We can only hope that when aliens do finally decide to attack Earth, they’ll be as easy to understand and destroy as those in Chromanoids. In many ways the game is a pretty standard arcade shooter, forcing you to fight off waves and waves of alien ships, but it has one definitive feature that helps it stand out: color. For whatever reason, the aliens in Chromanoids can only be destroyed by using the right color, and this alone is enough to make the game interesting.
You don’t control a ship in the game, only a firing cannon. You simply aim your gun and decide what color the ammo is going to be. And this is incredibly important because the bad guys can only be killed by shots that match their own color. So if a red spaceship comes hurtling towards you? Better shoot it with some red bullets. Anything else will have no effect.
Things start off easy enough when all you have to deal with are primary colors. But eventually you’ll need to start blending, as well. When you see a green ship, for instance, you’ll need to quickly tap blue and yellow before firing. Ditto for orange and purple. It may sound simple, but when a rainbow of enemy ships starts closing in it can be incredibly difficult to ensure that you’ve got the right color ready to go.
And of course the enemies don’t just come in different colors, but different types, as well. Some are slow, some are fast. Some have shields, some swerve around as if piloted by a drunk. Dealing with all of these types requires some quick fingers and solid grasp for how the shooting mechanic works. And this can take some getting used to.
Chromanoids isn’t about firing shots directly at enemies. Instead, you pick where on the screen you want your shot to go and once it reaches that point it will explode. And it’s this explosion that destroys enemy ships. So it’s all about timing; making sure that your shot will land close enough that an enemy gets caught in its explosion.
The main story mode takes you through an increasingly difficult series of enemy waves, much like in other arcade shooters. And there are several other modes that play off of this, but just add a few tweaks. One mode makes the enemies faster, for instance, while another turns every last one of them red. It would’ve been nice if there was a bit more variety, but Chromanoids will still keep you might busy. That is, so long as you don’t mind forking out some cash.
Even if you love the way the game plays, its structure could well turn you off. Chromanoids takes its arcade roots a little too seriously, so much so that it extends to the way the game is priced. In addition to initial download price, you can also buy credits in case you die. It works just like an arcade cabinet: die, and insert some quarters to continue. You can earn these credits while playing, but it takes forever to amass enough for even one continue. At the very least, the credits seem pretty reasonably priced.
And it’s worth spending a few extra bucks if you’re a big fan of space shooters. Chromanoids is a game that lives and dies based off of its color-coded gimmick, and thankfully the gimmick is great, as it makes the game feel significantly fresh and uniquely challenging. It’s like a fresh coat of paint on a familiar spaceship.