Compulsion Games’ Contrast is a multi-dimensional puzzle game based upon the interplay of light and shadow and both two and three dimensional platform-based game mechanics.
Compulsion Games is an independent game development studio located in Montréal, Canada. Contrast was originally a Steam Greenlight game, and now it has been picked up by Focus Home Interactive. Originally set to be a PC only title, Contrast will now be available for PC, PSN, and XBLA at the end of this year.
Contrast is set in a surreal, 1920’s film noire styled world—or dreamscape as Compulsion Games likes to call it. You play as a lithe, silent Dawn, an acrobat who is an imaginary friend for a young girl named Didi. Didi is your guide and tether to the world, providing direction but leaving you to do the actual puzzle solving.
Why is Didi alone in a seemingly empty world with only her imaginary acrobat friend to help her? Is it even the real world, or are we inside a dream?
Contrast is a game about manipulating light and dark and working in both 2 and 3 dimensions to solve puzzles. When light strikes the acrobat and casts her shadow upon a wall, she can become a 2-dimensional shadow herself. As a shadow, she can jump, climb, and run along other shadows to reach places she couldn’t have otherwise.
The Acrobat can also perform some trickier maneuvers, such as popping out of shadow, dashing forward, and then popping back into shadow form before gravity in the 3D world takes hold.
“We’re trying to encourage player exploration and discovery.”
Sam Abbott, Compulsion Games, PR & Community Manager
Although there are basic platform mechanics involved, according to Sam Abbot, PR and Community Manager for Compulsion Games, the emphasis is on solving puzzles. Contrast isn’t about thrusting you into a frustrating platform machine like Super Meat Boy.
Part of each puzzle is collecting glowing spheres scattered throughout the world, which are in turn used to activate objects. A significant portion of the hands-on time spent with Contrast took place in a large auditorium. Didi instructs you to position a series of spotlights, but you first need to reach them, and then turn them on by activating a panel.
During this sequence you’re forced to think creatively, using shadows and lights to reach key points in the level and complete objectives. Once this particular sequence is solved, the spotlights reveal a shadow band, and period music begins playing—and then a short sequence of dialog and silhouettes plays. This is presumably a part of Didi’s past, her psyche, or perhaps repressed memories.
Abbott wouldn’t reveal any details for fear of spoiling the story, but Contrast’s warm art style, soft hues, and subtle mystery look as intriguing as the game’s distinct art style. The lush, vaudevillian world is mysterious, but not threatening or scary (or at least what was shown at E3 wasn’t).
The interplay of shadow and light in the game seem to be as much a game mechanic as a psychological allegory for Didi’s story–and what is Didi’s story? Why is she alone with an imaginary friend navigating through a seemingly empty world ? Are we inside her psyche, uncovering painful memories?
Find out when Contrast comes to PC, PSN, and Xbox Live Arcade at the end of 2013.