Contrast

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Contrast Game Poster Image
Puzzle adventure with compelling themes, good conundrums.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

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.  

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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

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.

Sex

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. 

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A shadow image suggests a man smoking.

What 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.

User Reviews

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What's it about?

CONTRAST tells the story of Didi, a young girl living in 1920s Paris trying to deal with a rough home life. Her dad is gone, and she's having a hard time getting a straight story from her mom. So she invents an imaginary friend to help her on her quest for truth. Together, they slip into the night and explore the city looking for answers. Players control Dawn, Didi's imaginary friend. She's presented as a three-dimensional adult woman, but she sees the world of living people largely in the form of the shadows they cast, and she herself can take on shadow form at will. Most of the game sees Dawn exploring Paris in three-dimensional form, then turning into a shadow and moving amid other shadows on walls to solve various platforming puzzles and reach areas that would otherwise be inaccessible. She may, for example, move objects in front of a spotlight to change the height of the shadows they cast, creating steps for her shadow self to climb to a higher floor. The adventure lasts about five hours, perhaps more if you attempt to find all the hidden collectibles scattered around town.

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. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how girls and women are depicted in games. Do you think this game has positive female role models? What do the girl and her imaginary friend do that is commendable? What do they do that might be considered ill-advised?

  • Families also can discuss differences between the 1920s Paris depicted in the game and our modern world. In what ways are they most noticeably different?

Game details

For kids who love creative and adventurous games

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