I’ve played a lot of Apple Arcade games in the past couple of months, and I’ve found that most games released on the service can conveniently fit into two distinct categories. The first category is the games one would typically expect to find on mobile, like Chu-Chu Rocket Universe from the first edition of Quarters Down. These are the games where you play a series of levels and each gives you a star rating based on how well you did. To get the maximum number of stars, you often have to replay the levels multiple times until you can complete them perfectly.
The other category, the one I want to talk about this time, is experimental indie games, which, in any other instance, you’d only find on some deep dives into the Steam store. Discolored is a game that not only fits into this category but also thrives in it.
On its surface, Discolored feels like a polished tech demo, or at the very least, the first chapter in an episodic story. It’s a first-person adventure game, in which you – as some sort of investigator for an unknown organization – solve puzzles to return color to a world gone gray. There is no explanation for who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing. You are basically thrown into this world and tasked with restoring three prisms (a red, a green, and a blue one). As you restore each prism, the colors and their combinations return to the world. As you restore color, items that were previously invisible become visible, changing how you interact with the world.
It’s a solid puzzle game with fairly intuitive problems. I only got stuck at a few points, and a little exploration easily opened up most of them pretty quickly. The use of color within the puzzles felt pretty inventive, and Shifty Eyes Games uses color to create some good head-scratchers. For example, at one point I placed the red prism into its place to restore red to the world, turned around and found that I had been caged into the area. The door to the cage was locked, and I did not have a key. I had to pull the red prism out to solve another puzzle to obtain the key before heading back to the area to again restore the color red and escape the cage. It’s a unique way to nest puzzles, creating complex systems that must be solved in a specific order to complete.
That said, it’s not a perfect game. Like most first-person mobile games, you move through the world with two virtual joysticks on screen: one to control movement, and one to control your view. The issue comes when you try to interact with something. You have to center your reticle on what you want to interact with and tap the reticle itself. It takes a long time to get used to adjusting your view on what you want to interact with and then reaching over to the reticle in the center of the screen and tapping it. It was difficult on my iPhone 8 Plus screen; I can’t imagine trying to do this one an iPad. It’s a disappointing choice, as interacting with objects is kind of crucial to completing the game.
The length of the game is also an issue. As I said earlier, Discolored feels like either a polished tech demo or the first chapter in something longer. After you restore the color to the area you spend your time in, the game just kind of ends. There’s no real resolution or explanation for anything. The game even implies that this is just a smaller piece of a much larger puzzle. I haven’t been able to find anything from the designers indicating that more is coming, but I hope there is. For its problems, Discolored has some interesting ideas, and its puzzles are designed well enough that I want to see what’s next. Above all else, I really want to see exactly what’s going on in the world. I know there’s more to the story, and I want to find out what that is.
Considering all of that, I still find it easy to recommend a game like Discolored when you can play it through something like Apple Arcade. If you’ve signed up for Apple Arcade, you already have access to the game, so there’s no additional financial investment. Also, the game is only about two hours long, so even then, there’s not much time investment either. Frankly put, if you’re a person who enjoys point-and-click adventure games, there’s some very good things to see in Discolored, and for me, that’s enough to give it a chance.