Contrast

So I’m aware I’m a little bit late for this one. Winter has truly come which means I’m unable to hold back the tide of the work that is amassing. Not only does this mean I’m unable to find the time to write, but also unable to find the time to play the games I want to write about. On top of this, Overwatch came out, so what little gaming time I do have has been going towards that.

Contrast is a story about a girl, Didi, trying to reunite her parents after they’ve split up. Unfortunately, her mother is a self-absorbed, cabaret singer and her father is a no-hope who has borrowed too much money from the mob. Fortunately, Didi is accompanied by her imaginary friend, Dawn, an entity who can shift from the material world to become a shadow on the wall. You play Dawn as she assists Didi in trying to get he father out of trouble and prove that he isn’t completely useless.

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Wise guy, eh?

Contrast is a puzzle-platformer where the platforming shifts between 2D and 3D planes. This shift between the planes is actually quite seamless and executed well, and the puzzles themselves scale upwards appropriately as your progress. They’re never particularly hard, and it often comes down to a bit of trial and error, but the puzzles are still fun enough.

It’s also an interesting puzzle mechanic, the jump between a standard 3D platformer to the monochromatic shadow platforming as cast by objects you can move. You modify your level, often several time, in order to complete the puzzle.

Where this game really shines (see what I did there) is the method of story telling. The story is told through peoples’ shadows while Didi interacts with the people casting them. The shadows are animate and demonstrate real emotion, probably more so than if the story was being told through character models.

As you explore the world, you come across small snippets of further story, often splayed across a wall (also acting as a puzzle to get a collectible). Despite the game being child-centric, the story really revolves around the parents who can’t seem to get anything right.

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In and out.

As Dawn, you can only see the shadows of everyone but Didi. At first I thought this was a cool idea within the story where you can only interact with Didi, but it turns out it’s just a bit of dramatic flair as there’s no character models. And with this in mind, the world felt incredibly lifeless. There’s no people, which has been done before without a problem. The issue here is that you spend all your time in public places such as a cabaret, circus or on the streets where it’s implied that these places are occupied. So the lack of people is just a hindrance. I understand that the setting is meant to be a chunk of surreal French Bohemia, but it still felt lacking.

I could get past the lifeless world. I get it, it’s an indie project and I shouldn’t expect the world diversity like in The Witcher (expansion is out today… woo!). But the game lacked the polish I do expect from any modern game. There were invisible walls all over the place, some of the jumping into shadows required a transition that wouldn’t trigger at the right time, and I felt the collectibles were not only useless, but added nothing of value to the game.

Contrast provided about six of hours worth of fun and while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a “must-play” but it’s still worth a play, although I wouldn’t pay more than AU$20 for it.

Rating Innovation

The premise behind the game allows for some unique puzzles and an interesting method of story telling. I feel it didn’t go far enough at times with all the puzzles being slightly repetitive.

Excellence

The game is quite “playable” with few bugs or issues. But I felt like I was running through a lifeless, constructed world. There were invisible walls everywhere and the only real immersion was through unnecessary “collectibles”.

Conclusion

Contrast is a short, fun game with a story that’s aptly told through the gameplay, even if the concepts behind the story aren’t entirely realised. It suffers from some of the flaws that almost all platformers suffer from and lacks the overall polish I generally expect from indie games these days, but is still worth the play.

Contrast-Cover
Contrast is currently available on Steam for US$14.99, GamesPlanet.com for £9.49, the XBOX Marketplace for AU$19.95, the Playstation Store for AU$22.95 and Google Play for AU$21.37.
The next review in about 4 weeks will be on The Novelist
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