(PlayStation 4)

Contrast (PlayStation 4)

Game Review

Contrast Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Graham Banas

If it's broke, fix it

Contrast is the first game by indie developer Compulsion Games. It, along with Resogun, shares the distinction of being the one of the first free PlayStation Plus giveaways on the PlayStation 4. The title follows a young girl named Didi, who works to reunite her estranged parents with the help of her imaginary friend Dawn (the player controlled character). Dawn uses her ability to warp in and out of shadows to traverse the release's lush noir deco environment, helping Didi's father to clean up his act and make their family whole again.

There is an astounding degree of vagueness to the adventure. Things like the void – a bottomless pit that can be fallen into resulting in death – are just never explained, and their existence remains a mystery throughout the experience, resulting in no real reason for it to be there other than to punish the player.

The game relies heavily on puzzles and platforming, many of which revolve around Dawn warping into the shadow realm and using the shadows to traverse the walls of buildings. While the use of shadows like this offers a lot of room for creativity, the execution falls a little flat. Many games will hone in on one single mechanic and really build a game and world around it, but here, it doesn't really develop. After learning the basics, the title becomes slightly more challenging, and then rests on its laurels until the last twenty minutes or so, where it hammers the player with puzzles that are more frustrating than challenging. At least some interesting visuals come into play from the puzzles, like climbing up the shadows of a bicycle, which pedals are spinning ceaselessly, or hopping from shadow to shadow of projections from a carousel. However, these interesting moments aren't nearly frequent enough. Funnily enough, the mechanics are the strongest and most refreshing during a sequence of what appears to be a puppet show that could have been lifted straight from Limbo, complete with spiders.

The mechanics mostly work, but there are an appalling number of bugs still present in the game. Several issues that we encountered were game breaking, and necessitated restarts. Most of them seemed to stem from collision issues in the game. When picking up a cannonball for instance, rather than grab it, Dawn was launched straight up completely out of the skybox, and could not be brought back. Additionally, when getting too close to some walls, or trying to pick up a collectible, Dawn would frequently become stuck on the environment, requiring the use of a dash move to solve the problem.

The visuals, on the other hand, are easily the game's strongest area. While it certainly doesn't look pretty enough to be straining the PS4, it is just dripping in atmosphere. Apart from Didi and Dawn, every other character in the game only appears as a shadow, making for some genuinely incredible cutscenes using nothing but the silhouettes of characters. The rest of the game also looks great, be it the puddles of water on the ground reflecting the neon drenched city around them, or the seedy bars where mobsters cavort. When making a noir look, the visuals are only half of the battle, and the game's presentation wouldn't be complete without its music.

The score for the game – tackled wonderfully by composer Nicolas Marquis – helps to enhance the release in such a way that the audio and visuals alone make it worth experiencing. The best sequence of the game occurs when these two combine perfectly, where Didi's mother sings at a nightclub – handled beautifully by the talented jazz singer Laura Ellis – as the members of her band play around her. On the other hand, the game's dialogue comes off as rather shoddy. There's nothing terribly exciting or intriguing about what the people say, and the wording makes most exchanges sound extremely awkward. Using the fact that Didi is a child as an excuse for her shoddy discourse no longer really works as Telltale has proven that children can be written exceptionally well in The Walking Dead. In spite of that, there isn't enough dialogue either. By the game's end, it tells its story through all of the collectibles that are lying about, almost giving up on verbal exposition. If the player doesn't feel like getting them, they shouldn't feel like they're missing a primary part of the title's narrative, which is what happens here.

Granted, the visuals and soundtrack are absolutely worth seeing/hearing, making the three hours it took to finish the game worth it. However, the length does not play to the game's favour, as even at such a short run time, there are bits here and there that make the game feel padded. Sequences that last far longer than they should (like the previously mentioned Limbo-esque part) can put a strain on the attention span.

While the game looks pretty and sounds pretty, these alone are not enough to make a game enjoyable, and that is where Contrast hits another wall. Having so many problems with collision takes what could be a fun and unique concept, and spoils the experience. All the gameplay problems would have been tolerable, though, were it not for such an atrocious checkpoint system. The frequency of checkpoints is ridiculously varied, ranging from getting a checkpoint, climbing a flight of stairs, and getting another checkpoint, all the way to having to do an entire third of a level without a save.

Conclusion

A relatively short excursion into the lives of Didi and her imaginary friend is ruined by an astounding number of bugs. While Contrast is worth completing for the sake of seeing the gorgeous scenery and hearing the exceptional soundtrack, don't expect to have any real burning desire to play this game again over the coming months.

