Friday, December 20, 2013

Contrast is short but sweet.

There aren’t than many games that think outside the box. Among my favorite outside the box games has been Portal, which took shooters and merged it with puzzlers. With a wicked sense of humor, and some wildly imaginative level design, the game was something unlike anything I have ever played before. I love games that do this sort of innovation.
Similarly, the new Playstation Store downloadable, Contrast, (free for Plus subscribers) thinks way outside the box. There are no enemies to fight, only a story of a little girl named Didi, from the perspective of her Imaginary Friend, Dawn, who is able to move between shadows, and it is this ability to navigate the shadows that the game uses as its principal means of puzzle solving.

The game requires you to adjust the lighting so that the shadows will lead you where you need to go. In example, one level requires you to adjust the position of elevators, then toggle various light switches on and off so that you can climb up to the fifth floor of a building. It’s a novel idea that works well most of the time.

Like Portal before it, the game requires you to learn and master the use of your environment to get where you want to go, however the mechanics are not perfect. As a creature of shadow, you are able to travel through glass, but the camera does get hung up here making it sometimes difficult to tell if you have cleared the obstacle. The game is also woefully short, there’s multiple subchapters, but only two real chapters. In some regards, while the story is good, it feels like an extended demo rather than a full game.

Some critics have said the level design is lifeless and dull, but I disagree. There is something eerie about this world. Most people appear as shadows, you encounter memory sequences which play out in such a way that suggests a greater tragedy than what the game relays took place. Adding to that sense of otherworldliness is the fact that, like Silent Hill before it,  roads drop off into deep chasms, some areas look as if they’ve been ripped apart by some cataclysmic something or another. The game never really delves into the question of the reality of this game. Is this a dream? Has Didi died? Did someone else die? Why is the world the way it is?

But that the game leaves me wanting more, I think, is evidence that what is there is pretty good, but then the question comes of, is it worth paying for? The answer, I’m afraid, is probably not. At least not at the present price, which is a little too rich for such a small game. I do recommend playing this game, though. However, it’s worth stressing that the game is free, right now, with a PS Plus subscription, for PS3 and PS4. Obviously the PS4 is the definitive version of the game, though the differences are not huge. Should the price fall to around $5.00, for non-subscribers, I feel I could recommend it.

What I hope to see is another game like this that more fully explores the game’s Tim Burton-esq world, which answers more readily, who is Dawn really? Which sets out to explain what happened to the world, and why everyone except Dawn, Didi and her real father (only at the end of the game) appear as shadows. In other words, I would love to see a full length sequel. If you could get ten or so levels as good as the two in this game, you’d easily have a game worth paying full price for, but again, what is there, now, only feels like an extended demo, rather than a full game. Get it if you can for free, otherwise wait for the price to fall.

7 our out of 10.

No comments:

Post a Comment