Some Quick Thoughts on… Contrast
I really wanted to like Contrast. Everything I saw from the outside seemed like exactly my cup of tea. A beautiful Moulin Rouge-esque world of spinning lights, dancing shadows and art-deco buildings.
Then the game happened…
The game is a platformer with a twist, that twist being the fact that our leggy dame can phase into a shadow realm, turning a 3D platformer into a 2D one. This means that by altering light sources, we can create footholds for ourselves, or remove obstacles from our path. It can make for some decent puzzling, when it works. Quite often though, it can be a bit janky, with things popping out of the shadow realm when you would rather they just stay in the damn wall, you obstinate box!
The narrative progression of the game is disappointing as well. It starts off well; you are seemingly the imaginary friend of Didi, a young girl coming to terms with some domestic upset between her parents. The plot quite quickly derails, however, and becomes an arbitrary excuse to get from one arena of light-puzzles to the next. The story managed to get its hooks into me again towards the end, but even this got glossed over at the finale as the game ticked of its checklist of resolutions and dropped the curtain.
For a game about the interaction of light and dark, it can sometimes be an ugly place. Models are stilted and wooden, like marionettes that forgot how to bend at the knees, and shadows occasionally have an arm float free from its respective shoulder. Each still-life screenshot gives an impression of the gorgeousness the game can show, but the in-motion reality is unfortunately not up to the same standard.
All this negativity isn’t to say the game is bad. Some of Contrast’s puzzles are very well designed, and phasing in and out of the shadows is good fun (when it works). But I was certainly drawn in more by the outside appearance than the actual game itself. Never judge a book by its cover, as they always say.
I busted through the game in about three hours, though there were still a few achievements and collectables I missed. It’s a very stylish game, Contrast, but I feel they forgot to actually do anything with all the awesome concept art they had clearly put their hearts into…