Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Conpulsion Games
Platform: Xbox One
Availability: Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, Windows
Contrast is a game of shadows. Set in a noir type atmosphere, we play as Dawn, an imaginary friend to Didi, who is a little girl. Dawn and Didi are the only two characters in the game who appear as full 3D figures, and the rest of the cast is made up of shadows. The key gameplay mechanic in Contrast is Dawn’s ability to move between the 3D physical world, and shadows, the 2D world. Sounds like an interesting mechanic, right?
The story follows Didi who has led a troublesome childhood. Her mother is a cabaret singer, and recently separated. Child support has threatened to take Didi away her mother if she doesn’t find stable work; that or reconciles with her husband Johnny. Johnny has been kicked out of the house due to his association with gangsters and racking up dept, which is not healthy behaviour for a family. Didi sneaks out one night to watch her mother perform at the Cabaret, and it is here where we watch the interaction between a shadowed Johnny and Didi’s mother Kat discuss their failing marriage and Johnny’s big plans to improve all their lives
Wanting to help her mother and Johnny reconcile, Didi follows Johnny to the bar where we witness the meeting between Johnny and Vincenzo, a famous illusionist. Johnny is trying to convince Vincenzo to perform at his new circus event. Simple enough, but Johnny doesn’t have enough money, so he returns to the gangsters to borrow more.
What follows is a tale of Didi and Dawn following Johnny throughout the night, and fixing his blunders, ensuring that his circus project gets off the ground, and that he makes good on his debts.
The game is a puzzle platformer. As Dawn, we have the ability to transition between the real 3D world, and the shadow world. Using projectors, spotlights, and other maneuverable light sources, we have to navigate the streets and building interiors, getting from one checkpoint to the next.
The game is broken up into three chapters, the first being the largest and lengthiest. This chapter sets the stage and introduces all the mechanics, and tells the bulk of the story. Chapter two fixes the conflict revolving around the circus, and its three attractions that are of course broken or in disrepair. The last chapter concludes the events of the story and wraps up the relationships of the primary characters. This chapter ties all the mechanics together into more challenging and sometimes time-sensitive puzzles.
The game is short in length and shallow in concept. And while it was released across both Xbox’s and Playstation’s platforms, it’s only OK looking. The noir theme and character design is fine, but the environments were fairly lifeless and stale. And just lonely, as Didi and Dawn are the only two physical characters in the world.
The shadow concept was unique, and I found it especially amusing that you can’t die in the shadow world – unless you fall off a platform – but in most instances you just get squeezed back into the 3D world.
But the platforming mechanics were not as smooth or refined as they could be. Oft times jumping led to falling as the character animation, and Dawn’s model in particular is not that agile to maneuver. The story was short and the gameplay was clunky. Some of the puzzles were excellent in design though, where the player has to maneuver two or three different light sources to cast shadows on the wall, that they then have to scale.
In the category of achievements, this game made the list of Xbox One’s games easiest to 100%, and for good reason. Play it and you’ll acquire a nice 1000G. Only a few of the collectibles are actually hidden, where the rest are out in plain sight, and each part of the story will net you a couple hundred G’s
To The Heroes Among Us (Unlocked when the player finds the hidden Extra Life 2012 logo) – 25G
Not The Kind of Game (Unlocked when the player tried to enter the XXX door) – 10G