Contrast Review – Old Problems Overshadow New Ideas

Genre Puzzle-Platformer / Platforms PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Developer Compulsion Games / Publisher Focus Home Interactive

Platform Played On PC

Compulsion Games’ Contrast is a pretty unique title, being backed up by an intriguing family tale and a fun-to-use shadow mechanic, which turns out to be more than a simple gimmick. That said, these new ideas are often overshadowed (pun intended) by old problems, and because of this, the game simply cannot achieve the status it aspires to.

Contrast takes place in a surreal, noir-style Paris, during 1920. The game features two protagonists: Didi – a little girl who’s troubled by the fact that her father has been missing for a while, and Dawn – whom players control – being Didi’s supposedly imaginary friend. Due to Contrast’s particularly short tale, saying anything more would mean spoiling it, so I’m going to stop here. Needless to say that, while the game’s story is one of its high points, I feel like the ending is a very abrupt one, raising more questions than answers; questions, which, at first, you wouldn’t even think about.

At its core, Contrast is composed of two genres: a platformer, and a puzzle-centric title. On the platforming side, the game is quite often at fault. At first, controlling Dawn feels fine, but as you advance, you start noticing that most jumps often depend on luck, and that Dawn’s overall movements feel floaty, and imprecise.

Thankfully, the game fares much better on the puzzles’ side. Contrast’s main attraction is Dawn’s ability to shift from the usual universe to the shadowy one, changing the game’s perspective from 3D to 2D, and the other way around. Every last puzzle is based on this mechanic, and all are successfully executed by using different sources to create shadows (e.g. film projectors, spotlights etc.). While not brain-taxing by any stretch of the imagination, most puzzles are fun to take part in.

As mentioned above, Contrast takes place in a surreal, noir-style Paris. Unfortunately, the environments feel a bit cramped, with only one area being a little bit bigger, and allowing you to tackle a few objectives in your choice of order. In addition to the “crampness,” the town also feels empty. Adding other shadows, which would represent the citizens, and making them talk, cheer etc. would have made for a much more immersing town.

During my four-hours playthrough (yes, it’s pretty short), I have also encountered quite a few bugs. Some were passable, while others actually forced me to restart from a previous checkpoint. Besides that, clippings through some objects and falling through the terrain have also made my experience a little bit less exciting.

On the presentation side, the 1920’s noir Paris atmosphere is a delight to witness, and listen to. Unfortunately, it seems to only last for the first two acts. After that, there’s hardly any soundtrack to listen to, or any remarkable landscapes to traverse. If nothing else, Contrast’s graphics are sharp – Dawn and Didi are nicely detailed, and while the environments share the same qualities, they lack a certain variety. Right from its main menu, the soundtrack, composed mainly of jazz songs, perfectly introduces you to Contrast’s world.

Contrast is not a bad game, and for its $15 price tag, it’s actually a good one. The main issue here is that the whole experience feels rough, and rushed. From the platforming, to its multiple bugs, or to its length, Contrast feels like an unfinished product. That said, its intriguing, fun shadow mechanic and characters are great, and truly deserve something better. Hopefully, an eventual sequel will do them justice.

The Good

+ Didi, and her story of reuniting a broken family

+ Dawn’s shifting ability

+ The soundtrack

The Bad

– The platforming

– Empty-feeling town

– Bugs and glitches

The Score 7.4