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User Comments (22)

get2sammybAdmin

#1

get2sammyb said:

Fantastic review, Graham. Must admit, as much as I hate poor checkpointing and detest game-breaking bugs, I'm 100 per cent going to play this anyway as I absolutely adore the presentation and setting. Good job it's free, though, huh?

ztpayne7

#2

ztpayne7 said:

Hmmm. Haven't started it yet cause I didn't want to start too many games at the same time. Maybe I'll wait a while on this one to let the bugs get patched.

divinelite

#3

divinelite said:

I think it will play something like dokuro?
Well as much I want to like, I can't like dokuro...

RawShark

#4

RawShark said:

Shame - I was hoping for big things from this. Such a lovely art style, and the early buzz was very positive.

Glacier928Staff

#5

Glacier928 said:

Great review, Graham! You really nailed everything necessary to mention about the game and I also noticed numerous bugs within the first couple of minutes of my playtime. I'm still going to play through it at some point. Maybe by then they'll patch the game's bugs a bit.

rastamadeus

#9

rastamadeus said:

Any news yet on whether PS+ owners can subscribers the PS4 games without the console? Could do it for the Vita and all the signs up until a few months ago where that you could do it for the PS4 (well, claim them on the website so you can download them when you own the console). Then Sony Europe decided to say you can't do it, then you can, then you can't. As much use as a marzipan dildo.

Tasuki

#11

Tasuki said:

Wow I was thinking of giving this game a try today. Sad to hear that such a beautiful game is plagued with a bunch of bugs. :( Anyword an a patch down the road to fix these bugs?

Scollurio

#12

Scollurio said:

Well written review, I really love this setting and also enjoyed LA Noire for similar reasons, unfortunately I really cannot get into the gameplay and the obvious flaws this game has. I'll probably watch someone play and just keep swinging to the soundtrack! :D

Gamer83

#13

Gamer83 said:

@Tasuki

I'd still recommend trying the game. Despite the fact it has glaring and frustrating bugs, I've found the game to be enjoyable enough to warrant a playthrough or two.

gbanas92Staff

#14

gbanas92 said:

@Tasuki I'm not aware of one, but I'm sure they're planning something. Some of the bugs are too big to not have been previously discovered. I'd say wait a little, and if no word on a patch, play through, as it's definitely going through at least once for just the visuals!

Deadstanley

#15

Deadstanley said:

I haven't played too much of this to notice any bugs, but my first impression was that for a PS4 launch day PS+ title they could have chosen something that was more polished. Graphically it could be better... the animations seem clunky... maybe it's just the side effect of being ported.

It won't stop me though, I'll get to this game soon enough.

Tasuki

#16

Tasuki said:

@Gamer83:
@gbanas92:

I will more then likely give this game a try after all how can I say no to a free game. Still it's kinda of a downer to here of some of the bugs.

@gbanas92: Btw Welcome to Pushsquare. :)

ohhaime

#17

ohhaime said:

Too bad about the bugs.I was looking forward to this even before it was announced for PS4. But for free I'd definitely play it anyway. Hopefully they'll have patched it by the time I get a PS4.

@rastamadeus Here in America you can "purchase" the Free PS+ games from the web store even if you don't have PS4, I'd think it'd be the same in Europe.

rastamadeus

#18

rastamadeus said:

@get2sammyb Yeah, on the EU blog they've been changing their minds on a near daily basis. If we can't then it's another slap in the face for anyone not getting a PS4 who is a PS+ subscriber. Nothing like cutting off your nose to spite your face. "PS4 will not effect PS+ in any way for current subscribers"...

@ohhaime Ah, cool. Hopefully it'll be the same here.

Grockumus

#20

Grockumus said:

This game seemed like a clunky PS2 game to me. I didn't like it way too much. I think it's the only game on PS4 right now I honestly don't like that much. It was obviously rushed.

Stuffgamer1

#21

Stuffgamer1 said:

I finished this game in one go on Saturday...while I agree on certain negative aspects, others I think are a little overblown in the review. It's worth noting that yes, a fair bit of story is in the collectables, but they are NOT well hidden for the most part, so it's no strain to get them. I did hit a couple bad bugs, one of which forced me back across one of the longest no-checkpoint segments of the game, but I definitely think it's worth a play anyway. Yes, another patch or two would be appreciated (it already had one patch at release, oddly enough), but I think this deserves more of a six or seven, personally.

Gemuarto

#22

Gemuarto said:

@Stuffgamer1 Agree with you, man. This game is the best indie I've played this year. And such a low score =(.Very sad. Loved every bit of it, even with bugs. Bugs don't really break anything, if you ask me. They are just funny and not hurt at all. Everyone should play such a lovely masterpiece. Shame on Pushsquare for such a low score =).

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