Platformers are hardly few and far between, in fact the genre is quite possibly one of the most over-saturated genres to date. With that in mind, it takes a lot for a game to stand out on the merit of its own ideas. Celeste and Super Meat Boy are two examples of platforming done right, with each game appealing to not only the casual gamer, but the hardcore gamer too. Striking a balance that will sing to both sides of the field can be a tricky task for even the most capable of developers. Craft a game that’s too hard and you alienate a large portion of fans, whereas crafting a game that lacks much of a challenge will yield the same results. Bat Country Games’ latest title DYE sits firmly in the former, so much so that any enjoyment whatsoever is often chased away by frequent moments of frustration and anger.
The game throws you into the role of Hue, a small white blob with a pair of legs that’s tasked with saving Pigments throughout four multi-staged worlds. The story isn’t at all heavy and revolves around four Necrolights that have kidnapped said Pigments, resulting in the total loss of color within. From the main hub, Hue can only access the first world, with later worlds unlocking in due course. Don’t expect much from the later stages of play, because everything you witness in the first world can be applied to the subsequent worlds. The gameplay never really changes, and on that score, neither does the design. Sure, the worlds are distinguished in color and some light modifications to their structure, but most of what you see in world two, three, and four, will largely be taken from the first world.
It would have been great to see more variation to help set each world apart, or even some new gameplay mechanics, but unfortunately this is never fully built upon. Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. When accessing the first world, Hue will see a wide selection of gates levels ahead of him. These levels will unlock depending on how many Pigments Hue has collected, with a total of ten to nab on each level. Five Pigments can be obtained by completing a level of its base difficulty, and a further five can be obtained by completing the harder variant. DYE does a good job at feeding you the basics of play within the first level, and by the time you come out of it, you’ll have a good understanding as to how the game functions, but even here you’ll likely have died a bazillion times already.
Gameplay typically consists of moving from point A to point B, collecting as many Pigments as you can along the way. The level structure is certainly DYE’s strong point here, being that each new level tends to bring new and somewhat inventive challenges along with. Hue’s move-set is simple enough to keep on top of, most of the time having the player merely rely on jumping and floating. The biggest problem with the game, and something that goes directly against the store description, is controlling Hue’s landing. The store description boasts “precision”, but this means very little when Hue prefers to briefly slide rather than land and stay put. This may sounds like a small gripe, but when you factor in that each world is crammed with one-touch-death danger, it soon becomes a major issue. Furthermore, hard variants of each level removes checkpoints and only allows for one life, amplifying the frustration.
This isn’t so much of an issue during the initial stages of the game, but come the later world one levels, it does become a nuisance, and that’s putting it lightly. In fairness to the game, the checkpoints (when on normal difficulty) are plentiful, and scattered in such a way that you never have to trek too far from your last failed attempt. Environmental dangers include the likes of bodies of water, guillotine, spikes, and other typical platforming barricades. Hue has the ability to wall cling and bounce from wall to wall to achieve greater height, which ensures swift access for hard to reach areas and platforms. However, once again, the problem rests upon Hue’s crappy landing. Several times did I bite the proverbial dirt due to the unfair inaccurate landing of this otherwise likable protagonist. It didn’t matter what I was doing, Hue wanted to die.
As drastic as it seems, had Hue come equipped with a better, more precise landing capability, DYE would be a much more enjoyable experience. There’s only so many times someone can endure dying when trying to pick up a Pigment lodged between two guillotine spheres, when Hue sees it fit to slide into one or the other. This is just one example out of many, I could describe how infuriating it is to fall off a narrow platform top, or walk under a row of tightly packed jumping enemies, but I would be here all day. The only way to overcome this slide is to push the controls in the opposite direction, but this doesn’t always prove to be practical, or even successful. What’s even more annoying is that Pigments will return to their original locations if you die before reaching a checkpoint, and in hard mode, it’s a complete wipe. It just feels like a constant punishment over what should be such a simple mechanic.
Add in the fact that these Pigments are needed for progression, and it soon becomes a game based on which Pigments give you less of a headache obtaining, rather than the fun nature of collecting them all. That’s not to mention the added challenge levels and the mediocre boss battles, which yet again prove to be more trouble than they’re worth. Still, despite all of this hardship, DYE does offer up some beautiful color transition that sees each level turn from black and white to a range of colors, once Pigment collection begins. This rests wonderfully well on the alluring soundtrack, which sets the tone and theme of the game nicely. This isn’t enough to save DYE from its poor design choices, but we have to appreciate a silver lining somewhere, right? I really wanted to enjoy DYE a lot more than I did. It has potential, it has heaps of content, and it has its heart in the right place. It’s just a massive shame that amidst all of that, DYE is several times more irritating than it is entertaining, and then not entertaining whatsoever later in the game.
DYE may well offer up a great deal of content, but this means very little when the journey from start to finish is far more irritating than it is entertaining. This is a game that solely relies on accuracy, but when the protagonist offers very little precision to lean on, it inadvertently destroys the appeal that DYE tries to relay.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.