While other developers have opted to use cliche words in titles of their games — words that don\’t synchronize with true premise of said games or simply fail at setting an accurate title — Cypronia and Large Animal Games have successfully created a game where, this time around, you\’d be right to judge this book by its cover. The game certainly is as colorful and intimidating as it appears and, if the word \”zen\” still refers to the form of meditation emphasized by Buddhism, well, then sure — the game’s soundtrack does succeed in elevating players into that zen state. Such a trait can also work to the player’s disadvantage, as the game is so freeing that it forgets to give the player direct incentive to keep going. What can be an incentive in a puzzle game to someone who finds enjoyment in simply putting their IQ to the test? Herein lies Color Zen‘s mission to distinguish the children from the adults.
Color Zen is more than just a collection of mind-bending puzzles; it’s abstract art that you can, if you\’ll allow me to say, finally understand and solve. No, there is no campaign or story mode. It’s just you, four modes, and 460 brain teasers of varying difficulties to \”find your way\” through. Each mode — Classic, Reflection, Serenity, and Nature — has their own distinct game mechanic, which helps to keep the experience fresh by proving new ways in which to navigate your way to a solution, but the premise of the game is clear: combine basic shapes of matching colors to fill the screen according to the border color and you win. There’s no time limit, no score to keep, and no achievements to tell you the obvious. For someone who’s looking to sit back, relax, and unlock the power of the mind, Color Zen succeeds in making none of that necessary.
Don\’t read too much into the premise. Anyone can match two red shapes to fill the red border, but it takes a genius, luck, and an extensive amount of trial and error to solve a puzzle that looks like the one seen below. Here is where the game might lose the majority of its younger audience — but that’s okay, kiddos. If you have access to a smartphone, Large Animal has something in store just for you.
The challenge isn\’t gradual, either — that would be too predicable and quite frankly promotes quitting by letting you know exactly when it would be a good time to do so. If I knew that it would take me ten more minutes longer to navigate to a solution around the fifteenth level, chances are that I\’d save it for last and maybe return to it later, depending on how well my coffee was done that morning. Nope, you won\’t get off that easy. If you want to quit, it will always be a \’rage quit,\’ because you could have sworn that the challenge was dying down two puzzles ago.
However, if you stuck around and saw the puzzle through to the end, you might find that the next three or four puzzles were surprisingly easier to solve and it’s all thanks to Large Animal opting for a random difficulty spike design choice. What’s more is that the design choice allows the developer to create levels that can either look much harder or simpler to solve than they truly are. Sometimes, the piece to a puzzle may play an important role to finding your way to the solution while, at other times, some pieces are just there to throw you off your game. But if you\’re good, you\’ll know not to let complexity of the abstract art intimidate you.
So what’s the Wii U difference, considering that this is a game that originated on mobile devices? Well, nothing really, but only because it didn\’t really need one. I would say that being able to play the game seamlessly on an HD television is a perk, but you\’ll find that the television doesn\’t even play a real part in Color Zen. In fact, the electric soundtrack, as well as the sound effects, can only be heard from the GamePad. Almost no sound comes from the television and, since the game relies entirely on the touchscreen, you won\’t ever be looking at the television. You actually might be wiser to have the television off during play to save power, but that’s not a fault of the game; that’s just me looking out of you. Anyway, I do wish I could hear the soundtrack from my higher quality speakers, so it is a disappointment that it’s been delegated to the GamePad’s lower quality, albeit not deal-breaking, speakers. Another issue presented with this version of the game is that double-tapping the screen to bring up the menu can be unresponsive at times. It will often take multiple taps before the action finally registers. As frustrating as this may sound, though, it is nothing that should make you regret your purchase.
Color Zen does so little wrong that, unless you have something against colors, abstract art, or artistic music composition, it’s hard not to recommend this game and I assume the readers looking for something more up the alley of Michael Bay have already left. Relative to the price of Color Zen — $3.99 with what looks like all the DLC packs from the mobile version — the game has more than enough content to keep you from 100%ing it within a short period of time and, if that doesn\’t do you in, the difficulty spikes will. So kick back, relax, and get to brain blasting, because Color Zen with its artistic flare is well worth any puzzle enthusiast’s time.