Chromagun is pretty much what you’d get if you took the tricky lab-based gameplay from Portal and added in a splash of paintballing. It launched a few years back on the PS4 and Steam but has now been revived by developer Pixel Maniac in the form of an exclusively VR version. We’ve seen the likes of Superhot and Skyrim handle the transition well over to the platform but how does Chromagun VR shape up? We’ll get to that shortly.
You play as an unnamed test subject who has been selected to trial Chromatech’s latest creation, the chromagun. You’ll use this glorified paint gun to solve a spectrum of colour-based puzzles with the main objective of reaching each stage’s exit. Every room is filled with coloured spheres known as worker droids which you must position on top of switches after creating a path of corresponding colours and exploiting their magnetic pull. The titular gun is loaded with the primary shades of red, yellow, and blue and these colours can be mixed in later puzzles to then create orange, green, and purple. We just hope that you paid attention in art class, kids!
Also complicating matters are obstacles such as electrified floor panels, paint-spewing security cameras, and deadly rogue droids. These hazards introduce all-new pressures such as security cameras that repaint wall panels blank after a couple of seconds forcing you to respond quickly. Your own incompetence can also prove to be a roadblock. If you repaint a panel three times it will turn a lifeless shade of black; a colour which can’t be altered and one that worker droids appear completely disinterested in. This does mean that if you screw up on a puzzle there’s no way of amending your mistakes and you’ll be forced to hit restart.
The premise is simple, but the ideas don’t stop coming. There’s a decent level of challenge here too and when working through the eight chapters, we found ourselves having to fight off the urge to reach for our phone and look up the solution to the current puzzle. We should also give praise to the narrator, who adds a much-needed injection of personality into your otherwise dismal surroundings. You can tell this guy just loves the sound of his own voice and he’s always on hand to poke fun at you whether you’re taking your sweet time solving a puzzle or find yourself being pummeled to death by a rogue worker droid.
With Chromagun’s hook and central mechanic focused on colour, it’s kind of ironic just how drab and sterile its surroundings feel. Besides the varying different traps and stage hazards, there’s little to differentiate one floor from the next. Hell, even a nice plant in a room would have helped spruce things up a little. We get that the minimalist approach was adopted as the devs wanted to capture the atmosphere of a testing facility but we longed for a more stylish approach and a bit more variation between rooms to keep us engaged.
Hands down the best feature of Chromagun in VR is its support for the PS Aim controller. You may remember it as the chunky hunk of plastic that debuted alongside Farpoint on PSVR back in 2017. Well, it’s compatible, and it works rather well! Not only does the PS Aim controller make it feel like you’re holding the real Chromagun in your hand, but it also allows for smooth motion gestures and you can, of course, pull the trigger to fire paintballs. We should mention that the PS Move controllers aren’t compatible here and we found the DualShock 4 a little too clunky when trying to change the direction of fire.
This compatibility with the PS Aim controller was by far the best reason to pick up the VR version, however, if you don’t have the accessory, we wouldn’t recommend the upgrade. The VR functionality feels just a little tacked on here. Being able to look around and more deeply experience the lab doesn’t help deepen immersion as your surroundings are uninteresting and bland and none of the puzzles have been built from the ground up with the platform in mind. Disappointingly, the original PS4 didn’t come with a patch for the VR support so if you jumped in early, you’ll have to reach for your wallet again to experience things in VR.
Portal it isn’t, but Chromagun still makes for a decent time whether you are playing with or without a VR headset. It adds its own splash of colour to a genre that many have previously toyed with and its premise remains fresh throughout despite appearing awfully simplistic. The added VR version does make for improved handling and controls with the PS Aim controller, but with no mechanics lending themselves to VR, it does feel like a bit of an afterthought. If you have this one already on the PS4 we would advise that you pass on the VR version, that’s unless you are dying to dust off your PS Aim controller once again.