Much like WayForward and Gaijin Games, Goodbye Galaxy Games has been one of the few independent developers to support Nintendo consoles despite waning developer interest (both from independent and corporate sectors) in the Big N. After receiving average to above-average reviews for its past three DSiWare games (Flipper, Flipper 2, and AceMathician), Goodbye Galaxy Games is continuing to support DSiWare with Color Commando, its most recent game.
Color Commando is a puzzle platformer that, if the title did not make it obvious, uses the central theme of colors. The goal of the game is to guide the unnamed adventuring boy in a 2D plane to the treasure chest, but pesky monsters always seem to worm their way into these types of affairs. To meet ends, the boy must collect balls of paint and, through the use of your stylus, you must paint over these monsters with their respective colors to render their peskiness mute. The simple premise, the charming character designs, and mostly upbeat music make it hard for an individual to dislike Color Commando, and I myself do not find the game to be worthy of hate. However, Color Commando does not give me much reasons to greatly appreciate it either.
Let’s talk about that genre label; puzzle platformer. The qualifier for a game to be a puzzle platformer is that the platforming has to be structured in a non-straightforward way, as to present the player with the challenge of how to properly navigate an environment (for a great example of this consider Thomas Was Alone). Color Commandocan claim this label, as the platforming is non-linear and, later on, does provide a challenge in how to navigate. However, an above-average puzzle platformer puts larger emphasis on navigation than the act of platforming itself. Color Commandodoes it the other way, increasing the importance and difficulty of the platforming and only marginally increasing the mental task of discovering the right path through a set of obstacles.
Too often, Color Commandopits the player in a situation which makes their brain work less than their thumbs. One minute may be all it takes for the player to figure out the solution to a particular level, but the execution of the required plan may take five minutes because the player physics and handling do not allow easy handling through these levels. Almost a fourth of the puzzles in the game contain what would be deemed as “close call” maneuvers, which feel out-of-place in the kid-friendly nature of the title.
What does not help Color Commando‘s situation is that there is no evolution of the singular puzzle mechanic. Acquiring paint balls and painting over monsters is the only puzzle element in the game, throughout the game, and this further underplays the ‘puzzle’ part of the puzzle platformer label. There is no combining of different paints, no other applications for the paint, and no different ways to deploy the paint. Once the player learns the sole puzzle mechanic, the player is just experiencing the same idea being used again and again, like the tread of a treadmill.
And that is how I would describe Color Commando; an exercise. But I do not mean that in an insulting way. Color Commandois the exercise that lasts the right amount of time to give the sense of achievement despite not much having been achieved. It is short enough to be a mildly entertaining exercise. It is also short enough to allow some individuals to brush off the repetitive actions and focus on the better qualities, which is the artwork, music, and charm.