Set in a flourishing 1920s pre-Art Deco Paris, Contrast is a beautiful amalgamation of shadows, bold design, and dreamlike gameplay.
A scratch beneath the surface of the game’s 2D and 3D platforming, Contrast tells the story of Didi’s father, as he attempts to win back her mother. While the characters are largely forgettable, their lasting impressions aren’t, and Didi’s performance is one of human emotion, one you will empathise and align with by the end of the six hour long story.
You play as Didi’s imaginary shadow friend, and you can only see the shadows and people Didi directly interact with, who then in turn become part of the unique and elaborate set pieces. As the player you can slip between platforming in the default 3D world to moving across the shadows in Super Mario-esque puzzles in the 2D world. Manipulating light sources such as lamps and projectors opens up paths to objectives, a simple and unique idea that is executed almost flawlessly.
With that being said, puzzles that make use of Contrast‘s artistic selling point often fail to realise just how innovative the core artistic idea is, while others drive home moments of euphoria and accomplishment as you skitter across the rides of a dilapidated theme park.
The enticing shadowplay mechanics remain riveting throughout, even when they are interspersed with more cliche platforming elements such as moving crates onto pressure-sensitive buttons. When compared to the aforementioned theme park segment, these “kindergarten” moments create a negative juxtaposition and often stand out as the predominant theme within the game.
Contrast‘s art direction and design is absolutely beautiful, whether in the minimalistic 2D realm or the fully-realised 3D world. The PC version’s lighting is stunning, and Paris comes to life in such an eye-catching way as lights flicker in the distance and moon bathes the streets in light.
At its core, Contrast is a game full of heart, beauty, and more importantly fresh ideas. A game no puzzle fan will want to miss, Contrast‘s moving story and excellent platforming help it stand out as a title that really is worth playing, and refreshingly, enjoying.