This year at the Eurogamer Expo I wandered into the Indie Arcade section of the event and stumbled onto a little-known indie title called ‘Chroma‘. A one man developed game about a little creature with the ability to warp from light to shadow, and use the advantages to solve puzzle platform segments. It had a delightful charm, very nice graphic design, and unique, fascinating, addictive gameplay. Chroma was the reason I jumped at the chance to play Contrast, because Contrast appeared to have similar game mechanics but in a suave 1920’s noire themed world – with two really interesting looking characters. Contrast, much to my dismay, had none of the charm, uniqueness, or addictive gameplay.

That’s not say Contrast was all bad, I always strive to note as many positives as I can before laying into a title, as there were some appealing elements to Contrast. The 1920’s graphical style and atmosphere are pretty spot-on, as is much of the audio work. Before loading up a new game I lost 10 minutes relaxing to the main menu music, slowly gathering my expectations with a smile on my face. All too soon however that smile dropped from my face like a player from a tedious, repetitive shadow-based puzzle platform section… was that too subtle?

Much to my chagrin that is likely as far as praise will go in this review. Once the music has washed over you there is nothing left but a thinly veiled ‘Simon Says’ puzzle platforming game with – at best – horrific writing. I won’t spoil the plot, what dregs of it there are in the game to begin with, but the entire story revolves around one central intrigue point that builds to absolutely nothing. All you really need to know is there’s a girl named Didi who you must follow. You may consider that description lacking, but rest assured there’s really no more to be garnered from the three hours of “story”.

The conclusion of it all left a baffling sense of mystery. Most brain straining being that it is never once explained how or why the shadow world exists – despite being referenced frequently by in-game characters. That’s assuming of course you are able to overlook the complete lack of clarification of who you’re playing as. It took nearly a solid hour of investigation to piece together that her name is ‘Dawn’, and was a former acrobat – nothing more was ever expanded on or explained.

Don’t start thinking you’ll be in this one for the gameplay either, because while the writing and voice acting are very much the worst aspect, playing through this equates to as much fun as running face first into a well-lit wall. Puzzles aren’t so much challenges as they are tests of patience. Almost every section is based on the idea of swapping from real life to shadow with a simple button tap. Unfortunately this mechanic quickly becomes infuriating as you’ll slip in and out of the shadow world intermittently for no reason mid-puzzle, have moving platforms slide you off the edge frequently upon landing forcing you to restart the whole section, and have many of the puzzles loop the same platforming sequences three or four times to reach the goal.

Puzzles aren’t merely mundane, dull, and frustrating, though there is plenty of that to go around, they’re somehow also insultingly easy. Not because the solution is obvious, or that I’m the almighty ruler of all gaming, but because Didi flat out tells you the solution before you even have a chance to ponder it over. You may wander into a theatre, see the spotlights are out, and the moment you escape the cutscene you’ll be greeted with: “Maybe you could use that box over there to reach the lights and fix them with your Luminaries.” Thanks, Didi, I’d be lost without your never-ending benevolence.

Did I not mention the Luminaries? Oh, those are collectibles. There are 10 on every level, and they are used to reactivate switches and lights. However, the most you need in a single level is 6 – so collecting 10 in every level gains you absolutely nothing and is utterly pointless. There are also regular collectibles too for some reason that are, once again, pointless and almost beyond the descriptor of ‘uninspired‘.

Contrast is not worth your time or your money, and it’s a really short game. Completed in under three hours, with obsessive pointless collectible hunting, this game would be considered a rip-off if downloaded free from PS+ in December – let alone the current asking price of £11.99 on Steam. The only saving graces this game has are the audio design and choice of era, other than that there is nothing to recommend here.






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