Contrast

Happy new year to everyone, though a little belated! Now that we’ve all (hopefully) recovered properly from all the celebrations, I’m just stopping by quickly again to leave my thoughts on yet another beautiful game that I got to play during the Christmas break.
Contrast was released by Compulsion Games in November 2013 for Windows, PS3, PS4 and Xbox 360. It is a puzzle platform ‘game noir’ that takes about 4 hours to complete, depending on how well you can interact within that world. You play Dawn, the imaginary friend of young Didi, who is trying to reconcile her separated parents and come to terms with her rather strange family situation.

Contrast-Package-Art

Tim Burton meets Film Noir

The whole storyworld is rather strange, constantly switching from a dark, strangely shaped 3D world to a 2D shadow world. Dawn can interact with the shadows by turning into one herself. This opens up amazing opportunities that probably wouldn’t be as well accepted in other games. Indeed, it might take some time to get the hang of this shadow life, but once you got into the right mindset, it presents a whole new world to you: Manipulate shadows by rearranging objects and sources of light in order to get to your goal. It’s a beautiful concept and, although confusing at first, lends the game even more character than it already has.

Because it does have character: the whole style of the game reminds very much of Tim Burton’s strange, absurd, dark works. Buildings look like they should actually be collapsing, the world ends in random places – you name it, it’s there and it’s beautiful. Set in Paris of the 1920s, this is strongly pushed by the jazz soundtrack as well, which, all in all, creates a weird, somewhat creepy but incredibly fun atmosphere as well: it’s all in there, and it seems to fit perfectly in its own genre. And the mystery of Dawn’s existence is puzzling: after all, what kind of person is only able to perceive others as shadows?

A Homage to Everything – Storytelling through Details

Apart from the whole Burton theme the game has going on, the developers clearly draw us into their own love for games as well – through magnificent, hilarious homages either open or through little details here and there and everywhere. The most obvious is the Limbo parody: a whole sequence is set perfectly in Limbo style right down to the specific way of dying and overcoming obstacles, with a hilarious sarcastic narration to accompany it. It’s very rewarding for anyone who has played the referenced games. It even has some Doctor Who going on, but you really have to go looking for it.

As you know, I’m of course always paying closer attention to storytelling as well, and I was not disappointed by this game either. Of course the main story is told rather normally, and dialogues reveal a lot about the family history – but collecting items does so even more. You find a letter? You can view it in your inventory and read about the problems Didi’s mother had with a social worker. You find a newspaper article? It may reveal much more about certain characters. You can even start to anticipate a certain plot twist if you just pay close enough attention. I’m always a sucker for details, so naturally I collected all the items, and had a look at all of them. It’s the kind of  storytelling that you need to choose to hear: you might as well go through the whole game without looking at any of them, ignoring this extra narrative layer, but it would lose a lot of its depth and probably be slightly confusing as well.

Enthralling, new, different

I can definitely recommend this game. I felt very intrigued by the whole story and caught in the world of contrasts, or dark and light, of love and sadness. Sadly, the game’s overall reception seemed not as good because of bugs. Yes, I did have two tiny bugs, but they did not throw me off the gaming experience at all – especially after the patch, supposedly, most of them were fixed. (Much less annoying, for instance, than the bug I had in Walking Dead: Season 2.) The overall experience was just… captivating. Yes, the gameplay needed some getting used to because the controls were extremely sensitive and you’re just not used to take shadows as a means of interaction. But the developers were definitely thinking outside the box with this one, and I would love to see more of these kinds of games.

So if you want to have a few hours of dark, eerie, weird entertainment and discover a great story, go ahead and play it – you won’t regret to find out the real deal with Dawn and Didi…

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Contrast is currently on Steam for €14.99.

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