Fair Play Labs’ Color Guardians has a look and feel that might make many gamers think it has nothing to offer an adult audience. The primary color palette and almost non-existent story give the endless runner-inspired game an air of immaturity, but it only takes a handful of levels to realize that the game’s difficulty are enough to make gamers of any age scream at the TV in frustration (in a good way, of course).
The premise of Color Guardians is simple (and disposable) enough. Players rotate control of three different Guardians who are attempting to return color to their world. The color has been stolen by a boss who reappears in boss fights, but is otherwise unimportant. The characters are all cute enough to be entertaining, but don’t expect any real story from this one.
Once the adventure is underway, the goal is to recollect and distribute color to the world. Players do this in a series of endless runner style levels. Most levels have three tracks to navigate, which players jump between with the up and down arrows. While on the run, players move between tracks to avoid obstacles and collect color spheres. This is where the game’s unique mechanic comes into play.
Each Guardian has the ability to become red, blue, or yellow by pressing the corresponding button on the controller. In order to pick up a blue sphere, the character needs to be blue. In order to pick up a red sphere, the character needs to be red. Same goes for yellow. This gives players two challenges to balance: navigating around obstacles and switching colors at the right moment. The mechanics are easy at the start, but the difficulty doesn’t waste much time scaling up. The simple mechanics leave most of the button’s on a PS4 controller unused, but the simplicity doesn’t reduce the game’s challenge.
The game’s mechanics make it feel like a mixture between the traditional endless runner genre and a more rhythmic game like Elite Beat Agents. In order to chase down high scores, which are shared on the community leaderboards, players can switch between lanes and colors more than necessary to gain bonus points. This can be accomplished with a lot of button mashing in the early levels, but once the difficulty increases, those tricks stop working.
The game’s world map contains seven different stages, each of which contain 11 levels. As players progress, additional challenges and mechanics are introduced to keep things interesting. The game offers no jump button, but by matching the color of a spring on the map, players can use it to get some air. There are also propellers that allow players to fly and color-coded reverse arrows that send players back to a previous point in a level to give them another chance to collect missed spheres.
As the difficulty increases, players will be relieved to find that the game is fairly forgiving. Points are lost with each death, but the game offers liberal checkpoints that allow users to return from death without starting the level from scratch. Although the game’s difficulty is one of its strengths, that characteristic doesn’t carry over to boss fights.
Each stage ends with a boss fight that needs to be completed before unlocking the next themed set of levels. The boss is the same shadowy monster every time and players use a mechanic unique to the boss fights to defeat him. The boss throws bombs at the player, which he or she must pick up (after matching their color, of course) and throw back at the boss. The boss fights are surprisingly easy, but actually offer a fairly nice break from the usual difficulty of the levels near the end of each stage. The one exception to this is the final boss fight, which requires a bit of luck and will likely take significantly longer than the rest of the boss battles.
There is no addicting multiplayer or online mode to keep players coming back for more after completing the campaign, but there is still plenty of motivation to replay the game. When each stage’s boss is defeated, one fairy is added to each of the previous levels in the stage. Players can return to each level and collect the hidden fairies to unlock a special level.
In addition to the fairy hunt, the game rates each completed level run from one to three stars. Players need to collect nearly every sphere in a level to gain the three star rating, which unlocks silly things like concept art and other out of game assets. Despite the not very exciting reward, the challenge of getting three star ratings on every level is certain to keep completionists returning to the game hour after hour. It definitely worked on us.
Color Guardians is now available on PC, PS4, and PlayStation Vita. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.