Contrast is one of the more better-looking games coming into 2013 and had won various awards at E3 which left many people looking forward to its release. Contrast is an inventive 2D/3D puzzle – platforming game developed by Compulsion Games and published by Focus Home Interactive. It comes out for the PC, PS3, PS4 and the Xbox 360. What makes Contrast’s platforming so innovative and unique is that you can blend into shadows which opens up a plethora of puzzle solving opportunities. So, Is this indie game really worth your money? Let’s find out.
The story in Contrast is noteworthy, and that’s understating it. You play as Dawn, the imaginary friend of a young girl named Didi who is troubled by her family problems. Dawn can see Didi and only her, every other character is displayed as mere shadows or silhouettes and this creates a greater sense of intimacy with Didi, Her quirkiness and charm will surely make you fall in love with her from the start. We soon find out that Didi’s parents have been having problems and she’ll do anything and everything to keep her family together. This all makes up for one gripping and emotional narrative that will stick with you long after you’ve finished the game.
One of the reasons the story is so captivating is the way that it’s delivered. This includes voice acting and Contrast has, by far, some of THE BEST voice work in any game I’ve played. The way characters deliver dialogue is fantastic. You can feel the emotion behind it and that’s saying a lot when all you see are talking shadows on a wall. Puzzle games usually don’t have as much to offer like “AAA” games but kudos to Compulsion Games for nailing it on the Story.
There’s a difference between graphics and visuals (the way I see it) and Contrast is a good example that clearly separates the two. Contrast runs on the Unreal Engine 3 but it feels though as if the developers weren’t able to utilize it to it’s full potential. Thus, textures are left looking unfinished and edgy and on some occasions, graphical pop-in is present. However, the visuals (i,e artwork, character design, level design) are extremely fun and just beautiful to look at. The tall and skinny shapes that characters are made in look similar to a Tim Burton movie and what better place to put those characters in than a 1920s version look-a-like of Paris, the City of Lights. All this is topped off with an early 19th century atmosphere that was all about cabaret clubs, jazz music and carnivals. And of course, Contrast is a game about light projecting shadows and lighting in this game is brilliantly displayed. Visually speaking, Contrast is an absolute treat to look at.
As said before, gameplay in Contrast is unique in that Dawn can become a shadow and walk on, well, other shadows and this really opens players up to some interesting and unique puzzles. The first few hours of playing will provide players with those “A-ha!” moments but after a while, Puzzles become generic and have you carrying around boxes to platforms to advance to the next level. At first, moving through shadows is difficult and at times, annoying but this only shows how delicate you have to be when playing Contrast.
But where Contrast’s shadowplay shines brightest is not in the intricate puzzles. It’s when it allows you to become part of a scene. You have to time your movements right in order to go from A to B. For example, you have to stand at Didi’s mother’s feet and wait as she lifts her foot and places it on a chair with you in it. Whether it’s moving around or over a quarreling couple, or playing the role of a princess in a story Didi’s father is narrating to her, the unique situations where all the strengths of Contrast are showcased in sequences like these are what makes Contrast a Great game.
Sadly, Contrast comes with it’s faults. Too often puzzles are boring and some times just not challenging enough. Dawn also frequently gets stuck in places or her body just freezes and all you can do is restart the game. There was a time when I spawned on top of a building and no matter where I went, I kept falling to my death. This happens enough to make it a hindrance to the experience but not so much that it’s game-breaking.
Contrast will draw you in on it’s charming story and inventive gameplay mechanics, and if that’s not enough, the hauntingly beautiful world it’s set in will surely leave you slowly clapping your hands towards the end. It is not without it’s faults though but for an indie game, this is probably one of the best indie games ever.