage by attacking hazards with opposing colors, why not have the contrast more clearly defined?
Still, there is an overall satisfaction to finally mastering the challenge.
The graphics are crisp, colorful (okay that’s a given), and engaging. Each level offers new and exciting challenges that each bend and warp the screen and gameplay in unique ways. Small tips and congratulatory comments pop onto the screen in subtle ways, not distracting from the beauty elsewhere. Even the enemy projectiles are nice to look at, which is an odd thing to experience, given that they can easily destroy you in seconds.
I have just two main gripes about the overall look and set up: the perspective is way too zoomed in, and the line of colors at the bottom would be much better oriented in a wheel shape. From the edge of the screen to your Chromacore only allows for a tiny window of space to battle in, which you can argue adds to the challenge, but I found myself feeling it was more irritating than trying. There was such a vast area of graphics that could have been utilized if rendered. I sort of felt like I was being cheated out of it.
The color wheel complaint might be over analytical, but if I’m accessing a feature with a wheel, why is it in a line shape? Not to mention the fact that finding proper opposites would be much easier if they were set across from one another. Maybe I’m demanding for over-simplification, but dammit I could have sworn the opposite of red was green and here I am second guessing that.
The audio in Chromatic can easily be summed in one word: catchy. I found myself humming the subtle electronic tunes long after I had finished playing. Boss battles are worthy of their own unique tracks, which consisted of ramped up versions of their bit counterparts, guaranteed to get the player revved. Each level has original music, too, which is a nice break on the ears as drones of chip tuned songs can get tiring for extensive periods.
The overall tone of the sound effects fit in really well with the vibe and theme of the game. What more can you ask for in a space shooter game than some captivating electro music? Nothing. You can’t ask for anything more so get back to colorful explosions and toe tapping.
As far as replayability goes, I think it depends on the type of gamer playing it. If you are the addictive personality that strives for perfect 1000s on your Xbox achievements, you might find yourself sucked into Chromatic’s difficulty and reward for patience. If you’re like me and you have the attention span of a small child, there isn’t much in Chromatic that is likely to keep you here for any great length of time; but that doesn’t mean you won’t be coming back.
That’s the nice thing about Chromatic, though. It’s compelling enough that it’s worth revisiting from time to time and casual enough that you don’t have to sink hours in every time you play it. You can always come back and attempt to beat previous scores or try and crawl higher up the leaderboard as well, (coming at you from the very bottom over here!), which in itself offers a longevity of sorts.
I could see Chromatic being a game you return to now and again, perhaps while you’re waiting for John Wick: Chapter Two to download onto your computer (don’t worry, I won’t tell). It’s the kind of game that fills time voids well and has this strangely insidious nature about it. Long after I had finished playing I found myself reviewing the best color combinations to achieve maximum effect. Surely this would be a far easier task if the line of colors at the bottom of your screen were in a wheel shape instead, but I digress. The game made an impression. I give it credit for that.
I award Chromatic a Thumb Culture Silver Award with a score of 6/10.
Chromatic is out now on PC via Steam.