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Contrast Review: Playing in the Dark

Combining stylish visuals and a unique gameplay style, Contrast is full of promise combining both 3D and 2D platforming. The game, however, fails to entice any further than its unique design. Each step forward is quickly followed by two steps back. Unique gameplay styles are halted by a short campaign and beautiful visuals are crafted around a glitchy and empty world. What sounds like an excellent experience on the surface, Contrast ends up feelings like a shadow of what could’ve been a great game.

You play as Dawn, Didi’s powerful imaginary friend who can phase between a 3D model as well as a shadow amongst the walls. Dawn acts as Didi’s guardian and travels with her on her adventures. Didi sneaks out one night to watch her mother perform and finds her father whom she hasn’t seen in a long time. It is here Dawn and Didi journey throughout the night to find out the mystery behind what happened to her father and how Didi can help mend their broken family.

Throughout the game, players will alter lights to form and shape shadows so Dawn may traverse forward. These create unique sequences as its challenges players to think within two dimensions, the light world as well as the shadows. At the push of a button Dawn can blend into the shadows and platform along the shaping. This gives players a new way of looking at the world as everything within the room should be given attention as everything gives off a shadow. What may appear as a small piece of geometry can actually attain a large shadow that can help players reach their next objectives.

Contrast doesn’t have much life outside of the puzzles. There are small collectibles here and there that give the world a bit of backstory such as newspaper clippings. There are also “Luminaries” outside of the world that are required to progress through the story. These are easy to find around the Hub world and take little effort in requiring enough to proceed. Aside from the small amount of collectables, you will be walking around the lifeless streets in search of your next objectives. The Hub world has such little personality other than the landmarks of key story moments such as a circus complete with a live shadow puppet show and pirate ship as well as a cabaret show with neon lights acting as its beacon in the night. The visuals and set pieces are beautifully made in itself but behind the curtain is only empty streets and darken buildings.

The game itself however is very short, clocking in at around three hours. The puzzles aren’t too difficult so players won’t be scratching their heads for very long within each sequence. The main difficulty to the game is trying to complete sequences around the glitch riddled world. There were numerous times throughout my play through where my character would detach from the shadows only to be launched several stories into the air. As I pushed my character forward towards what appeared to be the correct way to completing a puzzle only met with Dawn attempting to phase out of the shadows and start to tremble wildly, sometimes even being oddly teleported to safety.

Contrast is a game that is full of ambitious designs but is left feeling empty overall. The puzzles are few with low replay value giving players little reason to return. Overall however Contrast shows that it is unique enough that players should experience it as a whole. Its story may leave some with more questions than answers but its gameplay style and attractive visuals give Contrast plenty of heart.

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