Colored Effects is an indie puzzle platformer with an inviting approach but so-so gameplay. A couple of choices result in a game that offers initial fun but doesn’t have legs.

The single-screen levels are a design decision I can get behind, with your exit clearly in view from the get-go. The gimmick here is colored powerups that allow you to get matching gems that act like keys to unlock all the gates. Blue allows for double jumping, and yellow, lets your character dash, to name just a couple.

While the design is simple, the challenge is not. Colored Effects doesn’t really offer a ramping challenge, with even the earliest levels giving pause with some head-scratching layouts. And I say this as a genre fan. A way to ease players in would’ve been advantageous. Still, this should click for those looking for a challenge from the outset, even if later levels are uneven.

I find it rather interesting that I had the opposite criticism for a game published by Flynn’s Arcade earlier this year. It illustrates how tough it can be to offer a balanced difficulty. That fine line between too easy and too frustrating is thin, demonstrating why options are ideal. The options in this game are limited mainly to presentation settings, though they’re still appreciated.

Speaking of comparing releases, this game (despite the name) comes up short with color. While a mere coincidence, as the earlier game had a different developer, what is it with Flynn’s arcade attaching themselves to bland-looking games? I can’t complain too much, given the game’s budget price of $4.99, but copious amounts of grey and white are monotonous. At least the colored powerups, enemies, and gates stand out.

Revisiting the challenge, this game commits the cardinal sin of being linear. I can appreciate the need for some linearity with new mechanics getting introduced. After all, you don’t want to skip too far ahead and discover a technique you have yet to be acquainted with. But, if you get stuck, you’re stuck. I recommend having a friend on hand who appreciates the genre to bounce ideas off of, which makes the game more entertaining.

And yes, you can get literally stuck. The game makes a point to advertise that “nothing prevents you from restarting at any moment and getting back in an instant.” But additional polish and smarter level design would make such a feature largely unnecessary. I got stuck multiple ways as early as level four, using solutions that seemingly made sense but not ones the game required. Though I’m grateful said feature is here in this current build, I wish I only had to use it sparingly.

There are clever boss fights, one coming as early as the second level, which is curious, but it does make the game stand out somewhat from its peers. And the music, while missing on the title and menu screens, is pleasant.

The initial fun may soon give way to want; want of less linear design, more balanced difficulty, and (ironically enough) more color, to name just a few things. Colored Effects is fair enough for its budget price. But I’m curious what the developer can do with future releases that’ll hopefully be more fun and polished.