In some ways, Chameleon's entertainment value is inexplicable. If you took one quick look at it, you might think you were in for some kind of anime-invaded rip-off of Hexic. But once you actually start playing it, you'll realize there are barely any modes, the presentation is as generic as generic can get, and the gameplay really only has one gimmick going for it the whole way through. And yet, in spite of these issues, Chameleon is actually kind of fun. The simplicity of the game's color-swapping mechanic and the minimal amount of strategy required to navigate the game board are somehow enough to be captivating in short bursts.
The game's normal mode starts off by asking you to choose a character from five different ridiculous-looking anime girls then plops you into competition against one of the girls you didn't pick. The game itself simply presents a game board filled with colored hexagons and two hexagons bearing player symbols on opposite ends of the board. On each turn, your goal is to swap the color of your player hexagon with the color of a surrounding piece, at which point the surrounding piece is claimed by you. You and your opponent keep doing this until one of you has collected a majority of the board.
Along the way, characters can collect star pieces, which allow them to pull off special attacks. Each character has a different attack, but they're all pretty simple. These include forcing the opposing player to skip his or her next turn, limiting the number of colors a player can choose from for a turn, and blowing up sections of an opposing player's claimed pieces, which turns them neutral again. While playing through the game, you'll also have to avoid bomb pieces on the board, which do the same thing.
So, in essence, the gameplay boils down to picking colors and avoiding bombs. That's about it. While that might not sound particularly engaging, it actually has its moments. There is a bit of strategy in picking your colors, and you can create some significant combo chains if you know what you're doing. Granted, the game boards are rarely very big, so each game tends to last a short time. Also, there aren't enough randomizations of the color patterns to avoid the sense that you're just playing through the same game scenarios over and over again. Fortunately, there are a couple of rule variants that change things up a bit. You can add king pieces to the mix, which are larger pieces that can be claimed only by surrounding them with six of your own smaller pieces. There's also a sort of capture-the-flag variant, where the whole "claim the bulk of the board" rule is thrown out, and your only goal is to get to a flag piece in the middle of the board. That is actually the most competitive mode in the game because bomb pieces can really screw you up when you're just a piece or two away from the flag.
Even with the rule variants, Chameleon still feels like it's playing one note over and over again with its gameplay, which does get rather repetitive after a while. It doesn't help that there are so few ways to play the game contained on the cartridge. Despite the fact that the back of the box lists five gameplay modes, there are only three. The normal mode only goes for four stages (long enough for you to beat the other four characters), while the endless mode is just an endless string of fights that don't really go anywhere. Then, there's single-card download play for two players. Host players can set the rules, the size of the game board, time limits, and whatnot, but it's not necessarily that much more fun to play against people than it is to play against the computer. Games play out a bit less mechanically, but that's basically it. The brightly colored yet somehow bland graphics and irritating, repetitive music loops don't do much to combat the monotony either.
Ultimately, Chameleon is like cheap chewing gum. It's tasty for a short while but quickly loses its flavor, and once you toss it aside, you'll pretty much forget you ever played it. It's disposable entertainment that doesn't lack fun but does lack staying power. The budget price of $20 may be good enough if you're in dire need of a new puzzle-game fix for your DS. But if you're not already suffering from the puzzle-game shakes, you're probably better off leaving Chameleon to a quick rental, rather than a full-on purchase.