A Brief Look at 'Contrast,' the Noir Platformer

By Published April 02, 2013 at 1:01 am

Being a big fan of platformers—like the classic Rayman and Megaman series—I cannot help but have a 6th sense for the good ones. Instantly, while traversing the indie mega booth at PAX East, I was drawn to a quaint alcove housing what was my sleeper hit of the convention: Contrast. This indie-developed game combines out-of-the-box thinking and puzzle aspects with the pinpoint-precision of platforming.

In Contrast, the player takes the role of our shadow-stepping protagonist, Dawn, and ventures out into a noir-stylized world wrought with mysteries and disappearances. With story-elements abounding and classic platforming and puzzle-solving at the heart of gameplay, Contrast offers a bit more depth than the tried-and-true 8-bit platformer.


Playing as Dawn, it's our objective to assist the focal character, Didi: Didi is struggling as a little girl in an adult’s world, with her mother having fallen victim to one of the game's many story-driven disappearances. While trying to navigate this world, she comes across her “friend” Dawn (that's us). Dawn has the ability to enter her own shadow (effectively becoming the shadow), allowing her to use other shadows as walkways or platforms in place of their real-world counterparts. Dawn uses this power to help Didi gain access to otherwise inaccessible areas -- it's an abstract concept, which makes things difficult to explain in words -- but this video does the trick:

The game is all about using Dawn’s unique talent to pop in-and-out of the shade to navigate obstacles. As in the real world, shade is cast by light sources interacting with objects; whether that's a spotlight positioned behind a merry-go-round or a chandelier that needs to be lowered, lighting is the determining factor on whether you can progress or not. This is where the puzzle element comes in: Moving objects to cast shadows in various sizes and directions can drastically alter the way you interact with the world; if you need to cross a gap in the game's material-world platforms, shining a spotlight on a billboard may cast a long, drawn-out shadow that can then be used as a bridge. Clearing gaps like these is just one of the examples of the out-of-the-box thinking that Contrast will throw at you.

Throughout the game, through metaphor of casting light, you'll be uncovering the truth behind the disappearance of Didi's mother -- and this is something Contrast does that helps it stand-out from the crowd a bit: Not many other games explore real-world family problems through the eyes of a child, and with the help of her shadowy friend, Contrast makes for a very story-rich and emotionally driven gaming opportunity. This “Chicago” and Vaudevillian-themed world will be teeming with adventures and characters for Didi and Dawn to encounter.

Contrast is a game that no one should discard to the shadows - check it out here.

- Mitch "DeBarbarian" DeBardelaben.

Last modified on April 02, 2013 at 1:01 am

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