Review: Contrast is a Unique Game with Poor Execution

Contrast Review

Contrast is a brilliantly conceived game, but doesn’t quite make the grade.

I’ve been promoting video game title Contrast since its first press release, and I’ve been looking forward to playing it for a very long time. The concept of the game is wonderfully unique and the artwork from the screenshots showed a beautiful world of color and shadow. Once news came out that the game would be released on the PS4 as part of the free PlayStation Plus subscription, I decided to give it a go on that console.

To start with, Contrast has a very interesting story. The setting is a world that consists of our world, a 3D world of vibrant color and the shadow world, where everything is only seen in shades of black. You take control of a character named Dawn, who can easily traverse between the two worlds. At stake is the happiness of a little girl, Didi, who just wants to get her mom and dad back together. You must help Didi help her father run a successful circus in order to pay back goons he owes money to and in turn, Didi must convince her mother to let her father back into their lives. The story is beautifully told, although it should have been a lot longer. There are some elements that are left to guessing (or perhaps a sequel?), like how Dawn can go back and forth between the two worlds when no one else can. The plot is different enough to make you want to keep playing, although granted, the ending isn’t as groundbreaking as the rest of the game.

The graphics of Contrast are beautifully rendered, sharp and crisp. This is important because Dawn must use the world of shadow to get to access certain areas. Being able to see the details of the shadows means you have to time some jumps and move around certain objects so that shadows line up a certain way.

In spite of its uniqueness, though, Contrast has some problems. To start with, the consistency with how Dawn runs and jumps is completely off. Whereas she might make a jump at a certain height during one part of the story, she can’t make it later on. There’s also the random shifting back and forth that happens as you’re attempting to keep her in the shadows, with no explanation as to why that’s happening. Even worse, sometimes shifting results in the game freezing up: sometimes this can be fixed by continuing to press on random buttons on the controller, but most often, you’ll have to restart the game from the last save. Saves are automatic and if you get stuck at the end of a “level,” you’ll just have to replay the whole thing all over again. This turns out to be rather frustrating, enough so to abandon the game at times.

Not only does the issue of getting Dawn stuck often arise, but be careful where you place certain objects. At one point in the game, you have to carry things, like boxes. If you drop the object too close to another object that can be interacted with, you’ll lose the ability to interact with the previous object. And by too close, I mean anywhere within the vicinity of that other item. This is also frustratingly annoying, but you’ll learn soon enough not to do that.

The puzzles are interesting, but entirely too easy. Considering that I usually have to consult a walkthrough for most games and not having to do that with this one, I know they should probably be a little harder. I had fun solving them, but at some point, it felt like more of the same.

Finally, total game time is entirely too short, at just around two hours. I suppose if you don’t buy this game and get it via PlayStation Plus, as I did, it’s not a bad deal, but that’s still disappointing.

I really wanted to like Contrast, I did, mostly because it is so different from other games. And there were parts of it that I liked a lot. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time frustrating, thanks to all the glitches in gameplay. I’d recommend skipping this one until it’s patched or a new version is released.

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