Developer: Compulsion Games
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: November 15, 2013
Install Size: 2.5 GB (PlayStation 4), 974 MB (Xbox 360), 4 GB (PC)
Price: $14.99 – Available Here
As with Resogun, Sony needed games to pad the launch of the PlayStation 4. In development for a while now, Focus Home Interactive and Compulsion Games’ Contrast has been a standout game at past showings. When it was revealed that Drive Club would not make it into the hands of gamers on launch day, Contrast was Sony’s go-to backup, and free to PlayStation Plus subscribers to boot. How does the puzzle platformer with a shady twist hold up, though? Is it a beacon of light or should it be left in a dark corner?
Didi is a young girl with a sordid family history. Her mother has recently been murdered and her father has long been absent from her life. After meeting Dawn, a lady with the strange ability to shift between our world and shadow, Didi enlists her new friend to help her backtrack the events that led to her current sad situation and mend her family.
Contrast is a puzzle-platformer that takes place both in a 3-D world and 2-D space. Over the course of three chapters, you’ll have to complete a series of puzzles and help Didi reassemble the family she has so tragically lost.
Controls are straightforward. Dawn has the ability to run around, jump, interact with objects in the environment, and shift between existence in 3-D space to the 2-D space of projected shadow. She can also perform a dash that will shift her through thin shadows to give some added maneuverability.
Using the play of light and shadow, you’ll have to figure out how to traverse through the world, using your shift ability to reach new areas, move boxes, cannonballs, and the like, and more.
One of the strongest aspects of Contrast is in its story and the way it’s told. Over the course of the game, you’ll see a fantastic tale of tragedy and redemption play out – with a little intervention from Didi and Dawn, of course. I don’t want to ruin anything for folks, but understand that the all of the characters involved are strong, significant characters that play a part in the life of this little girl’s family.
The story is told through a series of vignettes you’ll run into as you explore each act. These vignettes play out as shadows on the wall with spoken dialog. The story is solid and the dialog is both well written and executed by the voice actors, bringing the story to life before your eyes.
As cliché as it is to say, the level design in Contrast is a mixed bag. Most of the puzzles feel fairly easy to work through with only a little thought once you understand the mechanics. There are a few brilliant standouts that will have you scratching your head, though. Even with all of the puzzles, Contrast is a fairly short game. Most folks will probably be able to finish it in 3-4 hours, if not faster. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as the game completes its experience and leaves no fat to be trimmed.
The game is certainly not without its issues. Rare graphical glitches will leave you able to see through the back of Dawn’s head or other such oddities. There are also some issues with the way the physics and light/shadow mechanics work. You may try to set down a box, only to get stuck under it in a falling animation, or dash out of a shadow and get lodged in geometry within the stage. Though rare, jumping sessions can also be an exercise in patience, particularly when trying to hustle to beat a timing obstacle or ascend a steep incline. They all feel fairly innocuous at first, but they occur often enough over the course of the game that you’ll take note.
Contrast won’t likely win any awards for pushing the limits like other PlayStation 4 titles do, but it stands up strong in its own right. The noir aesthetic and the play of shadows provide an interesting setting both in terms of historical period and simple traversal. Didi can feel like an animated character brought to life, while Dawn’s silhouette implies a quick, agile figure cut out for the job. Overall, it’s entertaining and interesting, even if it can feel a bit too dark on occasion.
The soundtrack to Contrast is excellent. With smoky jazz tracks that feel reminiscent of a time when gangsters and cabaret ruled the night, you’ll find a few tunes that stick with you well after the credits have rolled. They do a great job aiding in the storytelling as well. The audio is further bolstered by fantastic voice acting that, in conjunction with shadow animation, brings the story to life in front of your eyes.
Overall, Contrast is a game with a few issues that still deserves recognition. Though the puzzles feel fairly straightforward for the most part, there are a few “Eureka” moments to be had. The game’s story is wonderfully told with great voice acting. The game does suffer from a few mild glitches and it’s a fairly quick playthrough, but folks looking for something a bit different from the glut of first-person shooters will find a refreshing experience here.
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