Back in November, we reviewed the 360 version of Contrast which was mainly let down by bugs and glitches. Now it has launched on Xbox One the developers, Compulsion Games, make claims to suggest the improvements made will hopefully put the fears of finding the same errors as before to bed.
Contrast is no ordinary puzzle game but we’ll come to that shortly. Set in a vaudeville style town you’ll take on the role of a woman named Dawn. From what you gather early on you’re the imaginary friend of a little girl, Didi, who has the weight of a rather unstable life at home on her tiny shoulders. Her mother Kat works late nights in a cabaret bar whilst flitting between an on/off relationship with her dad, Johnny, whom seems to be involved with the wrong people and has a habit of being a bit useless. With the help of Dawn, Didi attempts to help solve problems that arise, optimistic that this could mend her broken family in the long run.
Doesn’t sound anything other than ordinary right? Well these two characters are the only ones seen in this world, the rest are merely portrayed by shadows of themselves in what is an incredibly eerie town. The shadows in general are vital to success throughout your journey, so it’s pretty darn lucky Dawn can shift in and out of them. Regardless of the task she’ll be needed to transition between a 3D world and a 2D shadow world at the drop of a hat.
This mechanic allows for some truly ingenious puzzle designs that become second nature to solve quickly once you grasp the foundations of shadow-making. Should Dawn need to get onto a floor high up inside a building, you can manipulate lights and objects to form shadows that allow these areas to be reachable. Either I’ve become a master of puzzle solving or more like they look tougher than they really are.
I haven’t seen any other game that goes down this route of shadow usage in tandem with “real” world before and the novelty didn’t wear off for me at all. The slight drawback being in a town populated by only two people it can, at certain points between puzzles feel slightly bland.
The story itself unfolds naturally along the way through the art of shadowy figures during intense conversations or moments. Although it is well told they’ve been awfully clever in that if you take time within your surrounding you may find “Collectibles”. These range from picture to letters to diagrams but having located one you’ll figure each one offers more insight into the “hows” and “whys” of this world.
Wandering around the town and seeing a shadow immediately triggered my intrigue, which usually ended in acquiring a Luminary. These are useful to power machines that will help achieve certain objectives and are scattered all over the place, in total there’s more than actually needed. For these may be a necessity to find, the collectibles however are what I’d highly recommend finding as they add new layers to the story.
It’s very rare that a soundtrack can captivate me; this one has done exactly that even just in the main menu it is soothing to say the least. Jazz music is pretty low on my musical interest but the voice artist for Kat’s smooth collection of songs has infiltrated my mind, I cannot get those tunes out and nor do I want to.
Despite being a downloadable title it does of course possess the full 1000 Gamerscore and my word it is easy to pick them all up. As long as you’re an avid explorer you could easily get the lot in one playthrough, which takes around four hours. If not then the Chapter section will take you to all the key places in an instant.
For £11.99 some could consider Contrast a little expensive and without more replayability on a short story I can’t tell you it’s a bargain. Originality is where it offers the most and if you add to that a tale that once unravelled is emotionally engaging, I genuinely began to feel for a family I’d only just met. When you finish a game that is over so soon you’d expect to be feeling short changed, instead it was happiness at the joyous experience. It’s worth noting that this version is relatively bug free and I only got stuck twice the whole game (and it fixed itself after pressing a few buttons). Pick it up if you’re looking for a heartfelt tale.