Contrast is a puzzle platformer in a 1920’s themed setting, featuring a young girl named Didi and her friend Dawn.The game starts with Didi sneaking out of bed and into a nightclub where she finds that her family life is not quite as perfect as she hoped. You play as Didi’s mysterious friend Dawn, and must help with her journey to repair her broken family and get her parents back together.
From the title screen, the scene is set wonderfully with a jazz soundtrack and noir design looks great. I have always loved the style in games such as Bioshock and the individual locations ooze of it, from jazz clubs, to cinemas and hotels, they all look the part.
Your character, Dawn, can move between three-dimensional reality and into the shadows where the game becomes almost like a 2D platform game as she is limited by the shadows on the walls. Light sources create shadows and can found placed in areas to reach a platform that is too high to reach. So for example, if Dawn needed to get to an outside balcony in reality, she could enter the shadows, and now reach it by traversing shadows of a nearby café tables and chairs. that are on the wall.
It is a clever idea and on the whole it does work very well but I found that despite learning new abilities along the way such as being able to dash through shadows, the gameplay mechanics start to feel samey and predictable. It usually involves reaching an area which is inaccessible in reality, reach it in the shadows, and then activating a switch or cutscene to progress. One puzzle which stood out was the final level which involved some great use of lighting and platform/puzzle elements that offered a bit of thought. There were one or two occasions where I was not even sure I completed the puzzles as the developers intended, as it felt to me like I had taken a shortcut to completing what I imagined a more difficult puzzle.
The story is told well and without spoiling it, the game follows Didi’s mother and her troubles with her husband. The husband gets himself mixed up with the mob, and while his intentions are good, things do not go well for him and he lands himself in to more trouble the harder he tries to fix things. If you explore the world a little, you can find snippets of story which act as mini-puzzles while you listen and in ways interact with as you jump over the shadows of the characters or events.
The gameplay can be a little clunky at times. I was reviewing the PC version and played the game with both keyboard and controller. The controller felt very sensitive to small amounts of input and it occasionally made me fall off platforms or do something I did not want to do. The camera can occasionally give you trouble but it is free-aiming and can be fixed. The most annoying aspect is that I managed to get stuck in walls and scenery on a few occasions, with no option other than to restart from the last save position.
The length of the game should also be put into question. It took me just over three hours to complete the game which I found was very short. There are collectible items to find over the course of the game but you will find many of them on your first playthrough. There is little to keep you coming back after completing the game. I would have liked some more puzzles or side quests to add some lifespan and replayability.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the game a lot. The characters are likeable, especially Didi who reminds me of Clementine from The Walking Dead game. The story is interesting to watch unfold and interact with. But there was simply not enough puzzle content to get really stuck in to. It is worth pointing out that Contrast is free on PlayStation+ and in this case it is a must play. If you are a fan of the era or platform/puzzle games then you will enjoy the game, I would wait for a sale otherwise as it is a little too pricey.
Clever use of reality 3D and shadowy 2D platform elements, but is let down by occasional clunky controls and finding yourself stuck in walls.
Lovely 1920's noir style locations and design set the scene perfectly.
The main theme tune is perfect for the game but there is not much else to listen to that is memorable. Character dialogue is done well.