Contrast (PC) Review

By Thomas Wrobel 03.06.2015 4

Review for Contrast on PC

Put simply, Contrast is a 2D platform game wrapped in a 3D platform game, all wrapped in a stylish Noir shell. It's about playing with light and shadow - constantly manipulating lights and objects in a 3D world to create 2D platforming sections that are played out in its shadows. The further twist, if one is needed, is story-wise, as the 3D world is a dream-like realm, and the shadows on the walls reflect a much more realistic world. It's a fascinating ambitious mix of storytelling and gameplay. Join Cubed3 below to find out how well it is all pulled together.

Running and leaping about in three dimensions has been the norm for videogames for quite awhile now. It took a long time to get that far - from Space War to Super Mario 64, games evolved from 2D lines and sprites to 3D polygons. When first introduced, those three dimensions of movement gave new freedom for designers and players, resulting in some of the best platform games ever made. For a while, games were content to keep pushing the possibilities of those three dimensions.

In recent years, however, some developers have been exploring the very concept of dimensionality itself. Not content with just having three dimensions, they play with the whole idea of what a dimension is. Games like Crush 3D, A Link Between Worlds and A Shadow's Tale play with perspective and "projections" - that is, a higher dimensional shape cast down onto a lower dimensional one.

Screenshot for Contrast on PC

The projection most people are familiar with is shadows, in other words 3D objects projected down to flat shapes by how the light falls around them. As the 3D shapes of the physical world change, their shadows also change, and as any child that has played with making monsters from their hands knows, shadows can be made to do many wonderful things.

Contrast is a game that takes advantage of this idea, and arguably does it better than any others thus far. Dawn, a character that seems designed very much with her silhouette in mind, is the one being controlled, and aside from leaping and dashing about, she can dive into shadows at any time, whereupon the game effectively becomes a 2D platformer. This mechanic lets Dawn reach new places in the 3D world as shadows frequently provide routes up to new ledges or areas not accessible via 3D space.

Screenshot for Contrast on PC

While the 3D platforming is fairly standard - run, jump, dash - it's this constant switching between 3D and 2D that makes the gameplay shine. Often, lights or objects have to be moved to create the shadow landscape necessary to reach somewhere. While not hard as such, these puzzles are inventive and satisfying, and quite surprising, too, in some cases.

Dawn's mission seems to be to follow and protect a young girl called Didi, who instigates pretty much everything. Her passion for exploring and meddling with people's affairs causes essentially all the tasks to be completed. In particular, Didi is trying to help out her father, an unreliable guy in trouble with loan sharks. The story takes a few simple twists, but is essentially helping him get on his feet again and make good with his family. Where the storytelling excels is not in its originality but in its presentation. Didi's parents are presented only in shadow form - in fact all the games characters other then Didi and Dawn are presented this way. This gives a unique feel that not only is a great stylistic choice, but also ties subtly into the story later.

Screenshot for Contrast on PC

While the story and gameplay deserve much praise, Contract sadly falls down when it comes to length. It's not just short, it's a very short, to the point where some will finish it in a little over four hours, and there is not even much else to do after that. While there are a handful of collectables that are essential for opening all story avenues, they are also pretty easy to find. They could all be found on single playthrough with just a small amount of looking around. Meanwhile, Steam achievements get unlocked every few minutes merely for playing, thus, spoiling the flow a little while adding nothing much to the actual longevity.

It is also worth noting that when first launched, there were lots of bugs. The unique challenges of its engine proved too much at the time, resulting in a game littered with glitches, many of which were game breaking. Thankfully, the newest version, at least on PC, seems rock-solid, showing off its impressive mechanics and stylised world very well.

Screenshot for Contrast on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Contrast A game that is almost painful to rate as low as an eight. Wonderful core gameplay mechanics, creative puzzles, great presentation,a nice story, humour.....it's all a package that is practically perfect. Yet the length can't be ignored, and that sadly brings it down. Even for $15 it feels too short, and it's a real shame as for the story told its the right length - yet the gameplay could easily be expanded to many times longer without getting boring. Almost every puzzle in fact feels like a tutorial for something just a little bit more complex that never comes. Overall, the game is still highly recommended, either for people that love unique platformers or well told stories.

Developer

Compulsion

Publisher

Focus Home Interactive

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

This was honestly one of my favorite games of the year when it was released back in 2013. I fell in love with it immediately. It is right up there with titles such as Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate, Animal Crossing: New Leaf and the (in)famous Mugen Souls Z. Sincerely loved everything about it, from the puzzles to the art style. It was simply a beautiful package.

I do not agree with that it was too short. It was in my opinion perfectly long to enjoy it like a one sit-through story which is in my opinion the best way these artistic games should be enjoyed.

EDIT: And yes, I "imported" the Japanese version on release (PSN is the almighty glorious god). The edition that was pretty bugfree on release and that did not crash everytime one entered Mugen Field.

( Edited 03.06.2015 21:11 by Andre Eriksson )

The difference between illusion and reality is vague to the one who suffers from the former and questionable for the one suffering form the later.

I still need to play this (like many other games I have on Steam). Looks great!

Should probably give this another go. Played it when it came out on PS4, but was full of bugs and I think I got stuck somewhere. Liked the noire theme tho.

You should!
PC at least was bug free for my play over.
(a slight lighting glitch near the end, but zero gameplay bugs for me)

Andre Eriksson said:

I do not agree with that it was too short. It was in my opinion perfectly long to enjoy it like a one sit-through story which is in my opinion the best way these artistic games should be enjoyed.

I absolutely agree it was a perfect length for the story they told - but (imho) the gameplay concepts didn't stretch the surface of whats possible and thats why I thought it was too short.
I mean what they have is so awesome and so creative I could easily see so a lot more possibilities. 
I think they could have lengthened it without the story suffering too - you certainly dont want to needlessly stretch the main story, but you could have side storys, different viewpoints maybe. Even just more optional stuff to explore if nothing else.
Theres just soooooooo much gameplay potential in what they got!

 

( Edited 04.06.2015 22:17 by Darkflame )

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