Monthly Archives: January 2014

Game Review: Contrast

Platforming can be a little tricky in 3D games.  For some reason it just feels like you have less accuracy when controlling a character in a 3D space.  But Contrast attempts to remedy this problem by adding a unique gameplay element: by using shadows, which are by their nature flat.  So does it succeed in avoiding the problems of 3D platforming?

Good cover for a horror game

Good cover for a horror game

In Contrast you play as Dawn, a young woman who appears to be the imaginary friend of a girl named Didi.  Dawn exists in this sort of parallel world, where only Didi can see her.  But she has the special ability to Shift in & out of the shadows.  Dawn uses these powers to help Didi overcome various obstacles as she attempts to help her broken family become whole again.

My favorite part of the game

My favorite part of the game

Most of Contrast’s platforming is done, not in the 3D world, but in the 2D shadow world.  Dawn can Shift into any wall that has a light source, becoming one with the shadows.  Here she can use the shadows as tangible aids to reach her goals.  To that end, there are several tricks you can make use of.  Sometimes you can manipulate items or light sources to shift the shadows to your benefit, or you can carry items into the shadows to make use of.  Dawn can also perform a Dash, which allows her to move through thin shadows which normally block your path.

Narrative: Despite the existence of parallel worlds & shadow worlds, Contrast has a fairly down-to-earth storyline.  Didi’s a little girl trying to help her family.  In Act I she’s trying to get her mom & dad back together.  In Act II she’s trying to help fix her dad’s circus.  And in Act III she’s trying to meet her biological father.  Maybe it’s because I’ve come from an at-times-broken family, but I really related to Contrast’s story.  Surprisingly I liked Didi’s character.  Normally I don’t like child characters but I thought she was portrayed well.  She’s a likable character & avoids most of the problems I have with child characters while still acting like a kid.  Also, while Dawn is your typical silent protagonist, we do learn about her origins in the last act that helps to flesh her out.  And while none of the supporting characters get a lot of screen time, they manage to portray their unique personalities in the short time they’re there.  So while it’s not the most epic or moving story, I think it’s one that most people will be able to relate to.  Score: 4

Beware of boxes

Beware of boxes

Mechanics: For the most part, the game does its puzzle-platformer aspect fairly well.  I like the idea of manipulating the environment in the physical world to affect the shadows & thus your platforming.  For example, there was a section early in the game where you have to close picnic table umbrellas that are on timers to get perfectly timed platforms to reach a goal.  Although a lot of times the platforming consists of just jumping on a different interpretations of a ramp to reach your goal, there are some unique sections that really make use of the whole shadow aspect.  Some of the better examples are in the hotel where you manipulate elevators & fire alarms to reach the top floor, a Test Your Strength game where you have to stand on the gauge while some guy hits it, & a carousel.  But my favorite parts were in Act II when you play as a princess puppet & have to play out the story in a shadow puppet play, & in Act III with the lighthouse where it really tests both your 2D & 3D platforming.  But there are some problems.  Although the Dash function is nice, I often got annoyed that you can’t control how far you dash.  There were several times I Dashed too far & fell.  I also feel that the game doesn’t do a good job of explaining to fact that you can manipulate objects in the shadow plain.  Later in the game there are several puzzles that require you to Shift a box or cannonball into the shadows, leave it & then move the light source which also moves the item.  But the game never properly addresses that this is a thing.  Sure, it tells you that you can Shift objects, but not that you can move them by moving the shadows.  Maybe it should’ve been obvious, but the first few times I encountered it I forgot.  There’s also a problem when carrying items in general, where you can get stuck in free-fall after dropping a box & can’t move, particularly if you get knocked out of a shadow while carrying it.  I never encountered a time when Dashing didn’t fix this, but it’s annoying nonetheless.  So overall, the platforming typically works well but I felt they didn’t always use the shadow aspect to its full potential.  Score: 3

Welcome to the 20s

Welcome to the 20s

Aesthetics: While Contrast doesn’t have the most detailed graphics, it does have its own style.  The game does a good job of capturing that 1920’s feel & have a suitably moody atmosphere, but a lot of the environments feel a bit boring.  Of course the lighting & shadows in the game are really well done.  One good aspect is that the game makes it very clear what shadows you can Shift to, although these shadows are pretty solid-looking.  I also liked that everyone except Dawn & Didi appear only as shadows in the game.  But while it might be petty, I wasn’t crazy about Dawn’s design.  I think it’s the circles of blush that throw me off.  And I was disappointed in the music.  After the awesome electro-swing & jazz pieces “Gimme That Swing” & “House of Fire,” I was expecting some cool music.  But for the most part the music during the levels are forgettable.  However, the voiceacting is pretty good, especially Vanessa Matsui & Elias Toufexis, who play Didi’s mom (Kat) & dad (Johnny).  Score: 3

Replay Value: Low.  The game is short, about three hours long.  And there isn’t really a reason to play more than once unless you’re interested in getting all of the collectibles.  But I don’t think there’s a reason to unless you’re an Achievement/Trophy hunter.  However, the game does nicely divide its acts up into sections that you can replay individually once you’ve beaten the game.  So if you have a favorite section you can replay that without having to go through the whole game again.  Score: 3

Breakdown

untitled

Overall Score: 3

Final Word: While it has a very charming story & a unique idea, Contrast doesn’t use these ideas to their full advantage to give as good a performance as it could.  Still, if you’re a fan of platformers, it’s not a bad game to check out.

