ChromaGun VR is so transparent about being a parody of Valve’s Portal that its creator, Pixel Maniacs, went out of its way to highlight direct references to Portal’s iconic Aperture Science corporation in the original game’s console launch trailer. But since a Portal game doesn’t exist on PSVR, ChromaGun VR is a perfectly decent puzzler for time-hungry players. So if you’re looking to dive into another sprawling laboratory full of mazes and traps built by a predictably Machiavellian “science” corp, look no further.
In ChromaGun VR, you play as a volunteer test subject equipped with an experimental isotope-loaded paint cannon. Your job is to move Worker Droids around intricately-crafted test chambers until the way to each exit is cleared so you can move on to the next level. You accomplish this by painting panels and droids with the correct corresponding colors.
Colored panels magnetically attract Worker Droids of the same color, but not every panel or droid can be painted, making it vital to coordinate your color order strategically. It’s a deceptively simple gameplay loop that makes for a relaxing time, especially when paired with the game’s downtempo electronica soundtrack.
Your paint cannon can shoot primary colors (red, blue, yellow) which you can also mix together on surfaces to create secondary colors (orange, purple, green) where necessary. Trying to mix tertiary colors lands you with black, which no droids will connect to. As you’re not ever given white-out to clear accidental miscolorings, it’s easy to render a test chamber incompletable by mistake. Thus, there are a handful of moments when you’ll need to attempt a level over again until it clicks.
In addition to regular (benign) Worker Droids, there are spiked droids that will follow and attempt to kill you. At times, walking those killer Worker Droids to a floor trigger will be central to solving a puzzle; but they never really pose a threat unless you get yourself cornered or you stop moving. There are also electric floor traps which, if you’re like me, you can accidentally trip over if you find yourself carelessly moseying about.
ChromaGun VR is set into eight chapters, with about five levels per chapter. Each chapter has at least two or three major “aha!” moments, and ChromaGun VR is at its best when you’re zipping from one “aha!” moment to another. The test chamber lengths are quite generous across the board, albeit pandering at times between underwhelmingly short and needlessly long. The latter of which made the lack of a sprint toggle tauntingly apparent in my four-hour playthrough.
ChromaGun VR’s control scheme is comfortable and versatile, offering options between snap and smooth turning. You can play with either a DualShock 4 or PlayStation Aim Controller, but it’s clearly meant to work best with the Aim Controller. I played ChromaGun VR with one, and I thoroughly appreciated getting some use out of the peripheral in a context that wasn’t just shooting humans, demons, or aliens.
Overall, ChromaGun VR’s optimization felt smooth on the PSVR headset; I didn’t run into any game-breaking bugs or considerable setbacks to note. The graphical style, while minimalistic, provided the perfect amount of visual information in each frame to key me in on what to do or where to go next. At times, I would spawn into a level with my character model clipping into the ground, forcing me to be stuck in place until I restarted, but that issue was rare and inconsequential, and Pixel Maniacs could easily patch it out.
Because ChromaGun VR’s assets are virtually the same in each level, it’s difficult to look back and remember any specific part of the game, apart from a handful of nighttime chambers and the mid-point where you’re supposed to believe that the testing facility is burning down around you. After which, the second half of the game unfolds as if the writers forgot it ever happened. Suffice to say, ChromaGun VR’s writing and world feels hammy, if not particularly cheap.
On that note, the male voiced narrator/antagonist does a half GLaDOS, half Handsome Jack impression that’s so cringeworthy and forced that it fails to work even in a parody context. Luckily, the game progresses without much narrative context or voice acting at all, leaving a solid two thirds of ChromaGun VR’s campaign nice and quiet for you to go about solving its puzzles in peace.
Originally released in 2015 for PC, Mac and Linux before eventually making its way onto consoles, ChromaGun was initially both hailed and mocked for (lightly) scratching gamers’ itches for a new Portal-like in the absence of Portal 3. Following its long-awaited VR port, ChromaGun VR is definitely not up to the bar set by the Portal series, but its puzzles are satisfying nonetheless.