Developer: Compulsion Games
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: PC (Steam), PS3, PS4, Xbox 360
Release Date: November 15, 2013
ESRB: T for Teen
A download code was provided by the publisher for this review
At one point, the PlayStation 4 was set to bring Driveclub to PS Plus members after they hooked their new system up. However, that ended up not being the case, and instead PS4 owners were granted two titles - Contrast and Resogun. Contrast is not a PS4 exclusive, and can in fact be found on multiple platforms.
In any case, the PS Plus promotion served Compulsion Games with an incredible opportunity to show their game to millions. Does Contrast prove itself to be deserving of such attention?
As unfortunate as it is to say - no, Contrast is not a particularly good game. But that ignores all the obvious dedication that went into creating the product. You see, the periphery of the game is quite nice. Here we have the story of a young girl named Didi who is living through some very turbulent times with her parents. Living with her mother, she has two men in her life. One is her â€œrealâ€ father, while the other is currently trying to win back the mother. With all this taking place in the ”20s, there“s a distinct vibe about it too. Gangsters, magicians, and cabaret are all intertwined, creating an unique atmosphere.
Gameplay itself is handled via a mix of 2D and 3D platforming. Although the story revolves primarily around Didi and her family, you play as someone else - someone named Dawn that only young Didi can see. This woman has the special ability to exist not only in the main dimension, but also go into shadows. For example, if machinery is casting a large shadow along the wall, she can go up to the wall and then walk atop said shadows. It is this mix between planes that sets the stage for a variety of puzzles.
Often, the player needs to make changes to the real environment so they can platform across the shadows. Sometimes, all you have to do is leap across pre-existing shadows, though. On other occasions, you“re required to bring objects in and out of the shadow side with you in order to trigger solutions. All in all, it is a pretty simple concept that works, although most puzzles aren“t challenging. When they are, it can take some trial and error to get through. Puzzle sequences aren“t usually too exciting, although there are some moments that stand out as really innovative. It“s a shame that this couldn“t have been the case more often.
Unfortunately, for all that Contrast does right in setting the scene, it just isn“t polished. For one, the narrative feels like it begins at a slow pace, only to suddenly unleash copious hints and a reveal on you in the last chapter. The game seems to take most anywhere from 2-4 hours, although for me it was closer to the 4-5 range. This was not for my complete lack of puzzle skill (although it felt like it at times) but due to butting heads with tons of glitches.
It must be noted that not all players experience issues during their playthrough. My experience on the PS4 was not this lucky. There were multiple times when attempting to go into the shadows would somehow fling my character across the room. Often, I found myself stuck in the game“s walls and objects. This could usually be fixed by hammering the jump button or boost enough, but that in turn often made me inadvertently fling Dawn into an abyss, or at least to an area that wasn“t where I intended to be. The amount of times I saw the main character go into a default 3D modeling pose with arms outstretched was sky high, and that“s not something you“re really supposed to see in any game.
Of course, these aren“t game breaking as much as they are annoying. There was one incident that did require restarting from the previous save. It happened to be in the middle of the last puzzle of the game and, of course, the save takes you back to the start. Having fought with Contrast many times leading up to that point, it was hard to get motivated to play through the whole puzzle sequence again. Thankfully, the proper trigger occurred the second time around, but this is just the tip of the glitch iceberg. Others have reported ways of skipping past puzzles entirely, or warping into new areas and cutscenes. Elements like these can be utilized for speed runners, but average gamers are likely to be annoyed by frequent problems.
Compulsion Games have committed toward patching the game (which they admit launched with more serious glitches than they had hoped). PC players will be the first to receive patches, with them filtering out toward consoles soon afterward. At the time of this review being written - a week after launch - there is currently no patch available to address glitches.
If there were no glitches, would it be a more presentable game? Certainly, but Contrast simply doesn“t compel even if it was played in more ideal circumstances. Didi is a smart kid who provides an interesting protagonist, but her world is not particularly charming. It feels dull rather than creative (even with the ”20s perspective and shadows!). The story itself is unique in the game medium but even then doesn“t get players tremendously interested in the lives of each character. The game plainly references famous films, but without any real concept of how to create something great itself. This is perhaps the greatest tragedy of Contrast - it simply isn“t interesting.
+ Story concept is unique, focusing on a young girl and the struggles of her family
+ Lovely soundtrack
+ It is "free" for most PS4 owners
- Glitches and bugs all over the place severely hindered my enjoyment
- Story feels ham-fisted and trite, then ends suddenly
- Puzzles barely evolve from the original concept and are rarely fun
- A few standout moments show that Compulsion Games had the ability to do so much better
Overall Score: 3.0 (out of 10)
Contrast is the kind of game that normally would be free to sink into obscurity. However, being the forerunner of PS Plus titles on PS4, it will instead be remembered by many players for its poor showmanship.