Compulsion Games’ latest in development, Contrast, takes the idea of “working in the shadows” and runs wild with it, in this dynamic 3D action platformer. As Dawn, the silent and beautiful protagonist in Contrast, you venture through a 1940s-esque amusement park from a third person POV, but once it’s time to progress the story and bypass obstacles, you shift into the walls, jumping onto the shadows cast by items in the environment.
Contrast’s main focus is young Didi, who finds herself trying to bring her parents back together with the guidance of her imaginary friend, Dawn. Didi, despite her young age, is very composed despite her family’s situation. Through Contrast’s three acts, Dawn helps Didi as her sole confidant. Watching the story unfold as an active but unreal participant, creates investment in a very peculiar way.
By paying close attention to the environment, obstacles are easily overcome. You’re forced to look at the big picture, but at the same time, not dismiss the small details between the real and shadow worlds. Exploration is encouraged to uncover the story, and when taking the sepia-toned, 1940s art-deco setting into consideration, searching the environment is much like taking a trip back into time. Similar to a stage play, Contrast spans three acts, with part of the first actually taking place inside a theatre.
Previously at PAX East, a cutscene in this first act provided a bit of backstory for Didi, and introduced the gameplay mechanics. This time at PAX Prime, the second act, which focused more on various attractions within the amusement park, showcased some of the gorgeous and clever level design while introducing new gameplay elements. For example, things that may seem completely out of reach, can become accessible when turning on certain spotlights or machinery to create shadows that become platforms. Other times, walking down an alleyway and shifting into the shadows on the side of a building can lead to uncovering more of Didi’s backstory.
A notable addition that differed from my experience at PAX East was being able to move objects from the 3D environment into the walls to manipulate the shadows. It remains to be seen if this means there will be a slight variety in the way objectives can be completed.
Compulsion plans on releasing Contrast this November on PC, PSN and XBLA.