– GamerDame

Title: Contrast
Console: 360, PS3, PS4 & PC
Rating: T
Developer: Compulsion Games
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: November 15, 2013

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Filed under 3, PC, Platformer, PS3, PS4, Reviews, XBox 360

Can Don’t Die Dateless, Dummy! Help Your Love Life?

I’ve never played any dating sim games before, but I suppose I can understand the appeal.  It’s not uncommon for mainstream games to allow players to choose between several potential mates during the course of their story.  Every BioWare game I’ve played has had some sort of romance option.  So dating sims are sort of like that, but the entire purpose is to pursue a relationship.  They’re basically playable romance novels… which may be why I don’t care for them.  Romance as a side plot is fine, but not the main plot.

By extension, I’ve definitely never played any dating sim that’s aimed at guys.  Mainly because I’m reasonably certain most of them are softcore porn.  Most of them seem to have a goal of sleeping with as many girls as possible.  And I didn’t have high hopes for Don’t Die Dateless, Dummy! when the title screen image is a blushing, rather well-endowed woman standing in her underwear.

So why would I bother playing it?

Truthfully, I wanted to see if, from a woman’s perspective, what the game says works on women would actually work.  Because the game could be like, “Oh yeah, say this stuff & women will fall all over you,” when it’s complete male fantasy & not related to the way women work by any means.

How does the game stack up?  Are the “correct” responses really something that a real woman would respond to?  Or would a guy get maced for following its example?

First of all, who knew that you’d become a powerful wizard if you remained a virgin for 30 years?  Is that really a bad thing?  I read an critique of this game that said if this was really the case more people might respond better to abstinence-only education.  Seems like a reasonable trade-off is you ask me.  Just wait 30 years, become a wizard, & then worry about finding a partner.  Maybe being a wizard would help.  Some women go for that power thing.

But that randomly weird aspect of the game aside, I was surprised that, for the most part, the game does encourage you to do or say things that probably would work in real life.  Of course the game is very shallow & simplistic.  Like, you may get a choice to “Say something funny” but that’s about it.  You don’t have the kind of control you do in normal sim games.  But I was surprised the game didn’t reward players for using lame pick up lines or coming on too strong.

Here are some of the things the game considers “successful” that would probably work in real life:

  • Paying attention to what the other person is saying & remembering little facts about them
  • Being honest & not lying to impress someone
  • Being open
  • Not being judgmental
  • Not brushing aside things that are important to the other person
  • Knowing your strengths

Not an exhaustive list, but these are the sorts of things that, as a woman, I would respond well to.  And of course it should be a given that you’re being genuine about these things & not just saying or doing things to get into the lady’s pants.  But a game can’t really portray that unless it does something like say (lie) before each response.

That’s not to say there weren’t things in the game that made me go, “Hold up, now!”  Like complaining about men always having to make the first move (I personally prefer men to show interest first but I have made the first move on occasion) or saying that men have to do so much more work to be attractive to women while the only thing women have to do is “not be fat.”  Not only is it not true to think that women only look for a small number of superficial traits in men, it’s also superficial to say that the only important trait in women is their weight.  Physical attraction is an important part in a relationship, especially in the beginning, but if that’s the only thing you like about someone then it’s probably not going to be a very successful relationship.  Plus, some guys don’t care about weight.  Not to mention “not being fat” isn’t as straightforward a goal as it sounds (for both men & women).  But what should I expect from a game that markets itself with pictures of half-naked women?  (For the record, the only sexual aspect of the game is that when you “win” you get a picture of your girl in lingerie making bedroom eyes at you.)

Oh, & don’t randomly shout things like “Bazonga!” upon meeting a woman with a large chest for the first time.  … better yet, don’t say that upon meeting any woman.  It’s not the sort of thing we want to hear random strangers saying to us.

So yeah, I was surprised Don’t Die Dateless, Dummy! isn’t as hilariously offensive as I was expecting.  Sure, it was shallow.  But at least there wasn’t anything in it that made me think, “Come on!  No woman in her right mind would respond positively to that!”  I give it a B for likelihood of success.

I may do more of these in the future.  So if you know of any small indie, relationship sim games & you’re curious how a woman would actually respond to the stuff going on leave me a suggestion.

– GamerDame

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