By Tyler Lubben / December 10th, 2013
The puzzles are where the game’s strengths lie. Most of Contrast’s puzzles either involve reaching various out-of-reach locations, or getting Didi from Point A to Point B by activating switches or creating paths. There’s also a big emphasis on shadow manipulation by way of moving objects around in front of light sources to make larger or smaller shadows to suit your needs. My favorite puzzles, though, were ones that involved quickly jumping in and out of the shadows to avoid moving objects before they could push you away. While it might feel like following a little girl around would make the game an escort mission, there are never any immediate dangers threatening Didi, so players can solve puzzles at their own pace. For that matter, there aren’t often many dangers threatening Dawn either. While players may be forced out of the shadows from time to time by moving objects, nothing can actually hurt her. There are no enemies, shadow-bound or otherwise, to fight – just pure puzzle solving. The only time players may experience death is if they fall down a bottomless pit, or any other great distance. There’s almost no penalty for death, though, as players are immediately dropped off on the last solid ground on which they were standing. Some more hardcore gamers might be put off by the low difficulty, but I enjoyed the easy pace that the game took. While the story is told in pretty linear chapters, players can access a stage select menu from the main screen as soon as they complete them, allowing them to jump back and pick up any Luminaries and other collectibles they may have missed.
As far as the game’s soundtrack goes, the best I can say is that it was OK. There weren’t that many tracks that really impressed me, which is a shame considering the source material of the music. There were a few notable songs that I enjoyed, though. First was the song that Didi’s mom sang at her show near the beginning of the game. It was nicely jazzy, and seeing her interact with the band and audience was entertaining. The other track played while you were walking around a circus in the second half of the game. It had that creepy feel that you would expect from the kind of shady carnivals that you see so often in these types of stories. It very much reminded me of the Witchy World theme from Banjo-Tooie. There aren’t really any tracks that immediately come to mind. Not that I’m saying the soundtrack was bad, just forgettable.
I can’t say how Contrast’s graphics compare to the PC version, but I thought they were just fine on my PS4. Nothing really blew me away, but gameplay usually had that nice next-gen smoothness. In some of the more detailed locations, there would be a bit of a dip in the FPS, but it didn’t last too long, and it didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the game. What did disappoint me, however, was the game’s length. The entire adventure can be finished in just a few hours. It kind of snuck up on me, too. After I finished a particularly tricky and fun puzzle, we went back to meet up with Didi’s parents. At this point, everything just seemed to magically work out, and the credits rolled. I found this surprising, as I still had questions that I assumed would be answered at some point. Everything that had happened up to that point felt like just the first act of a larger story. So, there were more than a few loose ends that were never dealt with. Dawn’s origins are never explained. There was no comeuppance for the gangsters. For such a simple story, I was disappointed to see it cut out so abruptly.
All-in-all, I say that Contrast is a fun game, and a suitable launch title for the PlayStation 4. It has some fun puzzles that use interesting mechanics. The cast and story is good, if predictable. I just wish it had been longer. It was over long before I was prepared to say goodbye to it. While it lasts, though, it’s a fun experience. While I didn’t really find any of the puzzles overly taxing, they were still fun to solve, and Didi helped keep things light and interesting. I’m not sure if I’d say that $15 is worth the price for a game that can be completed in a few hours, but those with a PlayStation Plus account can get the game for free. At that price, I’d definitely say it’s worth it. If you find yourself bored one day, Contrast will certainly be a worthwhile way to while away an afternoon.
Game was purchased by the reviewer and played on PlayStation 4
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