Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Compulsion Games
Release Dates: November 15, 2013 (NA) / November 29, 2013 (EU)
Price: 14.99$ (PlayStation Network / Xbox Live Marketplace)
Contrast is one of those games that's unique and memorable at the same time, as it drags you into a shadow world in the 1920s Paris in the role of Dawn, young Didi's best friend who possesses the ability of shifting between the 3D material world and the 2D shadow world, making Contrast one of most ideas-filled titles of this year. Didi is also the only person who can see Dawn, but the actions you perform around the city will have an impact on the real world that is seen as shadows from Dawn's eyes as well. Even though Dawn is an interesting character on her own that you'd definitely become interested in as the game goes, this is the story of Didi's parents, who are constantly arguing after Didi's father left and her mother is too busy working at night, leaving her unattended - a perfect opportunity for her to sneak out and fix things around the city with Dawn's help.
The bad thing about Contrast is that it will end too soon, rushing through the events of the story just to get to the ending, and even though following the plot is satisfying as it is, there are lots of moments that could've been detailed more, making the game longer and the lasting experience more satisfying in the end. Without doubt Contrast nails its presentation, having a simple menu that will almost instantly take you into the action, while still offering you plenty of options to manage things such as collectibles or taking a look over your stats. Starting with the purely astonishing art work and the detailed characters and moving on to the shadows that have an important role in the gameplay, but offer an incredible visual effect as well, the game is constantly reminding you how awesome its core idea truly is.
The problem with that idea however is that it hasn't reached its full potential, as the moment when you get most comfortable with the control and the idea of the game is the same moment the game will reach its denouement. There are so many ideas that are simply rushed inside the game, such as walking up the shadows of Didi's parents in order to reach a location and listening to their speech while doing so; those are the kind of moments that make Contrast feel unique and make you desire more out of this game.
The idea of shifting between the real 3D world and the world of shadows is without doubt one of the most unique and innovating ideas of this year and Contrast takes great advantage of this idea, creating some amazing puzzles that will leave you satisfied each time you complete one and move in to the next area, but the best thing about those puzzles is their deductibility, forcing you to analyse each one of them, but offering the solution if you stare at them long enough as it is sometimes more than obvious. Each new location you visit will introduce new puzzle concepts, some trickier than others, but same as the story those are rushed, never taking full advantage of their potential, as the game will quickly move from one concept to another, leaving abilities such as the shadow dash to be used only a few times in the entire game.
There are the occasional glitches that will stop you from making a move in your first try, but there isn't any sort of time pressure on the gameplay so you have all the time in the world to find your way around a puzzle and reach your destination. The 3D world puzzles are enjoyable and the shadow puzzles even more, but the real magic begins when the game combines those elements to create some amazing areas that you will have to scout first, try different approaches and only then decide on a final solution that will take you to your destination, but all this time spent looking around an area is well spent as you will constantly be excited about where one thing should go or how the positioning of some objects will help you reach a higher point.
Walking up the shadows of Didi's parents is an amazing concept as you get to listen to a part of the story while you're slowly making your way to a location that's related to that story, constantly keeping you on the edge about what's gonna happen next as you climb higher and higher and eventually reach a location that will unlock further mysteries. There is a lot of great stuff in here and because it is so great it leaves you with a thirst for more and unfortunately there isn't anything else.
Contrast on the PlayStation 4 looks amazing, making the city of Paris come to life at night with the use of those same shadows that make the gameplay so enjoyable, as the little bit of light that is available in an area will reflect objects in the precise direction, something that affects the gameplay as well as the overall beauty of this title. Even if you only get to see Dawn and Didi as full characters, as the rest of the cast is seen as shadows, they are both incredibly detailed and fit into the world perfectly. The visual effects are okay, with a few things that could use some work, but what is really impressive is the reflection of certain things on the pavement of the street as it is wet and seeing that no matter where you go is impressive.
The voice acting is top notch, as the entire cast including Didi, her parents and Vincenzo take advantage of some amazing voice work that truly helps sell the story and the emotional road it takes once you get to know Didi better. The sound effects are just as good, making the world come to life and give Dawn's powers a great background; the best thing however, comes in the soundtrack, as from the start of the game you will be greeted with a noire classic, a perfect fit for the city of Paris in the early '20s, and the list goes on and on as you progress through the game.
Unfortunately, the main campaign is the only thing that the game provides and that will be over in less than 6 hours, depending on how much time you take to solve each puzzle, and even though the game has collectibles you can find those easily in your first playthrough if you just look around, so unless you wanna replay the game a few weeks after just to relive the awesomeness, there isn't anything else to keep you around.
Contrast is one of the best experiences you can have this year, not only because it is unique, but because it works wonders, providing some great puzzles, amazing exploration and a story worth hearing, unfortunately that will only last a few hours, so if you were looking for something to keep you around your PS4 a lot more, this will come as a disappointment, but either way Contrast is a game worth playing at some point, even if it isn't your priority for the new console.