It’s fortunate that Resogun — one free PS4 PS Plus launch game — is so damn good because the other, Contrast, is a mess.
Buggy, unfinished, plagued by pacing issues and incredibly short, an indie classic Contrast is not. What makes it all the more disappointing is the premise has potential, the characters are likable and fully realised and there is some genuine interest to be found. Every time I thought I’d started to like Contrast something would crop up again and again to remind me that I was indeed playing a sub-par, unfinished mess.
The setting and premise in Contrast are its strongest features. You play as Dawn, the imaginary friend of Didi. Set in an alternate, hyper-realistic, art-deco noir 1920’s, Dawn must help Didi solve her parents myriad of personal problems. Didi is relateable and it’s hard not to fall in love with her. Dawn is effortlessly charming in her own right and it’s a real pleasure to actually find yourself playing as a strong female protagonist. Equally effective is the portayal of Didi’s parents. Their failing marriage forms the basis of the story and even some of the puzzles.
In Contrast you have the ability to shift into a shadow form and move from the 3D rendered game world into a 2D platformer. By using the shadows cast by people and objects you’re able to traverse to areas that would be normally out of reach. By switching back and forth between the 3D and 2D landscapes and moving various objects, light sources and the like you can manipulate shadows to create or change various platforms. While an interesting concept, it grows stale rather quickly and the game never really attempts to reinvigorate the formula. It’s seemingly content to let you play the game the same way from start to finish. There are some additional powers granted to Dawn as you play, including a dash move and the ability to bring objects into the shadow world, but neither are used in any meaningful way.
The story bears a lot of fruit, but is never given the chance to breathe or any space to grow organically. The games shoves you from level to level and cutscene to cutscene at a breakneck pace. It feels like the story was more important to the developer than the game. If that’s the case, perhaps Contrast would be better of as a short film? To make matters worse is the overall unfinished quality of the game. Bugs, clipping, broken collision detection and really finicky controls conspire to make Contrast seem like work rather than fun.
The few brief shining moments of greatness in Contrast are rare, but demonstrate that this game had a lot of potential. It’s a shame that more time wasn’t spent ironing out the kinks and perfecting the puzzles because it could have been an experience that stole hours and hours of my time and I wouldn’t have minded. Instead it took a few hours of my time and I want them back.