Contrast (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Compulsion Games
Release Date: November 15th, 2013
Parent Talk: Contrast is a noir-based puzzle platformer that features some mild suggestive themes, violence, and the use of tobacco. It has been rated T for teen from the ESRB, and the rating fits perfectly. This game is all about style, and anyone that enjoys the 1930s to 50s, or noir film will absolutely adore it. Players only see Didi, a young girl, everyone else is represented by shadows, so while there is violence, there is no details in the actions.
Plays Like: This is an interesting game to describe, as it’s rather original. You take on the role of Dawn, Didi’s friend that cannot be seen, and who cannot see others herself. She can only see the shapes of other people via the shadows they cast. While she can interact with objects in the real world, her true skill is being able to cross over to the shadow world and move to areas otherwise impossible to traverse. Puzzles are cleverly wrapped around this gameplay mechanic. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding an exit to an area, while other times you need to move a block on a switch. Whatever the case may be, the gameplay remains fresh and exciting throughout the four hour adventure.
Review Basis: Contrast is currently available for free, at the time of writing this review, to all PS+ members. I completed the PS4 versions of the game, and enjoyed it so much that I went back and got all the trophies for it.
The core gameplay is excellent. Your goal is to try to solve puzzles, while switching between two dimensions. There are lots of creative platforming sections wrapped around this mechanic, and lots, and lots of clever puzzles. As you progress you unlock more and more powers, but it never becomes bothersome or overbearing. Some of my favorite scenes in the entire game simply involve seeking out secret areas and figuring out how to reach your reward.
+ Highly stylized. If you enjoy noir film, or stories set in the 1930s to 50s, this is a game for you. Occasionally Dawn will locate floating icons that, when touched, will activate special mini-games whereby a story plays out in shadow form, and you have to act quickly in order to reach your desired goal. Not only does it push the story forward, but some of these are extremely challenging, and all of them look sensational.
+ The entire world feels alive, yet desolate at the same time. You can hear jazz playing off in a club somewhere, there’s an old circus left there waiting for you to explore, and so much more. Graphically everything is perfectly detailed, and I love the style of both Didi and Dawn. The shadow forms look nice too. Speaking of which, the lighting as a whole is extremely well done, which is crucial since it’s so important to the rest of the game.
+ The audio features tunes from the time period, and the voice acting is about what you’d expect. Some actors are better than others, although whomever voiced Didi did a sensational job.
+ Surprisingly deep story. Didi is a young girl who simply wants to keep her family together, and while you take on the role of Dawn, her close friend that can travel between the shadow realm and the real one, you’re the one that’s going to do all the work to ensure this family gets past their current troubles.
+ Nice amount of variety. While there are a few sequences that require you to move a box to a switch, most of the puzzles are out and about in the city. These areas sometimes challenge you with reaching your goal within a set amount of time, others have you adjusting light sources to get the platforms just where you need them. There even a puppet show you have to take part in. It’s all good fun.
+/- Dawn often feels much lighter than she should. One of her special abilities allows her to dash through small shadows, but I found she flies a little too far occasionally causing her to miss another platform. I also found her jump to be extremely high and light, but you might not have a problem with that.
– Bugs, and oddball glitches. Sometimes you’ll jump to an area and fall right through the floor, even though you made sure you landed on what appeared to be a platform. Other times you will try to drop off a box on a switch, only to have Dawn float in mid-air. At one point I was able to lock up the entire game and had to restart the chapter. Most glitches and bugs can be worked through, but having to restart an entire chapter is ridiculous.
– Controls aren’t as tight as they should be. When you jump from a platform to an open wall and want to enter the shadow world, many times Dawn will simply stay in the real world and fall to her death. This happens around thirty percent of the time, and can get very frustrating at times.
If the controls were just a bit tighter, and the bugs cleaned up this could have been one of my favorite launch titles on the PS4, as I’m a sucker for anything noir-related. As it stand now, this is a game that shines with potential, but falls a little short. If you’re ok with a game that has a few issues, this is one I wholeheartedly recommend you try out, and hey it’s free for PS+ members, and with a PS4 that’s pretty much mandatory so you really don’t have anything to lose by giving this one a go.