Indie games are becoming the mainstream with more ways to develop and more access to self publishing tools. Some companies are growing out of the “indie” title but I still like to consider Focus Home Interactive an indie publisher. They have plenty of games out there that are top notch such as Magrunner or the Sherlock Holmes titles. This time, we have Contrast a platform puzzler set in noire themed Paris. While it is not anything groundbreaking or genre defining Contrast proves that there are still fresh ideas in the game industry, you just have to take risks, and that is what Contrast has done, taken a risk.
Didi is a young girl who loves her parents very much but has a rebellious side to her. She yearns for adventure and Dawn, her imaginary friend helps her do that. Didi and Dawn must help bring her broken family together.
The storytelling is great. You play as a mute protagonist named Dawn and you follow Didi around solving puzzles to fix Didi's father's mistakes so he doesn't get murdered by mobsters. I like the story if a bit generic. It works nicely with the art direction and overall atmosphere of contrast. Dawn is mute, but you can't help but wonder what or who she is and why she can transform into a shadow. The end of the game leaves it open for a new game but gives you a satisfying level of mystery. The characters are nicely written and acted and the subject matter gets pretty dark. From the whole game, Contrast's story is the best executed part.
This game is strictly a platformer, no combat involved. It certainly is a nice change of pace from all the games coming out lately for PC and Next-Gen. In Contrast you must navigate the world through the 3D world Dawn lives in, and the 2D Shadow World she can move through. The transition between shadow and 2D is seamless and natural. To get to new places you must manipulate your surroundings to create shadows to move on. There is a lot of trial and error involved but the pacing is surprisingly smooth and fluid. The game never really halts to a stop because of a hard puzzle. The way the puzzles are solved are very clever and unique because you have to take into account moving shadows, the size of the shadows etc to move forward.
There are two major problems with Contrast, one is the occasional buggy gameplay, the other is the length of the game. On the PC, Contrast has some pathing issues with the shadow form. Despite dashing through some of the thinner shadows, Dawn out occasionally pop out of shadow form and fall down. It became more apparent near the end of the game. While it was totally random, it happened enough to mention it in this review. The game is known to have a unique set of bugs since release. These will most likely be patched as the game is out longer.
My other issue is the length of Contrast. I was hitting my stride and really enjoying this game. I was relating to the characters and getting better at solving puzzles, then the game ends. It is so abrupt and disappointing. While the ending is very classy and nice, it showed up too soon. I wanted this game to be more, it felt like I was just starting to find out more about Didi and Dawn's abilities. It is by far the worst part about Contrast, maybe there will be a sequel to fill the void but you never know.
This is a game people must play, everything flows together so well, the gameplay, the art, the music, and the story all feel like they were engineered to work together as if real effort was put into this game. Despite the length and the bugs, I was really impressed with the game design of Contrast. I give Contrast for the PC an 8/10. You can get the game on Steam now, or you can even get the game on PS4.