Contrast is a mystery third person adventure/puzzle game from Compulsion Games. You play as Dawn and can move through the environment in 3D and solve puzzles in both 3D and 2D. The game uses light as its primary theme for the gameplay and moving the story forward.
Contrast starts right away with no intro movie and no back story. You start in a room and there are two things that demand your attention. You will need to interact with them, one turns out to be collectible item and the other a lamp. It is when you interact with the lamp that you are introduced to the other main character of this story, Didi. She is an eight year old girl, and she becomes worried that her mother will see you. This might sound strange, and given Dawn’s outlandish clothing, it could be. But the first hint you get that this game is different is that Didi’s mother is portrayed as a shadow silhouette against the wall. While you don’t see Didi’s 3D interaction with her mother, you do see her shadow’s interaction with her mother.
The game unfolds from here and you soon learn that only Didi can see Dawn, that Dawn can shift between a solid and shadow state, and that all the adults in the game are portrayed as shadows against the walls. The whole game is presented as a sort of noir Paris, full of fractured landscapes, muted colours, art deco interiors and smooth jazz numbers. It really lends to the belief that this whole adventure is purely the imagination of Didi.
Dawn will need to move into shadow mode at several places throughout the game as it is the only way to shift between unbridgeable gaps, get objects and solve the many puzzles that use light as the catalyst. In some cases, Didi is directly helping Dawn through shining a spotlight against a wall, to setting off a fire alarm in a hotel.
An adventurous child, Didi is thrilled at the thought of doing things adults consider beyond her years. At the same time, she is also a very brave girl and has to face up to problems with her parents who have, at the beginning of the game, split up for the time being. At various points when Didi is not on the scene, Dawn will come across a shadow cut scene that furthers the story between Didi’s parents. A third party is also involved in Didi’s story – a magician by the name of Vincenzo – and, as it turns out, Vincenzo and Didi do have a past, but we shall stay spoiler free here. As Compulsion Games put it “she’s a good kid, but she’s got some family troubles and is livin’ in a complicated adult world.”
There are collectibles throughout the game but they are not entirely essential to game play, except for the Luminaires. These globes are needed to power some of the machines that you will use to solve puzzles in the game.
Contrast does have some let-downs for me, mostly with the control of Dawn. In a few spots I simply kept falling off edges as I thought I’d be moving one way but the game decided otherwise. Some of the light puzzles were obvious as to how they should be solved, but the light sources used along with the 3D object you turned into a shadow did not always stay as a shadow. The game would glitch and the 2D shadow object would pop back out as 3D. I frustratingly kept at it until I bugged the 3D object by getting it stuck where I could reach it. You can’t climb a wall or cross a large gap while holding a box. This was quite evident as a problem when I was on the first floor of the lighthouse, where I was trying to move a box from a position that required me to be a shadow to reach the box, and also further up in the lighthouse, when I needed to move another box across multiple levels.
Another confusing puzzle involved some umbrellas that I could see the solution to – jump over a folded-up umbrella – however, I could not complete it at all, no matter how many times I tried. Later, I came out near the umbrellas, from completing another part of the game, and tried again, using the exact same moves – and this time I was able to jump the umbrella.
I had some great fun with Contrast and particularly enjoyed the shadow puppet theatre where Dawn has to play the part of the puppet Princess as Didi’s father cannot find the real puppet. It was a great side story and reflected the whole situation in the game’s main narrative as the puppet show.
Overall, Contrast has a great story and a great ending, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would definitely add this to your list of games to play this year, especially since it is now available on PS4.
Contrast is available on PC (Steam), PS3, PS4 and Xbox 360.