It’s easy to describe many games in just a few words. Battlefield 5 equals “A World War 2 shooter”; GTA 5 is a “crime-filled open-world game set in a fictional LA”. Discolored is a… a… well, I’m struggling to get past the title. You see in Discolored there isn’t any directive as to why you are playing it, what your purpose is, or what is happening in the world. There are clues to decipher and red herrings to confuse those looking for it, but on the whole it doesn’t matter if you don’t. That doesn’t make it an unhappy experience though. Far from it.
You start Discolored in a lift, before heading to the nearest office, opening a suitcase and taking in the viewfinder found within. There are strange maps of countries that shouldn’t exist dotted around, and photographs are spilt across a desk; fallen from an evidence folder. It’s here where you’ll look through the viewfinder and, staring at a picture, you are suddenly transported to a location straight out of an Edward Hopper painting; a lonely deserted diner in the middle of a desert in the dark of night. The diner and landscape have lost their colour though, and you guess your purpose is to explore why.
The story of Discolored is set in just a couple of locations, mainly centred on the diner and surrounding areas. In fact, if you stray off down the road too much Discolored will automatically zap you back to the diner, as if you are stuck in a loop of time and space. As you progress through the game however, things begin to hint at bits of a narrative and a story which is slowly revealed. But it’s very surreal and abstract – something which is great if you like imposing your thoughts onto what a game might mean.
Discolored is a puzzle adventure, however you do get the choice to play through things either in the first person or as a point and clicker; it’s the first person mode that feels more immersive of the world. Movement is as you would expect, walking around, utilising a jump button occasionally, picking up and using objects and opening up the secrets hidden in the diner. Initially you’ll be able to understand what is available for you to pick up and what areas need something to open and unlock. But the puzzle system that holds Discolored together is more complicated than normal… and that’s to do with colour.
Dotted around the dinner are weird little triangular-shaped holes, coloured red, green, or blue. If you can find the right piece of coloured triangle to fill that hole on your journey it will colour the whole area that same color, allowing access to new items to use or new doorways to enter. Later on in the game when you have access to all three colour schemes, you’ll find yourself flicking between the three states in order to solve the clues at hand.
Discolored is a game that is highly unique, yet expertly designed throughout. It follows a brilliant concept too, having everything in one location, and the tone of the world nicely reminds of those classic 1960’s spy movies. The lack of handholding and complex puzzle solving might be a hindrance for some, especially in the latter half of the game, but with just a couple of hours of gameplay in place, it all feels about right. That said, Discolored has frustrated at times, although never enough to take away my enjoyment from the world on offer.
It’s brilliant visually too, especially in the Edward Hopper painting style mixed with a spy movie vibe. It has an original feel that is tremendously enjoyable, working with a great use of colour and visual design. The puzzles are superb too; one that involves a child’s crane and the moon is a great example of the visual perspectives and the unique design this is able to carry off. The soundtrack works perfectly for every situation as well, moving from the swinging music of the diner to the atmospheric sci-fi score in the end sequences.
Discolored is a game that has been designed to be played in one sitting, taking a couple of hours to work your way through. It’s very abstract in regards to its story and puzzles solutions at times, but in the same breath it’s extremely stylish, beautifully unique and thoroughly enjoyable. It feels there should be more from Discolored in the future, and after spending some time at this weird diner, it deserves all the sequels it needs.
Discolored is now available! Pick it up on Xbox Series X|S or Xbox One through the Xbox Store