PAX 2013: Contrast preview

Contrast_GapJump_1080Game characters traversing their environments by running on walls appears to be a video game trope that’s making a comeback. Compulsion Games’ Contrast is a third-person adventure game that pulls off the trick with shadows in a slightly abstract way, and it works.

I played a short 10-minute demo where I controlled Dawn, a lanky woman who can transform into her shadow whenever it’s cast on a wall. She’s tasked with looking out for Didi, an eight-year-old girl who looks like she shouldn’t be hanging around any of the silhouettes or structures in the world of Contrast.

The demo I played was set in a dark alley next to a seedy early 1900’s jazz club, and towards the end I found Dawn and Didi lurking about a derelict carousel in a town square. In the night club, I had Dawn position spotlights on a stage, before leaping on top of the oversized shadows that an invisible three-piece band was casting.

It was an eery experience watching these huge shadows talk, sing, and dance with each other without any physical origin

The shadows moved as if a real entity was there to block the light, but they were at least four times the logical size that you would expect. It was an eery experience watching these huge shadows talk, sing, and dance with each other, and given that the only two flesh and blood humans I saw were Didi and Dawn, I have to question which one of Contrast’s world is the real one.

The game’s sense of place is much more intriguing to me than its actual gameplay, but the shadow/wall platforming functioned perfectly in the demo, and while the platforming that was shown off wasn’t terribly challenging, the proof of concept is enough to hook me.

At one point I jumped on Didi’s shadow as she was riding a horse around the carousel, and I saw her silhouette duck under Dawn’s weight. Little touches like that during my 10 minutes tell me that Contrast is going to be a game to keep your eyes on. It’s currently planned for release on Steam, Xbox 360, PS3 and PS4.

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