Contrast is an incredibly creative game with so much potential. But a lack of focus and constant amount of bugs keep this game from being something truly magical.
Contrast likes to keep players in the dark. The game starts with no background or prologue to introduce the characters, it just starts. Within minutes you’re introduced to Didi, a young girl who’s having family problems. It’s also at this point you realize that no one else but Didi can see you, and in turn, you can’t see anyone else. Only their shadows. From here on out the story only descends deeper and deeper into the heartbreaking story of Didi’s family life, and it’s a rather well written story that’s very well paced. Well, accept for the end when it decides to completely change the theme of the game. But we aren’t in the business of spoiling games. So let’s move on to something really cool about Contrast. Shadow hopping.
The main gimmick in Contrast is that the protagonist Dawn can hop in and out of shadows cast by objects. By using light sources, Dawn can change the size and placements of shadows in the world in order to traverse them. This idea is wildly creative, having things such as a bikes wheel spinning become a massive bridge to cross over a gap show how truly well crafted some of the games moments are. The only disappointing part of this is that there isn’t enough experimentation in the game. Going in and out of shadows is only limited by the select areas the game wants the player to go into. This takes away any sort of freedom in the game and creates a very narrow atmosphere about it.
And that’s what a massive problem with the game is. It’s far too narrow and limited. The game sets up this wondrous world of magical possibilities and only lets the player explore small areas, often blocking off parts of the map until they progress further in the story. This lack of exploration and overall freedom takes away a lot of the magic in the game. It feels that everyone that the player does has been carefully constructed by the developer to be done in the same way by every player, there’s no room for creativity. And when it comes down to a game about using shadows creatively, it’s a shame that more wasn’t done to let players explore on their own.
There is one massive highlight to the shadow hopping. Because everyone else in the world are only seen as shadows. It means that they are no longer just characters in part of the story, but now become part of the puzzle itself. This is one of the most interesting and creative forms of storytelling seen in a game. Not being able to physically see the characters is rather interesting, but being able to use these character’s shadows to platform through the scenery is something amazing in itself. Listening to Didi’s parents argue while using their bodies as moving platforms is such a refreshing experience, that it stands out as one of the games highlights.
Sadly, Contrast is a rather buggy game. There were many times we found ourselves stuck in the environment, and there were countless times we were randomly thrown out of shadows for no explainable reason. A huge bug we encountered was that an item we were carrying would magically vanish and cause us to die. It’s a shame that so many bugs were encountered, concidering how short the game is. We managed to finish the game 100% in two hours, and for a game with so many annoying bugs, it’s a bit of a letdown that so many bugs were around.
Contrast is an interesting, if very short, experience. The game has so many ideas that it feels confused about what it wants to do. At times it wants to tell a heart wrenching story about a little girls family issues, and at others it wants to be a supernatural adventure game. The game has quite a few bugs, and is very limited. But for anyone wanting a unique game that presents a wide range of clever ideas that are implemented very well, Contrast is more than worth checking out.