Want to play a runner that features more than just running?
My first thought when I saw Color Guardians was “Hmm, a runner that's reminiscent of de Blob. That's definitely a good thing.” Unfortunately, the color-changing aspect isn't fleshed out nearly as much as I would like, which is sad because this is the main feature that sets it apart from other runners. It takes a while for the slow start to, ahem, get up and running, but after that it's fairly enjoyable. That is, until players discover the lame final boss fight.
The vibrant world of Terra Color is a joyous place until the pigments are sucked out by a dastardly color thief known as Krogma. His motives are unknown, but I'd be pissed off too if my parents named me Krogma! Now it's up to a band of paint-based characters known as the Color Guardians to defeat Krogma and return Terra Color to its radiant self. Join Grock, Lia, and Rod as they sprint through over seventy levels of fast-paced side-scrolling color-matching on five different worlds.
Gameplay follows the basic side-scrolling runner template where the object is to constantly move forward and finish levels as quickly as possible. There are three lanes in this game, and players will find themselves constantly switching between them to grab colored orbs and avoid numerous hazards such as rocks, gaps, and killer flowers. Additional reasons to change lanes include hitting mushrooms to bounce upwards and, of course, grabbing colored orbs.
Changing colors is where the game sets itself apart from other runners. Jim Crow would be proud of the way that yellow, blue, and red characters can only interact with orbs of the same color. Each color is assigned to a button, so players have to be in the correct lane and also be the correct color to grab orbs. This is challenging by itself, but hitting each orb perfectly requires a button press of the corresponding color to make the character spin as they grab the orb. When you add various hazards and the ability to bounce in the air to grab orbs and avoid obstacles, the result is both formidable and maddening.
I understand how early stages of the game only require changing between two colors, but numerous simplistic levels make the game get old fast. It's only later in the game when the difficulty is ramped up that it becomes a challenge to simply make it through a level, much less do it perfectly. However, when this occurs, playing the game has a satisfying rhythmic feel similar to nailing a song in Guitar Hero. Finishing ten stages sends players to a boss fight, which is a good way to break up the repetition. Sadly, the final boss fight is so poorly designed that it literally requires luck more than skill.
Color Guardians introduces an interesting color-changing feature to the side-scrolling runner genre, but keeps it so basic that the potential is wasted. It's an interesting game that only manages to hold my attention for short game sessions. I'd be hooked if the developers added some other elaborate color-changing feature, like a weapon that could actually change the color of the environment while I'm running.