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PAX East 2013: Contrast Hands-On

A Stand-Out Indie Game

By Whitney on 3/25/2013
PAX East 2013 was filled to the brim with indie games, so it's no surprise that some get lost in the mix. Contrast, however, stood out as the most eye-catching indie game on the expo show floor. I sat down with creator Guillaume Provost for a 15-minute hands-on demo of the game.

Contrast is a game about light and dark, both figuratively and literally. You play as the imaginary friend of Didi, a lonely little girl who is trying to navigate through some dark family issues. "I was a little bit inspired by Pan's Labyrinth," Provost told me, "where the little girl Ofelia is escaping the reality of life events by inventing that imaginary world to help her solve her problems." Although Contrast is not as dark as Pan's Labyrinth, it is still mixed with compelling subject-matter and whimsical backdrops.

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The demo started about 1 1/2 hours into the game. The entire focus of the game centers around shadows, which the main character can cross into and use to traverse through the level. While Provost noted that the development team is still refining how players can recognize and use shadows to explore, I was surprised by how easily I could move in and out of the dark. I was initially hesitant about how I would adjust to such a jarring, unique gameplay element; but after a few minutes, I fell right into it as the on-screen prompts explained the controls. Shifting in and out of shadows develops further as you progress through the game. Players are able to "dash" through shadows to quickly get through thin shadows or gaps between shadows and 3-D areas. "We're trying to get you to think in multiple dimensions," Provost explained. It's a clever addition to the idea, and it was a lot of fun to utilize while trying to move through a shadowed merry-go-round.

Contrast is, to say the least, very visually appealing. It's obvious that the 1920s Carnivale setting takes place within the mind of a child; but it fits very well within the story. After I commented on the dreamlike appearance of Contrast, Provost explained, "Didi is bridging the two worlds; there is a reality to it." The game will take place in three acts with about 4-6 hours of gameplay. Each area will bring a new scenario and challenge to the adventure and add new wrinkles to the gameplay formula to keep things fresh throughout.

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Contrast will be sold for $15 on Steam for PC only. There will also be a $19.99 premium version of the game, which will include a digital artbook and the official soundtrack. Provost stated that he feels the game is well-suited for consoles, but that the team is still in talks with console manufacturers. Contrast received huge support from Steam Greenlight last year, and the game is expected to release this May. I was very impressed with my hands-on demo of Contrast, and I look forward to playing the game in full when it releases.

For more information on Contrast, follow Compulsion Games on TwitterFacebook, and check out the main website for Contrast.
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kevinbenji on April 12, 2013
Looks really interesting, but I would really like it to come to console. I imagine that a system of moving into and out of shadows would suit an analog stick controller, rather than the WASD-keys.
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