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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Kids can learn about emotional resilience, practice puzzle solving, and think about how light and shadows work in this fun, puzzle-filled adventure. Narrative sequences let players observe how a young girl copes with her parents’ marital strife and decides to do something about it. Action elements, meanwhile, give kids a chance to use their understanding of light and shadow to solve environmental puzzles that see one of the game's characters switching between shadow and three-dimensional form. Contrast’s heartfelt story and unusual game mechanics play off one another to deliver an emotionally resonant and surprisingly thoughtful experience.
This game tackles some hard emotional problems associated with a little girl who is trying to deal first with bickering parents and later with a shocking revelation about her father. She copes via an imaginary friend who carries out her will, never with violence but instead via shrewd manipulation of objects in contextual puzzles.
Positive Role Models
The little girl gets up to things she probably shouldn't, running around at night in a city by herself. She has her imaginary friend -- the player's character -- do all the stuff she's too scared to do, such as eavesdropping on adults. Her motivations, however, are relatable. She's on a quest to understand what's going on with her bickering parents and whether her dad will ever come home again.
Ease of Play
Exploration is generally pretty straightforward, though some of the shadow-based platforming and puzzles can be a bit tricky to figure out. Still, there is no serious penalty for failing a jump (Dawn respawns when she takes a tumble into a chasm), so there's no reason not to experiment.
Violence & Scariness
The player's character can fall to her death, but the game doesn't dwell on her demise, and she quickly respawns. One scene shows a minor scuffle between characters shown as shadows on a wall.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Dawn's outfit is very tight-fitting and a bit skimpy. Players see something that resembles a burlesque performance in which a curvaceous woman -- presented as a shadow -- moves in slinky fashion while singing a jazz song.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A shadow image suggests a man smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know Contrast is a downloadable platform and puzzle adventure about a girl and her imaginary friend. Players see an adult world through the eyes of a child as she tries to understand grown-up arguments and conflicts, including marital and business problems. Aside from a brief fistfight between shadows -- players watch but don't participate -- there's very little violence. The action is focused squarely on finding solutions to clever platforming challenges and puzzles that involve shadow and light. There is, however, some mild sexuality in the form of a sultry dance performed by the shadow of a jazz singer.
Is It Any Good?
It's evident from the outset that Contrast, with its 1920s European fashion and architecture and highly stylized characters, has a personality all its own. It's even more evident once you get into its unusual shadow-based platformer puzzles, which see Dawn turning into a flat shadow and running along the silhouettes of billboards and merry-go-rounds before popping back into three-dimensional form. Transitioning between the physical and shadow planes in the middle of a jump to get past a crack high in a wall is the sort of unusual gaming experience most players will remember long after the credits roll.
Unfortunately, this compelling premise loses some steam by the end. Puzzles start to feel a little same-y in the second half, and the relationships among the imaginary, shadow, and real worlds isn't fully explained. But don't let these minor missteps dissuade you. Fans of innovative games that strive to impress with clever puzzles and beautiful art rather than simply delivering new ways to shoot people and blow stuff up will come away satisfied.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.