Contrast Review

December 9, 2013

Contrast is the second of the free games for PS4 owners to get hold of with PS Plus alongside the fantastic Resogun. With it being drafted in as a last minute replacement for DriveClub PS+ Edition, how does it fare as the first high profile indie title on Sony’s new machine?

Game: Contrast
Developer: Compulsion
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4

STORY

The story of Contrast revolves around a small girl, Didi, and her desperation to find the attention of her (quite literally) shadowy parents to bring them back together. You play as Dawn, an acrobat with the ability to drift in and out of these same shadows at the touch of a button. Throughout the journey, Dawn is tasked with a number of puzzles to help Didi on her quest. In terms of the atmosphere, think LA Noire’s timeframe with Bioshock Infinite’s slightly cartoony feel and you’re probably about there. It’s much more light-hearted in tone than either of these though, and it amounts to a distinctly average feeling experience.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

The thing with Contrast is that it really should look better than this. It feels like it could easily be a PS3 game, and particularly with the level of performance on display here. There’s no doubt that the ambition behind Contrast has set the bar high, but sadly it’s failed to reach the vision behind it. The camera feels unwieldy at times, and the frame rate is nothing short of atrocious for the most part. It’s a shame, because it has so much potential to look spectacular, but it fails on almost every step. Sound-wise, there’s not really a huge amount to write home about. There’s not a huge amount of atmosphere that’s been created within the game and it’s certainly not going to drag you deep into it.

Contrast screen 1

GAMEPLAY

The best part of Contrast is also the worst by a long, long way. The primary mechanic of shifting in and out of the shadows to weave your way through puzzles sounds excellent in theory, but when there are as many issues with bugs and general gameplay glitches as there are on show here, it feels like a frustrating effort in futility for the most part. When it does come off, it’s a genuinely fantastic mechanic that deserves much more of a game based around it. Sadly, these moments are few and far between, with puzzles ranging from laughably simple to manageable but ruined by glitches. It feels like the challenge in the game comes more from the inability to control Dawn effectively than the taxing nature of the puzzles at hand, which really is a crushing shame.

The animations in the game are somewhat stilted as well, with the less-than-rare “Christ pose” being exhibited by Dawn as the game struggles to figure out what position to place her in. There were a number of moments where I was grinding my teeth as Dawn was not even able to fall to her death because she was caught in between two areas, bouncing between sections of geometry and eventually figuring a way out of it.

Contrast screen 2

LONGEVITY

Contrast isn’t going to have you coming back for more once you’ve finished the story. It’s a short experience, with not a huge amount to do once you’re at the end of it. There’s collectibles to pick up, but the reward for doing so seems minimal besides a trophy. At somewhere between 4 and 5 hours, it’s a nice little distraction, if nothing else.

VERDICT

Contrast serves as a prime example of wasted potential. A game that, on paper, sounds like a unique and refreshing title actually transpires to be one of the most frustrating and infuriating games I’ve played for a long time. It’s a genuine shame, as I was intrigued by this title when it was announced as DriveClub’s replacement, and yet the inexcusably poor frame rate and general buggy nature of the game will leave many shaking their heads. As a free title for PS+ users, it’s worth a try if not just to check out the early levels of the game from a mechanical point of view, but it’s hard to recommend it for anything else. A real shame and a genuine missed opportunity.

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