Editorials

Greenlight Spotlight: Contrast

Having established the sort of games on Greenlight I downvote to oblivion and why last week, I will now move on to highlighting games I think deserve your attention. Before I do that, though, I will note that Steam has made the user interface for Greenlight a bit more friendly, offering to generate you a random queue of a dozen games at a time instead of dumping several hundred on you at once. Also, they’ve clarified the voting a little bit more, describing the threshold for an upvote as “Would you buy/play this game on Steam?” which tightens up the criteria a bit. With that out of the way, the first Greenlight game I’d like to call attention to is Compulsion Games’s Contrast.

The two things that stand out immediately about Contrast are its 1920’s motif and the game mechanic of moving in and out of shadows. I find the shift some games are taking towards the 1920’s as an era an interesting counterpoint to the 1950’s nostalgia in games like Fallout 3. Both eras are used to evoke nostalgic images of America in a way that renders them problematic and draws attention to corrupt undertones, but the 1920’s seem to represent a darker portion of the American psyche, and the art style in Contrast makes heavy use of that darkness, though not so much that we lose that vital distinction between light and darkness that the game relies upon. Also interesting is that while the current trailers juxtapose the protagonist’s dimension-bending adventures against a mundane background, some of the concept art suggests that things might get a bit more dreamlike as the game goes on.

The ability to shift into the shadows and use them as a means to reach your goals looks like an interesting mechanic as well. Like Super Paper Mario, but in reverse, it allows you to move obliquely through the world and adopt a different perspective in order to surmount obstacles. If the story ties into this well by inviting the player to consider events and conflicts from multiple angles, then so much the better. In addition, the fact that pretty much everyone has experimented with light and shadow at some point, if only to make shadow puppets, makes this an intuitive mechanic to play with, provided the developers don’t muck it up with unintuitive controls.

Also of interest to me is how the two trailers set this game up as a narrative with a feminine core; you play a female protagonist helping a little girl unravel a mystery about her family. While the second trailer does explicitly set this game up as an exploration of fatherhood, it does so from a feminine perspective, and the snippets of dialog we hear suggest that the image of fatherhood being presented is a problematic one which is inextricably tied to motherhood. We don’t get many games with female protagonists; we get even fewer with female protagonists that aren’t hypersexualized, and the ones we do get generally do not ask the player to adopt a feminine viewpoint as opposed to merely controlling a female figure.

To sum up, Contrast appears to have a solid foundation, and promises to utilize gameplay and storytelling perspectives not common in the gaming industry. For a game at this stage of production, there isn’t much more I could ask.

This post brought to you by thesaurus.com, which helped me avoid criminally overusing the word “contrast.”

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