Contrast’s World is too Cool to be this Short

My gaming life has almost exclusively belonged to Destiny’s Witch Queen expansion, but today, I took a break to peek at GamePass and see what’s new. Scrolling through, the art of Contrast popped out at me. It’s got a creepy dark vibe, you play in the shadows, and it had good reviews. Easy decision. Let’s dive into this game.

First of all, I like that the story doesn’t halt game play excessively. The narrative often plays out in the background while you’re exploring. It kind of reminds me of Unravel 2 in that way. There’s the story of your character’s mission set directly in front of another story. Basically, you’re back in the 20’s, you’re a spindly lady chasing around a child, and you have the ability to go into the shadow world. What’s interesting is it is only you and this kid who ever appear in the physical space. Every other person in this world is a shadow.

The game doesn’t spend a lot of time answering questions. You’re just an adult woman standing in some strange child’s bedroom. You apparently know each other and you’re sneaking out of the house. Sounds normal enough. You follow the kid’s mom to her night gig, see her dad trying to win mom back, and then her dad getting beat up. It’s a story of a scrappy guy trying to win his family back and a little girl intervening whenever possible to get answers and try to bring everyone together. You’ll be taking orders from this kid, shifting between the physical and shadow worlds to ascend great heights and solve puzzles.

I enjoyed the unique backdrops and atmosphere. The gameplay is pretty intuitive, although there is no map or markers to lead you through objectives. It’s not overly complicated, but it does suffer from the fact that it’s an older game. The controls can be off at times. I found myself getting irrationally angry trying to get past climbing the carousel because you cannot control the distance your “dash” goes. Sometimes, I’d get caught on a shadow corner and just be unable to jump at all. I fell a lot and spent way too much time trying to climb those stupid horse shadows. I much preferred the shadows that play little story moments out. It was fun replaying the scene to see how characters moved so that you could figure out your way across.

The game created some more unique backdrops by having the dad own a circus. While the world is anything but normal, the circus levels broke up the familiar backdrops. I’m definitely not complaining – I really like the artwork and the ‘spoopy’ vibes. There was a section where you fill in for a missing princess puppet that had some serious Limbo vibes.

The game ups the complexity at times by having you pick up items and “shift” them into the shadow world with you. The shadow world enables you to cross great distances, walk through glass, and move heavy objects with ease. What I appreciate about it most is that my character, Dawn, embodies real-world me, in that she insists on lifting big, heavy things (even when not wearing the appropriate footwear) just to show everyone I’m sooooo strong.

I do think the game is overall pretty easy, but there was one part that was not intuitive at all to me. After repeatedly falling off the map, I gave up and Google’d it. I’m putting this here for all the other nerds who may find themselves fuming over the puzzle. If you are climbing the lighthouse and are on the part where you need to move a box up a couple levels, this video is how you get that started:

Climbing the lighthouse is part of the dramatic ending. You may be thinking to yourself, “already!?” This game is short and you’ll find yourself watching the credits in only one sitting. The story has several dots to connect at this point. Didi (the kid) is trying to bring her family back together, but the only problem is, dad isn’t dad. And he is in trouble with some bad guys! Do we go after our real dad instead? Is Johnny actually the best dad, blood or not, and will mom take him back? You’re still not sure what your character’s relation to this whole situation is, but you’ve got to help Didi get her family back together. You are climbing high for the final confrontation while snippets of past moments play out. It’s really enjoyable.

And then… it just ends. This game has one of the most abrupt endings I’ve ever experienced. It may leave you with more questions than answers. I have my thoughts on what I think it’s all about, but I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

Overall, while there were some things that annoyed me control-wise, I found the game to be a quick, enjoyable thing. It’s a unique take on something that feels familiar. I wish it had more exploratory options because I really liked the artwork and I wanted to wander the streets a bit more, but other than that, I think it’s a solid play if you’re looking for a quick escape. What do you think? Are you going to give Contrast a try?

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