Wonderful in theory yet terribly flawed in practice, Contrast's waste of potential is as irritating as its many bugs. Set in 30s Paris that's part Bioshock Infinite and part Dishonored's Outsider world, the backdrop has a hazy, dream-like quality that perfectly complements its main mechanic. As Dawn, you'll accompany Didi, a young girl keen to see her parents reunited against the odds of parental bickering, debt-collectors, and issues of paternity. Oh, and Didi spends most of her time talking to you, her imaginary friend, and shadows that represent everyone else in the world.
These shadows are Contrast's hook. Dawn can shift in and out of shadow form, as long as there's a light source directly projecting onto a surface. It leads to some engaging puzzles, with players having to adjust lighting (say, a projector) to cast bigger or smaller shadows on the backdrop. Then, Dawn has to change form and navigate the solution you've created. Highlights include manipulating standees of classic film characters in a cinema to cross a gap, or rotating an oversized orrery to cast a certain path.
When it works, it's superb, feeding into the world and narrative perfectly. The problem is that Contrast rarely works as intended. Movement is woolly, almost digital: Dawn either walks, or runs in an unruly burst of pace that ruins many a best-laid plan. The framerate is appalling, juddering to a near standstill both inside and out. Contrast's art direction is nice, but there's nothing here technically that excuses this level of performance. The camera, too, is abysmal: not exactly locked to the player, it needs to be wrestled with at all times.
More serious are the numerous bugs: players are often forced out of shadow form for no reason, making the platforming and puzzle-solving a chore, and Dawn frequently gets stuck on boxes, in walls, almost anything. Infuriating, and so common as to be inexcusable. As is the fact that there's only really one 'correct' solution to the puzzles, so much so that the game lessens skills or flat out removes collision so you can't outsmart it. A huge shame.
Version Tested: PS4. Played for 4 hours.
4 / 10
- Engaging world and puzzles.
- Intriguing narrative will make you want to see it out.
- Overly-prescribed gameplay.
- Terrible bugs.