Contrast (Xbox 360) Reviews

  • Danny Dubs 86Danny Dubs 861,880,020
    16 Nov 2013 16 Nov 2013
    32 3 11
    Originally posted on my blog at

    One of the great joys of the gaming world is discovering some under-appreciated title and enjoying the hell out of it before any of your friends. I like to keep an eye out for new releases that aren’t accompanied by the multi-million dollar fanfare that big game companies bring to the table, and I especially like to give smaller developers a vote of confidence with my wallet.

    Naturally, when I saw Contrast’s release yesterday, I was intrigued. A game that combines clever manipulation of light and shadow with a gritty noir art style? Of course I’m in! While it starts strong, however, the game fails to build any serious momentum, so though it’s fun and interesting, it’s not very exciting. Here’s why:

    Contrast gives you control of Dawn, the best friend of a young girl named Didi. It opens with Didi’s mother tucking her into bed for the night, only to have Didi immediately escape her room to go watch her mother’s performance at a local cabaret. What ensues is a somewhat cliché story about hard times and desperate men, which is awfully disappointing because the plot could have been much more engrossing.

    But that’s ok, because Dawn is invisible to everyone but Didi, and Didi and Dawn are the only characters the player ever gets to see; all other characters are represented only by the shadows they cast. That is an incredibly cool storytelling device, and it makes the otherwise lackluster storyline a lot more entertaining.

    That visual element gets mixed into the core components of the gameplay, too. Dawn has the unique ability to transform into a shadow on a lighted wall, allowing her to interact directly with other shadows and maneuver through areas that would otherwise be inaccessible. As such, the majority of the game revolves around the manipulation of light and shadow. It’s a really nifty mechanic, allowing for clever puzzles and surprising interactions with the environment.

    The game’s biggest flaw is the lack of difficult puzzles. I didn’t find any of them to be very hard at all, although there were a couple that took a while because I couldn’t quite figure out what the game wanted me to do (the source of the worst kind of puzzle frustrations…). The end result is a mere 3-5 hour experience without a whole lot of challenge, which just seems way too short for the $15 price tag. It was fun while it lasted, but it was much too brief.

    In the end, Contrast feels like a beautifully-packaged proof of concept. The wonderful art style and animation (save for the shadows’ hands – they all look like they’re wearing Mickey Mouse’s gloves) coupled with subtle music develop a wonderful atmosphere, and the voice acting is solid, even if the script is a little stereotypical.

    With all that said, there are a few plot pieces that appear in the latter half of the game that hint at a complex back story, but those ideas aren’t really developed. They either seem like bizarre twists just for the sake of having a twist (i.e., twists that don’t really serve a narrative purpose), or they could be intentionally setting up DLC or a sequel. I have no idea if there are already plans for new content in the future, but even if there will be another adventure somewhere down the line, it kind of feels like a cheap shot to leave those threads hanging.

    The achievements are also nothing special. Some modest exploration will easily uncover all the game’s collectibles, and the skill-based achievements are pretty simple (and can quickly be accessed from a chapter select if you miss them on your first attempt). It’s an easy game to complete, but it probably won’t boost your TA Ratio.

    Contrast is a beautiful game based on a clever mechanic. It’s interesting to see it in action, and it requires the player to approach the game world in a somewhat unusual way, which makes it fairly entertaining. It’s awfully short, it’s pretty easy, and it has virtually no replay value, so the price of admission seems a bit steep, but it’s worth a look if you like puzzle games and are hankering for a neat new mechanic. It may not win any awards, but it’s a decent way to spend an afternoon.

    My Rating: 6/10 – decent.

    (For more info on my rating system, including overall stats, see
    Showing most recent comments. View all comments.
    Danny Dubs 86I didn't think the controls were very bad. The camera is a little more sensitive than I'm used to, but by the time I finished the first act, it felt pretty natural to me. *shrug*
    Posted by Danny Dubs 86 on 17 Nov 13 at 15:55
    RavenkrakYou hit exactly what I feared about it. I tried the demo, and thought it was a pretty cool concept and world, but it felt like it wouldn't have enough substance to make it worthwhile. I really liked the visuals and the storytelling it used, so I'm kinda sad there isn't more to it. It could have been one of those wonderfully unique hidden gems of the gaming world, but alas, no.
    Posted by Ravenkrak on 21 Nov 13 at 01:55
    ForbannitusThank you for your conscientious and thorough review. I agree with your critique as well as your opinions regarding how much better this game could have been. A unique experience that, while enjoyable as I make my way through to completion, missed its mark as Ravenkrak noted.
    Posted by Forbannitus on 21 Nov 13 at 17:38
    DJH4311I agree with the main points of the review, but the aforementioned control issues did annoy me at times. I lost count of the times I've managed to wedge Dawn into a corner and had to wait for her to stop bouncing around and clip out of a solid object after a shadow dash.
    Posted by DJH4311 on 30 Nov 13 at 00:08
    OldSchoolBloodI just want to add that this game is broken and filled with glitches that are unacceptable. Two in the lighthouse may have you replaying numerous times because you are unable to advance when they happen. Only thing to do is reload your save and repeat the same section hoping they don't show up. Took me six attempts.
    Posted by OldSchoolBlood on 17 Mar 14 at 19:29
    hanno07I experienced the same glitches in the light house. Reloading the save point didn't even work for me. I had to close the game out entirely and replay the whole light house section in order to finish the game. :/
    Posted by hanno07 on 22 Apr 14 at 21:09
    EarthboundXThat's about how I felt about it too, though I'd probably give it a 5.

    The platforming was clumsy, and just outright terrible in some places. Controls could have been so much better.

    Liked the story and voice acting though. I understand the mixed reviews now.
    Posted by EarthboundX on 02 May 14 at 00:34
    Shame, I had higher hopes for this. I was mostly planning on getting it for my girlfriend, but I might wait for a sale. $15 is a little steep for a short, fairly problematic game. Even if it is an easy completion and 400gs.
    Posted on 08 Aug 14 at 18:20
    I ended up getting it on sale. Hopefully it's worth $6, if not $15. At any rate, I don't mind supporting developers who are doing something new, even if it doesn't always turn out great.
    Posted on 03 Dec 14 at 09:13
    FrizbogWas it worth it? On sale now for less than $4...
    Posted by Frizbog on 09 Jul 16 at 01:56