Contrast PS4 review – Stylish charmer steps out from the shadows
It’s almost impossible not to love Contrast, with its noir-tinged glitz and Parisian swagger. Set in a dreamscape snapshot of Europe in the ‘20s, it’s a puzzle-platformer full of interesting ideas, beautiful designs and a story that’ll break your heart if you let it. But, like any true romance, your love affair with Contrast won’t be without its domestic hiccups.
As you might have noticed, this isn’t a free-to-play version of a certain car porn racer, and while it’s easy to judge Contrast as a last minute replacement for the delayed Driveclub, the game’s brimming with character and certainly deserves recognition on its own terms.
The story of Contrast follows Didi, a young girl whose desperate attempts to reunite her wayward parents leads her on a journey through seedy bars, circus tents and backstreet workshops. You take on the role of Dawn, her silent imaginary friend, a character with the rather handy power to shift between the real world and the shadows that line the walls of this Burton-esque world.
Switching between the 3D world and the 2D environment of the shadows is easy once you get the hang of pressing a single button beside a brightly lit wall. These sections are by far the strongest feature of Contrast, ranging from simple platforming puzzles to expansive set-pieces that span a whole shadow-laden street.
The 3D world that Dawn explores with Didi may be the prettiest by far, but it’s also the most difficult to traverse. Considering she was trained to be a circus performer, Dawn has the acrobatic flexibility of a breeze block. Controlling her in the 3D realm is stiff and unsatisfying, but thankfully most of the platforming is resigned to the otherwise good shadow sections.
A heartfelt story and unique take on
platforming combine to make this an
engaging, yet sadly short-lived, adventure
Light and darkness also play a key role in the world of Contrast, and as the game progresses from pre-constructed shadow sections to increasingly dynamic areas with moveable lights and cut-outs that allow for custom platforms, you realise that this is more than a Limbo rip-off: it’s a genuinely great idea that would thrive on a bigger canvas.
And this brings us to the unravelling thread at the heart of Contrast: length. Initially designed and constructed as an indie project, the Contrast that resides on PS4 still feels like the prologue to something far grander. It’s a shame, as some of the environments are incredible, but just as Compulsion Games start to build on their own ideas and rules, the game wraps up and you’re left clamouring for more shadow-hopping moments.
With a soundtrack that radiates class and a platforming style that’s far from gimmicky, Contrast offers a charming and engaging glimpse into the blurred realities of a child’s imagination (while still being a fun lil’ platformer to boot). A heartfelt story and genuinely unique take on the age-old platforming genre combine to make Contrast an engaging, yet sadly short-lived, adventure.