Contrast is one of those puzzle platformers that relies quite heavily on its gimmick. In fact, its gimmick is one of the only good things Contrast has going for it.
The game has you controlling the character Dawn, who appears in the young girl Didi’s life. You are thrown into this world where only you and Didi take physical form, and the other characters are portrayed as shadows. The story behind this and the game itself ends up being quite dark and interesting, but you’ll only see it if you find all of the collectibles, and even then, it’s hard to sparse through. It is, however, quite emotional, and may be worth it to look into for those who would like to know more about this ‘shadow world.’
The main gimmick Contrast has going for it is that you, as Dawn, can become a shadow and traverse across the other shadows glimmering in the world. This leads to some great puzzles, including climbing over the shadowy characters of the world, which may vary in sizes from small to gigantic depending on where they are in relation to the light source. You’ll also take boxes and other objects into the shadow world with you, and occasionally play around with where the light source is coming from. Unfortunately, the puzzles throughout the game are pretty cut and dry, and you don’t see nearly enough variance in the mechanics through the game’s three to four hour story.
The real magic comes from those moments when characters are blown across the screen, and you have to traverse those shadows. There are only four or five times you end up doing this throughout the game though, and they’re all quite short.
On top of that, Contrast suffers from dozens of technical issues. I found myself caught in geometry on several different occasions, forcing me to reload from a previous save, which are all auto-saves, and are not kind to your progress. On top of that, there were a myriad of severe framerate drops that seemed to happen for absolutely no reason. With those issues, a bunch of wonky animations, shadows dropping in and out of sight, and some loose controls, Contrast just doesn’t play very well.
The game itself is gorgeous, and even though the character models in the game look quite odd at times, the dark style definitely gives off a very vaudeville-vibe. The music is also fantastic, but is only present during key story moments. Though the lounge-singing and smoky-bar feel is there, you’ll only get a few tastes of it, and the majority of Contrast is haunted by an echoing silence.
Contrast has some really strong moments, and a fascinating story that I only wish they elaborated on more. Too bad the game is full of boring puzzles and a myriad of technical issues. The game isn’t worth the price of admission, but to those who got it free on PS+, I’d say it may be worth giving a look.