With all of the excitement going around about the PS4, we were all excited when we found out that the puzzle platforming game, Contrast, would be a PS4 launch title. Bringing us a unique take on puzzles by using shadows and taking us to the iconic 1920s, Contrast looked to bring us something new and exciting. With all of the hype that revolved around this game, Contrast lives up to expectations when it comes to its wonderful storyline and stunning graphics, yet proves to be greatly hindered by its frustrating gameplay mechanics and game bugs that pop out their ugly heads 50 times too many.
Contrast follows the story of Didi, a little girl who has quite a difficult time obeying the rules of her cabaret-singing mother, and Dawn, who is Didi’s acrobatic imaginary friend. Throughout the journey of Contrast, we play as Dawn, aiding Didi in her attempts to get her father to come back home after he fell into the wrong sort of men and left home. Although Dawn is the imaginary friend, it is Didi who seems to be the strange and mysterious one, as where she sees real people, we only see shadow people. The main quest of trying to aid Didi’s father and turn him into a better man has an underlying mission of trying to figure out who Didi is and what makes her so special.
The story of Contrast is definitely compelling, and it is amazing how enticed you will become by the tale of Didi and her family in such a short timeframe. Compulsion Games has created an impeccable way of making us love these characters through the mere 6 hours we spent with them, and it feels as though every scene is crafted with this goal in mind. At the same time though, because the story is so endearing, you will find yourself wanting more at the end of the story, wishing that Compulsion had added a bit more game time. The storyline in Contrast is surely one of its high points, and if you are in need of a good story, that alone should have you itching to play this game.
Playing in a third-person viewpoint as Didi’s imaginary friend, Dawn, the gameplay is composed of solving various puzzles and collecting items. What makes the puzzle-solving in Contrast unique is that you use Dawn’s ability to travel between light and shadows to get to various places that may otherwise be unreachable. The shadow of a large moving gear could be used to get to a higher point, turning Dawn into a shadow and having her jump from groove to groove of the gear to reach her objective. Although this is a lot of fun and an interesting take that has never been done before, it can be tedious and repetitive, making you yearn for something different from Contrast’s gameplay. Transferring to shadows can sometimes be frustrating also, as you will be forced out of the shadow if the tiniest bit of light hits you. This makes sense, but a lot of the time you get forced out of the shadow for no apparent reason, making you have to start from the beginning and taking away the fun of the game, putting a taste of aggravation in its place instead.
While the aspect of being forced out of the shadows is one problem, another problem is the fact that as you travel through Contrast’s city, Dawn will get stuck an absurd amount, making a weird motion with her arms straight out, and you will have to jump to try to get her unstuck. Walking into any object will make this happen, and it seems as though Compulsion Games overlooked this too-common annoyance.
Contrast does have one awesome feature that many of you scavengers will enjoy though, and that’s its collecting aspect. Throughout Contrast’s city you can hunt for collectibles, which will give you interesting information to give you a good feeling of the 1920s time period in which the game is set, more insight into Didi and her family, and many other items. You can also collect glowing blue balls called Luminaries. These can be used to power up different objects that need electricity in order to aid you in puzzle completion. While these are fun to collect, the collectibles are easy to find, so there isn’t really any sense of accomplishment, and there are generally more Luminaries lying around the city than you need.
For those completionists, it is very easy to Trophy hunt in Contrast, as you can merely select which chapter you would like to return to and nab that Trophy to increase your PS3/PS4 level. This also makes it easy if you missed a collectible and would like to go back and find it. The chapter selection and easy accessibility definitely gives Contrast some extra replay value.
Set in a 1920s time period, Contrast brings us a city that gives off the overall 1920s boudoir feeling perfectly. Bright cabaret lights and brilliant circus effects make us feel pulled straight into the roaring 20s. The character models also help to create this feeling, as Dawn sports a cabaret/circus styled get-up, along with short curled hair and bright makeup. Even when a character is a mere shadow, such as Didi’s parents, the shadows give off personalities, and their movements give you a mental image of what these characters would actually look like in physical form.
As the game revolves around light and shadows, it is necessary that Compulsion Games had to get each aspect perfectly, and they did. The contrasting levels of light make the game stand out, and it is surely beautiful. There are moments in Contrast in which you will be awed, and playing on the Playstation 4 will help enhance this feeling even more. While staying in the animated realm and not trying to give off a feeling of overt realism as other games such as Killzone: Shadow Fall and Battlefield 4 do, Contrast remains in its own realm and shows that even games that are more cartoon-styled can be stunning in their own regard.
As the graphics in Contrast give off the overall 1920s feeling, the music in Contrast does the same. Contrast’s soundtrack is so amazing that if you are a fan of this time period and cabaret style music of the 20s, you will sit at the Start screen just to listen to Didi’s mother belt it out. It even crossed my mind if the soundtrack was purchasable anywhere because the music was so catchy. If only there were more of it, though. The only times you really hear this iconic music is when you are around Didi’s mother, and it would be nice if they gave us more, but for what they did, the music in Contrast surely nailed it and accomplished its duty in setting the stage and providing us with the signature 1920s atmosphere.
One other fine point in Contrast’s sound is the actress who voiced young Didi did an amazing job. She portrays Didi in such a way that is absolutely adorable, makes you love her, and makes you want to know more about Didi and why she is so unique. Didi alone is a selling point for Contrast and it is with hopes that they make a sequel to the game as it would be great to get more of Didi’s story. Similarly, Didi’s father’s voice actor created an aura of a 1920s gangster for him, which also proved very fitting, and her mother was given a very sultry voice reminiscent of Jessica Rabbit.
With so many games out, both current gen and last gen, is Contrast worth playing? Absolutely! If you are a Playstation Plus member, you can get Contrast for free, and nothing is better than free. Even if you aren’t a member, the game is only $14.99, yet its infuriating glitches with Dawn make it a difficult sell. Contrast is a beautiful experience with compelling characters, wonderful graphics, and a great soundtrack. Yet, its frustrating and tedious gameplay mechanics are a hindrance, so if you do play this game, expect to be wowed by the story and graphics more than anything else.