Welcome to 1920’s Paris, France or at least something that resembles the idea of it. If you can’t imagine what that might be like, it’s every bit as magical as the city is today, but with a quaint, fantastical feel about it. That is the setting for Compulsion Game’s Contrast. You don’t get to explore a lot of the city, but the little bit that you do in this noir inspired pallet is your playground.
In Contrast we are introduced to little Didi. Didi’s father has been kicked out the house by Didi’s mother after one too many deals resulting in money lost, it’s a rather sad situation. But Didi doesn’t despair. Instead she finds what appears to be an imaginary friend named Dawn and escapes the confines of her house to explore the wonderfully designed Paris.
Players take control of Dawn, a silhouette, who can cross the border between the real world and the shadow world. It’s the changing between the two worlds where most of the game takes place. As Didi goes on a search to find her father and to help him win back his mother, you have to help her on the way.
The gameplay uses some clever puzzle and platforming elements. When you are in the real world, everything is 3D and the platforming is very simple with the world mostly being used to get simply from one place to another. But sometimes Didi’s path is blocked and it’s here where the shadow world becomes important.
Once there is an obstacle you are able to move into walls as Dawn, where shadows form from objects in the real world. The game now becomes a 2D platformer as you try to assist Didi in progressing. By going into the shadow world you can get to places where you can’t in the real world which allows you access to different areas to assist with progressing. The puzzles can be quite tricky at times as you have to move out of the shadows to move things around in the real world. All this in order for a clear path to be made for where you need to get next.
Other times it’s all about timing. For example, at one point there is a carousel which you have to wait for before you can get across a certain section. This blend of 2D platforming and 3D puzzle elements works tremendously well for the most part, and finding your way across the City is excellent. The highlight is really a carnival section and another section where you have to activate a secret apartment by moving around a massive clock of sorts. It really got the brain going.
Another highlight is a puppet show where you play out the characters in the show. This section had a real Limbo feel to it. In fact I am pretty sure it was borrowed straight out of Limbo. It works well though and is easily the best part of the game. It’s a pity then that it lasts such a short time because it really could have been expanded on to the point where the majority of the game should have been played in that manner. Sadly that isn’t the case.
While the elements of the game and ideas pushing it are great, it just doesn’t hold up throughout. Before too long the same patterns emerge and the puzzles get boring and repetitive. The mechanics also don’t hold up and at times you can see exactly what needs to be done, but the execution of it seems hampered because of poor design. The worst of these is towards the end when you need to move blocks around to form shadows in particular areas. The blocks get stuck sometimes and you have to restart, other times if you drop the box down a hole or off the building it doesn’t reappear which also results in restarting from a checkpoint and doing the whole puzzle again. It’s not only the bugs, but the design of the puzzles the further you go. It moves from cleverly thought out platforming to simple, tedious “move this box here to open the door” type things, and it’s boring.
Contrast isn’t a long game, which is good and bad. It’s bad because perhaps if it was longer and there was more of the good puzzle sections from the first two hours or so then it could have been a brilliant game. It’s good that it isn’t longer though because by the time you reach the end and have done some of the silly puzzles over and over you actually just want the game to end as soon as possible.
While the story is quite sweet, the characters lose their appeal a little while in and you almost stop caring for the story. It’s still relatively fun to play through and there is enough to keep you pushing through until the end, but it has to be said that despite the enchanting look of the city, the rest of the game becomes rather dull, and that escalates towards the end, resulting in an almost forgettable experience overall.