A launch title for the Playstation 4 (available on PS+ too) also released on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, Contrast made its way to Xbox One via ID@Xbox last week. Boasting some technical improvements and tweaks Contrast is a unique game and one that I think people should experience.
The first thing I noticed was that it felt good to be playing a game with no combat, maybe that’s just me but jumping, occasional climbing and dashing were all I required of Dawn the playable character outside of the puzzles which use a 2D shadowy universe on the walls to blend in with the 3D gameplay of moving my character around the world. Set in the 1920s the story is based around a little girl called Didi who is currently undergoing difficult times at home. With her Mum out working late and her Dad having been kicked out I felt a distinct sadness for the character as the story progressed which is not something I usually feel from games if im honest. Dawn is Didi’s mysterious friend (who doesn’t speak) who uses the 2D shadow universe to complete puzzles, no-one can see Dawn though so it often looks as though Didi is talking to herself.
I really liked the 1920s noir style world brought to life with a dark distinctive art style and looks nice on Epic’s Unreal Engine 3. The world is very well put together and gave off an eerie mysterious and even a little unsettling vibe of the times, possibly because of how dark the game is aesthetically in its art style. All the characters in the game who aren’t Didi and Dawn are shown as a shadowy character in the 2D universe with linear but good level design whilst following Didi around and through her story in the game, Didi really does come across well as a young child who is missing things at home.
There are collectibles in the three acts which provide a little more depth to the story and characters, as well as luminous power orbs to collect which are used in some puzzles although you can complete the game without collecting them all, the achievements are quite simple I got 80% of them on my play through and I will go back for the rest. On a technical level, apart from a few frame-rate hiccups it ran fine and as I said earlier it looks nice.
The puzzles vary in difficulty and size as you’d expect but it slowly ramps up over the course of the game offering some good variations with the game mechanics which make it a bit challenging at times but otherwise also fun to do some quick trial and error and playing around in the environment to see what will aid you in the puzzle and what wont. Adding in dashing whilst in the 2D universe through objects, as well as trying to use the shadowed environments to your advantage when traversing around the areas. The use of light and dark was one I really liked and I thought the puzzles were clever, varied and interesting and not frustrating at all, switching between 2D and 3D (such as to grab a ledge or bring an item out of the shadow universe) was a smooth transition and as I said well put together.
I really did enjoy playing through Contrast though, Compulsion Games have made a very engaging experience from the art style to the story, puzzles, atmosphere and small exploration of the areas is really something a bit different and worth checking out. It’s a little on the short-side if im being completely honest but I think that’s an acceptable trade-off for a well executed game in the areas that mattered. I’d love to see a spiritual sequel of some sort which utilised the 2D shadow universe puzzle mechanics again or something set in the same period as I did found it atmospheric and enjoyable to play, perhaps surprisingly so if I’m honest, such is how much I enjoyed it.
Thanks to Compulsion Games for providing me with a review code