Replay Value:
Overall Rating:
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Compulsion Games
Compulsion Games
Number Of Players:
Release Date:
November 15, 2013

When the concept is fantastic but the execution suffers, what do you do? How badly do you penalize the production for that lack of stability and refinement? How much of that lackluster technical performance are you willing to overlook because the concept was so very creative? It’s a matter of striking a balance, I suppose, and it probably hinges on the elements you prioritize as a gamer. Those who put a premium on innovation and imagination will undoubtedly support Contrast , while others won’t grant it a pass due to significant control issues.

The graphics don’t exactly epitomize the term “next-gen” but then again, they don’t need to. This is all about the idea, the theme, the atmosphere; it’s a 1920s film noir dreamscape, the kind filled with seedy clubs, fast-talking con-men, and the ever-present lure of fame and fortune. The world design isn’t anything special but many of the puzzles are wonderfully creative, and the overarching ambiance makes exploration enjoyable. There isn’t too much to explore, though, as it’s a mostly linear adventure, and the animations are somewhat erratic.

The sound is a big-time highlight, because you’ve got the combination of an effective, fitting soundtrack and really solid voice performances. The effects sometimes get lost in the shuffle but they’re hardly a priority. With such atmospheric projects, the audio needs to bolster immersion with authentic, top-quality music and voices. I wouldn’t say the audio production values are super high in Contrast , but you really do feel as if you’re part of a captivating 20s drama, and that’s a significant accomplishment. The background sound, including the great era-specific melodies, enhances the overall experience. It's just so very….noir.

As I say, the concept is great: You play as a little girl’s not-so-imaginary friend, who can shift between 3D physical reality and the 2D shadow world. In other words, this friend, Dawn, moves about normally until she “shifts” and becomes part of the shadows. At that time, she can actually walk upon a shadow; she can use it to climb, span gaps, reach inaccessible heights, etc. The little girl, Didi, is well aware of your presence and typically asks for your help as she follows her mother and father around the town. See, her home life isn’t that great; her mother is a cabaret singer and her father keeps trying to run small-time scams to get money for the family.

It’s exactly the kind of story one would expect in this atmosphere. Although the plot never really coalesces into a something that is compelling and poignant, it’s still entertaining. And while it’s certainly true that the narrative plays second fiddle to the gameplay, it’s important to remember that the atmosphere and story are critical to one’s enjoyment of the game. That’s what helps to override the obvious technical problems the adventure unfortunately has, and keeps one playing even when the frustration begins to mount. For the most part, you’re tackling a variety of well-designed puzzles that involve Dawn’s shifting ability. Sometimes, Didi helps, too.