Earlier on in the year, we had a great opportunity to discuss Contrast with Sam Abbott of Compulsion Games, and now we have the opportunity to give our own Contrast Review. Will IGN’s “Best Indie of E3” this year hold up to it’s potential? Or will it slip away into the shadows, alongside many other Indie games who had so much promise, but lacked execution?
Contrast is an immediately beautiful game, right from the off. The aesthetic and feel of the game draws you in as soon as you begin, and an incredible amount of credit has to go to the Art team at Compulsion Games. The 1920s Noir style works well with the cel shaded characters, Didi and Dawn, and Compulsion have done a fantastic job in creating a world worth diving into. The soundtrack is beautiful, and the game has a certain level of charm that simply captivates you, despite it’s slight lack of polish and occasionally buggy controls.
Didi is a great child character whose personality and quirk make up for the silent protagonist you control, Dawn. Both are nicelydesigned characters that perfectly fit into the noir and circus themed world, and their story of trying to pull together Didi’s family is enough to keep you invested in the game and ensures the game doesn’t just survive based on it’s clever game mechanics and unique world. The game doesn’t contain the kind of dialogue or gripping plot to rival that of some other highly acclaimed Indie titles such as Thomas Was Alone or Bastion, but it still serves to add a level of substance to the game that could very well have been glossed over in a game that’s main pull is it’s innovative level design.
The game’s primary mechanic is a function that allows you to shift between 3D movement and 2D movement by morphing in and out of shadow form. This is an innovative mechanic that gives that game that something special we all search for in an Indie title, and also provides for some interesting, albeit simple puzzles to navigate through. In fact, one of the most entertaining sections of the game utilises the 2D shadow movement in what is presented as a ‘puppet show’, in the telling of a charming and witty story – although this is certainly a section that was plagued with a few control issues and bugs when advancing past the mini ‘bosses’.
Through all it’s charm, wit and beauty however, there is a overwhelming feeling that this game ended up being somewhat rushed. Due to it being scheduled for release in line with the PS4 launch and being pushed into the PS+ program as a free game for the launch to apologise for DriveClub being delayed, it seems to me that Sony had a choice on which of their promised games they had to ensure the developers pushed through for launch – and they chose this one.
Controlling Dawn feels incredibly sensitive in a confined area and I had a hard time getting used to this at the beginning of the game, but this soon passes once you move outside and the game allows you to get a little more involved in puzzles and exploring the town. Jumping in and out of shadows was never quite as smooth as I would have liked and occasionally I felt like I was less being challenged by a puzzle and more being challenged by defeating the way the game had been programmed.
My main quarrels with this game however are the ones that I never thought I would have to encounter in any game. The initial pacing is very frustrating, I have never been subdued to more frustrating and unnecessary ‘cutscenes’ in a game than I have in this one. This is an issue that mainly causes problems in the beginning of the game, but it certainly causes a problem in trying to get yourself engrossed in the game from the get go. Alongside this, I never thought I would get frustrated at receiving achievements. In Contrast, getting an achievement feels less like actually earning it and more like getting a pat on the head for doing the most menial of tasks as achievements are handed out like candy at every turn.
However, for everything that isn’t quite right with this game, there is just something about it that draws you in as you get further and further in. Sure, it may take a little while to struggle through the opening sequences, and achievements get thrown at you left, right and centre, but Compulsion Games have produced something beautiful, captivating and all-in-all, fun. Contrast may not have turned out the be the show-stopping phenomenon that I had hoped, but it’s one of the more innovative titles I have seen in while, and a good game – and if there’s any developers that deserve your support, money and attention, it’s these guys.
Contrast is available on Xbox 360, PC, PS3 and PS4 (Free on PS+ at launch)