Release Date: 27/07/06
As with many of the Bit Generation series, the underlying concept is incredibly and often bewilderingly simple, but with Coloris (and puzzle games in general, it has to be said), this doesn't necessarily mean it lacks any sort of depth.
This title sees you attempting to create a horizontal or vertical line of three or more blocks of the same colour - do so and they disappear. Clear enough blocks and you progress to the next level. A lazy comparison might be to describe it as a cross between Zoo Keeper and Lumines, but it's the latter that Coloris might best be compared to due to the subtle way sound and visuals are connected to the gameplay. Hovering over each coloured block makes a plinky-plonky sound effect, as does clearing a line or activating a special block. There's no music as such, just a background hum that's interspersed with sound effects of the falling neon-coloured blocks, but it all combines to make the game a gentle and soothing experience.
It's possible for anyone to grasp the concept after a few minutes' play, and as the clichéd saying goes, it soon becomes second nature. If you're a painter and understand how mixing two colours will produce another, you will have an advantage here. The cursor is randomly coloured, and by 'mixing' the cursor colour with the block colour, you create a new one. Sometimes this just involves mixing dark and light variations, whereas the more difficult stages require more complex blends such as yellow with blue to make a green block. Get it wrong (for example, by attempting a fusing of red and green) and you create a dreaded black spot, enough of which will end the game. The more colours involved, the harder the strain on your mind and it becomes increasingly difficult to create chains (indicated by a scratchy 8-bit sample and '!' icon at the top of the screen). The latter stages feature several colours with shade variations on each and the pace of the game increases considerably.
It is a tough little puzzler sometimes: you can often find yourself playing a grid up to half an hour at a time, battling back and forth to clear the stage, only then to go back later and clear it in a matter of minutes. Crucially, it never gets tedious and even if you fail and all your blocks turn to black, you'll come back and play again. And play again and again you will, because Coloris is compulsive and relaxing at the same time, always leaving that 'one more go' feeling in your mind.
Chain combinations occur sometimes through luck, but other times through skill and planning and it's entirely possible to activate a dozen or so lines in succession if you're really lucky. Experienced players will learn to exploit the special blocks which appear and clear whole rows and specific colours on the grid. It's often a case of relying on these blocks to stave off impending failure, and it becomes a desperate dash for them when there are few pretty colours to stare at.
It has to be mentioned that the graphical style, as pleasing to the eye as it is, does have its shortfalls. With lots of hue variations, it's often too difficult to differentiate between the blocks, particularly on some of the harder levels where coloured or textured backgrounds are introduced, just to make your squinting even more pronounced, it seems. Coloris definitely benefits play on a lovely bright Nintendo DS Lite or Micro – playing on the standard GBA is almost impossible, not to mention it fails to give the visuals the justice they deserve.
With only two play types, it admittedly isn't a game that's going to take long to finish, but with a 2-player option (with two Nintendo DS systems and cartridges there is a wireless multiplayer game) and a score mode there's always room to improve and rinse stage scores, and the choice between difficulty levels and colour schemes will suit any mood or time frame. However, dwelling on its simplicity is foolishly missing the point. It's really surprising that the concept behind Coloris hasn't been attempted before; because it feels like a system you've understood and loved all your life. You can jump in for two minutes and end up playing for twenty - hypnotised by the colours and sounds, gleefully captivated by the clearing of hundreds of these tiny luminous blocks. For around £10 you'll struggle to find a more immediate and addictive puzzle game this year. It's as simple as that.