Contrast is an incredibly clever indie puzzle/platformer from Compulsion Games. You play as Dawn, the imaginary friend of a young girl named Didi. Didi is a seemingly good kid, but she’s alone in this confusing adult world, and it is Dawn’s job to help her navigate around it. Dawn has some particularly interesting powers, and she must utilize these abilities to help Didi figure out what is happening with her family. I got the chance to spend some time with the demo available at PAX East this weekend, and I’m glad I had the opportunity.
Contrast takes place in the 1920’s, and ironically its a setting that is refreshing. I seriously fell in love the aesthetics of the game. The art style is really unique, reminiscent of a film-noir comic book, very vibrant and colorful. The Jazz club soundtrack is amazing; I have a soft spot for big-band singers and the woman singing in the club in the trailer? Shivers down my spine.
The combination of the gorgeous art style and the fantastic soundtrack help set the stage for a rather dark narrative. The best part of having an imaginary friend? They can do whatever you need them to do. In Dawn’s case, she is able to manipulate light and shadow to traverse levels and solve puzzles in inventive ways.
The shifting mechanic works pretty well. While in the 3d world, and whenever Dawn casts a shadow on the background, she is able to shift into the shadow world, where her shadow can interact with the shadows of objects in the real world. Progressing in the level might also require Dawn to physically manipulate something in the real world in order to overcome an obstacle. For example, in the demo I was required to fix some spotlights so they would shine on some musicians. When I adjusted the lights, I was able to climb up their shadows to the second level of this jazz club I was in. The game really pushes you to think outside the box and examine all of your surrounding for possible solutions.
There were a few bugs I experienced while playing that were mostly caused by the shifting mechanic. In some rare spots, the shifting mechanic would cause Dawn to act weird and bounce around a bit before finally being spit back out into the 3d world. This is just a bug that I’m sure will be squashed, but it was distracting while I was playing.
Contrast is one of the coolest games I’ve played in a while. I just really fell for the mix of the art design as well as the gameplay mechanics. It controls very well, aside from a few glitches, and is a lot of fun to play. It’s fun trying to figure out what you need to alter in the real world to reach your goal in the shadow world. Solving one puzzle seemed to present you with a new one. At one point I needed to start up a merry-go-round with some energy that I picked up. I was able to use the shadows of the carousel horses to climb up the walls, and from a rooftop I could activate the carousel, which changed the level altogether and gave me a new set of challenges I would have to traverse.
I’m looking forward to spending some more time with this game when it comes out. While I normally don’t adore indie puzzle/platformers, there is something special about this game that is makes it hard to ignore. Contrast has my attention with it’s intriguing story and excellent mechanics. In a sea of indie games, this one really stands out.