Shortly after opening my PS4 I signed up for Playstation Plus and received my free downloads of Contrast and Resogun (check out our review here). With Sony being incredibly supportive of arcade games and indie developers in general, Playstation Plus could really offer up a treat to the uninitiated.
Contrast is a downloadable arcade puzzle game in a similar vein to either Limbo or Paper Mario, with an art style resembling that of Alice: Madness Returns. Set during the 1930’s in an art deco noir, you play as Dawn, the seemingly imaginary friend of a little girl named Didi.
Didi’s life is in turmoil as her parents are separated from each other. Didi’s father is a low life trying to make good by scoring big and winning over his wife one last time. The father falls in with mobsters but he falls in too deep. The only way out is to make sure his circus is a success. But everything that can go wrong will go wrong, so it’s down to you (Dawn) and Didi to fix everything. In the story you’ll uncover the truth about your mother and father’s relationship and the truth about the mysterious Vincenzo, who is a famous illusionist you must acquire to join your father’s circus. But will you find out who you are and why only Didi can see you?
The game itself is crossed between identifiable cliched art deco stylings, such as dames galore, wise talking mobsters and sexy jazz music but is at a slight juxtaposition by offering, in places, opaque plot twists. That being said I found this actually added to the quaint charm of its chief characters and the game as a whole. You end up really feeling for Didi’s plight and it’s this heart and soul that makes the game worth playing. There is a sense of magic and naivety that exudes from your sidekick
The puzzles themselves revolve around shadow play. Dawn has the ability to become a shadow on the wall and scale the various shadows displayed. Interestingly if you move certain objects around the room in front of the numerous lights dotted about, you can create new shadows and therefore create new paths. Bringing a table closer to the lamps will obviously make the shadows bigger. Sometimes you’ll have to jump between the shadow world and the real world to traverse pitfalls or carry objects with you into the shadows to solve the different puzzles on offer.
However, Contrast isn’t challenging enough. There are only a handful of puzzles that will leave you stumped and usually not for very long. In comparison to Paper Mario you would not only have to flip between the two dimensions but you would have to ascertain which ability or character best suited the challenge ahead. The idea of variation was clearly left in the dark which is a shame, because Contrast is enjoyable but you demand more. The game itself is relatively short, which isn’t the problem, it just would have benefitted by evolving all that you have learned through the game, reinventing every challenge to create new ones.
The game is fraught with bugs. Nothing that makes the game unplayable but enough to irritate you. However, more often than not you will pop out of shadow mode because you have hit a slight snag in one of the shadows or during certain imperitive jumps you’ll hit something that isn’t there and fall to your death. Not detrimental but definitely a nuisance.
On paper Contrast is a fantastic idea, it just isn’t as immersive as Limbo or mentally challenging like Paper Mario, but with it’s delicate balance of style and and intrigue it is certainly worth a play.