Costa Rican developer Fair Play Labs have taken us by surprise with their newest offering, Color Guardians. What looks like a twee platform game aimed at kids is actually a gruelling and addictive fast-paced jaunt that, despite how difficult and frustrating it is at times, I just couldn’t put down.
Essentially, Color Guardians is best described as an endless runner crossed with a platform game. You’re on rails, only being able to move between three tracks, much like the quintessential mobile endless runner Temple Run. The difference being Color Guardians isn’t endless – it’s made up of a series of levels, each with checkpoints and a very finite goal. It’s your job to guide your Guardian to the end of the level, skipping through lanes to avoid obstacles, changing your colour to collect corresponding orbs and to use colour-locked devices (such as jumping pads, hover plates, gates and switches).
The game begins with a very nice and straightforward tutorial level, which tells you everything you need to know to get going. The first levels aren’t particularly difficult, and ease you into the game quite nicely. However, you can’t get too complacent because the difficulty spike is very intense, and past the first world you’re going to be dying a hell of a lot. It may be wrapped up in a colourful, family friendly outfit, but beneath it all Color Guardians is actually very challenging, testing your co-ordination and reflexes as much as it’s testing your gaming skills.
That’s not a bad thing, either. Whilst it’s very difficult, Color Guardians never feels impossible. It takes a good amount of trial and error in some areas, but thanks to each level having two well-placed checkpoints, you never have to retread too much of the same ground without making some headway. The challenge to your co-ordination and speed of response is rewarding too; at times, it feels like an intense brain training game – so if you fail, you know you’ve just got to keep practicing to hone your skill.
In terms of graphics, Color Guardians doesn’t offer anything particularly spectacular, but it’s far from offensive. The world designs are nice to look at and serve the purpose more than adequately. With colour being the predominant theme here, the environments are very vivid and pleasant. Character models are nice too; they’re fairly basic, but the creature designs are memorable and unique.
My main issue with the game was the sound. The game is very heavy on sound effects, and most are fairly pleasant and non-offensive, but after a while some can begin to grate – for me, it was the noise that chimed every time I restarted after dying. As you progress through the game you die a lot so I was hearing this noise every few seconds at times. On PlayStation 4 it defaults to coming out of the controller speaker too – ultimately driving me to disable it. It’s a minor niggle though; other sound effects such as the chimes when collecting colour bubbles serve as very helpful gameplay cues.
Color Guardians is a side-scrolling game, but is 3D in the sense that you have three horizontal tracks to move through. For the most part, navigating between the tracks is no problem, but due to the camera placement – and how fast-paced the game gets, especially later on – it can occasionally be difficult to clearly see which lane you’re in. This is especially true for sections of the game where you’re in the air; your lane is marked by your character’s shadow being cast on the ground, but often there are environmental objects in the foreground that means that your shadow is obscured. I died numerous times just because I couldn’t distinguish if I was in the correct lane or not.
The highlight of the game for me was the mine cart sections, requiring you to change your colour to the corresponding mine cart track colour. It was reminiscent of a 1990’s Donkey Kong Country level – only more taxing, thanks to the additional challenge of needing to change your colour. There’s quite a lot of replayability packed into the game too: there’s five worlds each with 11 levels to play through, and once you’ve completed a world you’re given the opportunity to replay the level and find a hidden collectible, which will then unlock extra content as you find more. And as the game operates a scoring and star system, there’s always replayability in attempting to best your own scores or climb up the leaderboard.
Whilst very simple in its nature, the game offers a great deal of fun, and thanks to its pleasant and colourful visual design, it’s appealing to all ages (although younger children might struggle with the difficulty). If you’re looking for a charming little game with a surprising amount of challenge, you can’t go far wrong with Colour Guardians.