Color Bind First Look

This weekend I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peak at Color Bind, a new physics-based puzzle platformer from Finn Morgan of Puppy Punch Productions. (I desperately hope no actual puppies were punched during the making of this game.)

The basic idea of Color Bind will be familiar to fans of puzzle games. For each level you have to get from your starting point to an end point. Easy right? The twist here is that gravity is dependent on color. A blue rock might fall up while a green rock falls to the right. There’s a variety of not only gravity directions, but gravity strengths as well. A dark red rock might fall swiftly down while a light-red rock kind of floats down gently. The little cart that you drive can change color mid level if you pass through a color fountain; this is often a key part of solving a level. Levels often have switches that will change the gravity of one or more colors. Sometimes you can drive into a switch, other times you’ll have to manipulate the environment so a rock hits it.

Controls are simple: drive right or left (more technically, spin your wheels clockwise or counter-clockwise, considering there’ll be times when you’re driving on the ceiling), jump and brake. Again, more technically the jump button just enlarges your wheels explosively which makes your cart hop. If you time it right you can use the inertia of one hop to achieve a larger second hop. This becomes an important part of puzzle solving as you get deeper into the game.

Something that helps Color Bind stand out from other physics-based puzzle games is that eventually it starts to have a platforming element to it. So not only do you have to figure out how to get to the exit point, you might need to practice your driving/hopping skills to actually pull off the solution. One level had me perched on a ball, spinning my wheels to cause the ball to roll, while maintaining my balance on top of it. Tricky! Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends on personal preference.

I certainly haven’t finished Color Bind yet but after a couple of sessions I’ve gotten through the first 20 levels and scored the first achievement. Early levels are almost trivial but by 20 I’m having to drive through the intersections of two color fountains (drive through where blue and red cross and you turn purple, which has a diagonal gravity mid-way between that of blue and red, for instance) and pulling off tricky time-based platforming challenges. The game does a good job of forcing you to constantly learn new tricks and skills in order to advance.

Color Bind is harder to describe than it is to play, so here’s the developer giving a preview of the game:

In addition to the 50+ levels (that figure comes from marketing; you have to unlock levels as you go and I’ve only done the first 20) that come with the game, Color Bind includes a level editor. There are also leaderboards to entice you to re-try levels you’ve already solved in an attempt to finish them more quickly, as well as co-op missions that I haven’t tested yet.

Color Bind is the kind of puzzle game that’s hard to stop playing. Every time you solve a level you think “Well maybe just one more…” It can be frustrating as well, but in that “Gaa! Next time I’ll do it!!” kind of way. The designer claims the game is “Early-90’s hard.” It hasn’t hit that point yet but I’m not even half-way through. I do admit a few levels I felt like I solved as much through dumb luck as through skill; y’know, a lucky bounce off a rock that propelled my cart to the finish point.

Color Bind comes out on Steam on September 24th for Windows; a Mac version should follow soon after. If you’re a fan of physics-based puzzle games I highly recommend you give it a try.