Color Commando Review
It’s impossible to review the DSiWare game, Color Commando, fairly without considering that it’s the work of a single man with very limited resources. Unfortunately, it’s that limitation that shows in almost every aspect of the game, from its brevity to the slight lack of polish. To his credit however, Hugo Smits, creator of other DSiWare titles like Flipper and Ace Mathician, managed to make his heavily flawed title at the very least charming and colorful with a decent bit of challenge.
Color Commando casts you as the eponymous, whimsical hero as he tries to grab treasure chests guarded by equally whimsical monsters in vibrant, colorful stages. These critters come in three colors and two types, but only the hero’s primary skill can overcome them. The hero has the ability to collect little droplets, which are deposited in the inventory on the top screen, and paint small portions of the level with bursts of color using the stylus, a skill that forms the basis of the puzzles to come as you try to decide the best places to use your finite droplets to reach the end of the level. The color-coded monsters can’t harm you within the boundaries of matching color splotches, allowing you to safely walk past them to the goal. A particularly interesting, though oddly underused mechanic even allows the hero to splotch portions of the wall, allowing any mobile enemies to actually walk through the physical barriers and out of your way. This mechanic allows Color Commando, if only for brief moments, to invoke the very vaguest vibes of far better puzzle games like Portal.
What puzzles to be found in the DSi title are simple, quick, and scale up their difficulty very naturally. Divided into five worlds, with five short stages each, the 25 levels – though it should be noted that the first two levels are just tutorials – the game offers you come with their own set of trials. Though you can usually figure out a way to reach the end of most levels in less than a minute – and I mean that without an ounce of exaggeration – the real challenge of Color Commando is collecting the three coins strewn about the environment. Collecting all the coins in each level of every world unlocks a fifth stage in the five worlds for you to play. Rather disappointingly, there’s no degree of fanfare or mystery about these unlockables. They’re no different and no more special than any other, if not for the extra work you have to undergo to unlock them. It feels like an arbitrary design decision to inject longevity into an extremely short title.
If not for the secret stages, you’d likely have no desire to collect all of the coins at all and you’d be finished with the whole experience in under an hour. But assuming you do, and you collect everything, I’d wager the fleeting sense of completion would pale when you realize you’ve only managed to add about another hour or two to the whole experience. And with no narrative – no matter how trite or silly it could have been – to compel you to the end, there’s really no ending to anything. You beat the last stage, get the last chest, and find yourself lazily placed back at the level-select screen, as if the game was daring you to play more. You likely won’t.
The most serious problem with Color Commando is not its brevity, or its sense of emptiness, or even the decent but mind-numbingly repetitive music, but rather that it’s a puzzle game demanding precision while being itself imprecise. Touch-screen splotch controls can sometimes fail to register, and the hit detection will get on your nerves countless times through the adventure. What’s even more vexing is the poor design decision to make the actual splotch nothing more than a layer of color being placed directly on top of portions of the screen, meaning the “safe zone” within is inherently poorly-defined. This absolutely will cause you to fail stages countless times. All of these hit-detection woes are compounded by the simple fact that your little hero moves like his shoes were filled with several pounds of cement.
Color Commando means well, and at only $2, it’s a fairly harmless financial risk. In fact, one might even consider the game if only to support a hardworking solo game developer. However, it lacks polish, content, and a sense of reward for the player. A title that would have been better suited on a phone, perhaps along with an addictive upgrade system to keep you coming back for more, it invites you to solve puzzles and unlock a few more levels, but makes playing them far more of a chore than necessary. The game is bright and colorful and wants to be loved, sure, but the myriad problems cast a shade of gray.
|Platform: DSi, 3Ds (reviewed)|
Genre: Puzzle, Platformer
Release Date: May 9, 2013
Developer: Goodbye Galaxy Games
Publisher: CIRCLE Entertainment
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone