When Sony announced during E3 that Driveclub would be available at launch for PS+ members I got excited that an interesting game such as this would be waiting for me to download the day I get my console. I’m not a huge racing game enthusiast but I was looking forward to seeing a great-looking driving title on my PS4. Unfortunately, Driveclub got delayed and another title got added to the PS+ Instant Game Collection – Contrast. It launched with the PS4 but is also available on PS3, MS Windows and Xbox 360.
Obviously, we’re talking about two games that couldn’t be different both when it comes to gameplay and ‘new-genness’. Still, I wasn’t too upset because everything I saw about Contrast looked very promising. The setting in the 1920s Paris, the cool shadow shifting mechanic, the characters. Unfortunately, some control issues and glitches in the game made it less enjoyable than it could have been.
In Contrast, the player controls Dawn, an imaginary friend of a young girl named Didi, who is a daughter of a world-famous singer mother and an ‘entrepreneur’ father, who always does business with the wrong people and gets himself in trouble and puts his marriage in jeopardy. Throughout the game Didi, with the help of Dawn, try to help her dad succeed in his latest venture and bring back the separated couple back together. Along the way, a mysterious magician, The Great Vincenzo, is also introduced and provides a twist to the story, which is interesting in a clicheed, film-noir kind of way. The fedora-wearing Johnny, the jazzy Kat, the violent gangsters. We’ve seen it before in countless movies but Contrast still manages to put an original spin on the story.
The only other element of the game that I have no complaints about is the soundtrack. The music in the game is amazing and I didn’t mind letting it play in the main menu while I was getting something to eat. The jazzy tunes performed by Laura Ellis set the mood perfectly and bring some of the atmosphere of that era into the player’s living room.
Everything else in the game is executed well enough but time and time again small and bigger issues come up and ruin the experience and the immersion. The world created by Compulsion Games look eerie and desolate by design and it works really well. The only two characters that we can see are the little Didi and our protagonist Dawn. The remaining cast is portrayed by shadows which is a cool trick in storytelling. It gives the adventure a dream-like atmosphere. However, I felt that most of the locations were too dark and too bland, which shouldn’t be the case for a game called Contrast.
Still, the design of the buildings and the interiors has been done really well and continues the child’s fantasy vision of the 1920s era. The whole shadow play is also fine and I never had problems figuring out which objects cast which shadows and where I can or can’t go in the 2D world.
The gameplay itself produces more problems. Since this is not a Sony exclusive, I don’t imagine the game was rushed for the PS4 launch, although that could have been the case. There are several glitches in Contrast that are very easy to come across and some of them are virtually unmissable because they have to do with the box moving puzzles which are mandatory to finish the game. It is not uncommon for Dawn to get stuck when shifting out of the 2D environment in a spot that is even partially blocked from the 3D world. In such cases she assumes the Vitruvian Man pose and the game needs to be restarted from a checkpoint. She does the same thing while dropping boxes, although, once the box hits the ground, she regains control and can move around freely again. Such basic physics and environment interaction bugs should not be present in a launch title for a console in 2013.
Maybe I was expecting too much from a PS4 game that really isn’t a PS4 game. Maybe the developers had some problems developing for this platform – I have not seen the game on the other consoles nor on PC so there is a chance that some of the issues are not there. The fact of the matter is that a very promising title with lots of potential coming from the game world, its 2D/3D mechanics and an interesting story, was partially robbed of its charm due to technical issues that are just too obvious.
Despite its flaws, I would still recommend the game to all the PS+ subscribers that couldn’t afford all of the launch titles for the PS4 (like this guy here) and are looking for something to play on their new hardware. Contrast is a also great title to test PS Vita’s Remote Play functionality with. It’s not that rich as far as graphics go so the difference between playing on the big screen and on the handheld is mostly the size of the display.
Even the trophy hunters can be slightly disappointed with the game, as it only offers 21 trophies and nothing more. No extra bonus for finishing the game or finding all the collectible items. On the other hand, it’s not that surprising since the game can be finished in one sitting and unlocking all the trophies shouldn’t take more than 3-4 hours.
| A Carousel Of Broken Dreams
|| A New Dimension
|Unlocked when the player completes Act I.||Unlocked when the player shifts for the first time.|
|| Handy Person
|Unlocks when the player completes the game.||Unlocked when the player repairs the three attractions.|
| How’d You Get In?
|Unlocked when the player completes the Workshop.||Unlocked after the player gets their second luminary.|
| Let There Be Light
|| Room 529
|Unlocked when the player completes the Lighthouse.||Unlocked when the player leaves the Cabaret.|
| This Circus Is A Disaster!
|| You Broke My Finger!
|Unlocked when the player goes through the circus tent toward the attractions.||Unlocked when the player leaves the Cinema.|
I don’t know what the thinking was behind ordering the trophy list in this game. The story doesn’t follow the trophy list at all, which I find somewhat bizarre. Maybe the devs didn’t want to spoil the game for those who look at the trophies before playing, I don’t know. I am not a fan of making the story-related trophies confusing and I often use them to gauge how far into the game I already am. Contrast doesn’t help with that at all.
| To The Heroes Among Us
|| The Cyclops’ Bottle
|Unlocked when the player finds the hidden Extra Life 2012 Logo.||Unlocked when the player finds the Cyclops’ bottle in the Carousel area.|
| Just Like Harry
||No Backpack Bird Needed|
|Unlocked when the player makes it over the crocodiles on their first attempt in the Shadow Theater.||Unlocked when the player jumps into the treasure chest in the Pirate Ride.|
| Not That Kind Of Game!
||Now That’s Thinking With Shadows|
|Unlocked when the player tries to enter the “XXX” door.||Unlocked when the player clears the Void Jump on their first attempt.|
| My God, It’s Full Of Stars!
||The Family Life|
|Unlocked when the player falls into the void on the way to the Cinema.||Unlocked when the player examines Didi’s family pictures.|
Some of the special trophies in Contrast are very cool and interesting. You have to admit that putting a thank you trophy (and a credits roll) in the game for Extra Life contributors is not something that can be found in many other games. I haven’t come across anything like this before. Unfortunately, I didn’t contribute to EL last year so I didn’t spend hours looking at the list trying to screencap my name in there. Maybe some other time.
The Just Like Harry trophy is a reference to an 1982 game Pitfall!, featuring Pitfall Harry who spent most of his time jumping over squirrels and crocodiles while trying to collect treasure. Oh, the memories. I have no idea what The Cyclops’ Bottle and No Backpack Bird Needed trophies refer to, if anything, so I would love to hear from you if you have some ideas.
| Streets Sweeper
|Unlocked after the player discovers all collectibles in Act I.||Unlocked after the player discovers all collectibles in Act II.|
|Unlocked after the player discovers all collectibles in Act III.|
Referring back to my comment about strange trophy ordering, let me just add that even those trophies were not in order but my OCD got the best of me and I had to list them correctly here. There are 26 collectibles in the whole game but the in-game world is not too vast so I didn’t have to go out of my way that much to find all of them, especially since most of them are just lying there on the main path so it’s hard to miss them. For seasoned collectors and completionists this is a piece of cake. However, if you can’t find one or two items, there’s always YouTube and a fantastic set of movies by PowerPyx – Act I, Act II, Act III.
Other than the story enhancing items, there are also Luminaries scattered all over the place, which Dawn uses to switch some of the lights on to then wander in the shadows. Even though there is a Luminary counter in each chapter of the game, there are no trophies for collecting them, other than the one that’s unlocked after finding two of them. Another strange trophy choice, in my opinion.
This brings us to the end of my first 100% experience of a PS4 game. It was a mixed bag of emotions with a slight positive bias, after all. Have you tried Contrast too? Or have you already platinumed Resogun or Killzone? Let me know how the PS4 is treating you and your trophy collection so far in the comments below the post.