The launch of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One over the last week both have their share of cookie cutter games you see in just about every major launch. The Xbox One has its driving game with Forza as well as a mindless action game with Ryse. The PlayStation 4 takes a similar route with a typical platformer in Knack and their seemingly vanilla FPS game in Killzone: Shadow Fall. Not to say that these are bad games, but they’re titles that seem to follow that run-of-the-mill launch game concept.
Contrast is a game that makes an effort to be unique, and those who give it a chance are in a for pleasant, albeit short, surprise.
What Is It?
Contrast has the look of a traditional 3D platformer, but it’s a little more than that.
Players take on the role of Dawn, a detective that can only be seen by DiDi, a little girl struggling with the drama between her parents. If that wasn’t strange enough, the only characters players will see in physical form are both DiDi and Dawn. Everybody else takes the form of shadows and silhouettes on walls, so during scenes where DiDi interacts with her family, players will see her talking to shadows.
While Dawn is somebody DiDi can physically see, Dawn also has the ability to jump into walls and merge with the shadows, effectively converting the game to a sidescrolling platformer with elements of a puzzle game.
Why Should I Care?
What really sets the game apart is despite the rather unique style of gameplay, its story is really something else. DiDi is the daughter of a stage performer who tries to keep her father out of the family due to some shaky business he finds himself in. Early on in the game, you find out DiDi’s father really isn’t her father among other plot twists that really give the game a good sense of narrative.Terrific voice acting really enhances the dialog in the story, and seeing the silhouettes interact with one another really give the player the sense of being a child behind closed doors listening to a parental argument.
Given that shadows are all based on lighting, most of the puzzles players will find in the game will require Dawn to move objects or lights around to manipulate the shadows on the walls. Dawn can’t merge into a wall unless there are shadows in it, and there are a lot of shadowy figures to find in Contrast.
The problem with this is that players could often mess around with shadows that have nothing to do with the puzzle they’re trying to solve. I actually found myself solving puzzles and reaching new areas simply by jumping into shadows that were probably not meant to be interacted with.
With the unknowingly different ways to play the game, it’s rather unfortunate that the game is as linear as it is. Contrast really could’ve benefitted by making its world more open-ended and rewarding players for finding different paths.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Contrast doesn’t do anything that a platform from the previous generation couldn’t, so its graphics and sound aren’t world class. But what the game lacks in production value doesn’t come close to the experience there is to be had. It’s a fairly short story that can be completed in less than four hours, but it’s a solid one nonetheless and is a breath of fresh air in a console launch that features nothing but vanilla.
As far as money is concerned, players subscribed to PSN+ are lucky enough to get this game for free. Otherwise, it’s a bit much at $15, but players should pounce as soon as it drops in price.