Contrast…

It’s been a little while since I last made a blog post, anywhere, let alone here… It’s now 2014, and much has once again changed in the world. Detroit has entered bankruptcy, Iran is playing nice (for the moment at least), the economy has picked up… Of course, there are so many things that haven’t changed that I’m not even going to name a few… But what’s surprised me the most is a little game I never heard of before seeing a demo video of it running on a PlayStation 4 kiosk at a Game Stop in Port Huron back at the start of December… A game called Contrast.

The basic premise of the game is that the main character, Dawn, must use her ability to slip in and out of the shadows literally to solve puzzles and circumvent obstacles.Though that’s interesting enough in its own right, the reason behind her actions is a little, sometimes painfully annoying, girl named Didi.

Didi’s sole purpose in life seems to make you do stuff that makes her life better, and Dawn is always willing to comply. So, no, this isn’t a free will open world game but there are frequently multiple ways to accomplish most tasks. There’s also a series of sub-missions that involve memories played out as shadows on building walls, these shadows, when you become one, allow you to reach not so hidden but otherwise inaccessible collectibles called luminaries. The main reason to collect the luminaries is the sake of collecting them, however they are also used to power some devices in the game as well. All of those devices are necessary to manipulate shadows that will enable you to accomplish tasks and solve puzzles, but never fear: if you can’t do some of the memory wall puzzles, there’s usually enough luminaries that are easily obtained for you to continue moving forward.

Aside from some of the shadow puppet theater, there’s no actual violence in the game which makes a nice change of pace from many other games that use a 3d environment. Didi’s story is very much the focal point of the game, and it’s a very engrossing one at that. There’s a lot going on with just her family, but as interesting as it is, it doesn’t mask the question you’ll start asking from the very beginning… “Why…?”

I’m not going to state the full question, despite my normal spoiler heavy posts, because I admire and respect the game enough to keep my trap shut. But trust me, it’s an obvious and simple question, for which you only get close to having an answer for towards the end of the game. Still, the pieces of that proverbial puzzle are there for you to solve to your own mental satisfaction. But the highlights of the game for me are all of the little touches in the game honoring cultural icons, the dialog which occasionally have pauses that completely change the contextual meaning of what’s being said, and the overall film noir look and feel of the game.

Forgive the pun but I don’t know what compulsion the team felt to develop this game, but personally, I’d put it down as the second best game of 2013, which is really amazing for a core team of seven people. Not that I am any authority of anything in any field, but the only game to surpass it last year was Naughty Dog’s “The Last of Us”. Whole I’m a huge fan of their games and stories, the only reason I’m giving them the victory over Contrast is the length of the game. Not that Contrast is a particularly short game, it can indeed be completely experienced (I’d hate to say “beaten”) in just a couple hours, but “The Last of Us” has a lengthy, very involving story. Both games are great in my opinion, and I enjoyed both in different ways; TLoU got my heart pumping, but Contrast, to put it mildly, was fun. As much as I love the former, it was rarely a game that could be considered fun, it was a tense, drama filled experience and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Well that about concludes my spiel on Contrast, but I do want to say that if you have a PS4, get this game! You should be able to get it for free at this point in time, I don’t think you even have to be a PlayStation+ member. But even if you do have to pay for it, I feel you could do a lot worse for your money. There are some bugs in the game but those will get worked out with time.

There’s a bit more information at the PlayStation Blog about Contrast that you might find interesting, and if you don’t have our want a PS4, you can also buy it on PC through Steam.