The Average Gamer

Contre Jour Review (iPad)

We first saw Contre Jour at E3, looking very promising with reviewers coming away hooked on its interesting aesthetic as well as fun gameplay dynamics. Publishers Chillingo, who also brought us the incredibly addictive Cut the Rope, hope to continue their success with this new title on the iOS

You play a cute one-eyed tadpole-like creature, known only as Petit. Your goal is to get to a glowing, pulsating cloud that transports you to the next level, using a myriad of devices to get you there. The first instruction in the tutorial is to “slide your finger to modify the ground”. I did so, and Petit moved along with all the grace a tadpole could muster, collecting blue floating orbs as he went, until I reached the cloud at the end. This modification of the environment is the key to success or failure on Contre Jour, as Petit has no natural propulsion of his own.

Contre Jour is spread across three chapters. Each chapter comprises 20 levels where you are rewarded with a rating out of three depending on how many of the floating blue orbs you collect on your way. As I progressed through the early levels, using my finger to control where Petit would go and what rope he would latch on to, it would seem at first glance that each level could be completed in a somewhat linear fashion. However, as time went on, you really had to think laterally as to where this particular rope would take Petit; was it death or was it life? What did I need to do to collect the highest rating per level so I could move onto the next world? The key was in accurate timing, as well as choosing the right rope to propel Petit along, which was something you often needed two fingers to get just right. His little tadpole life was in my hands. It was this challenge that really brought out my enjoyment (and subsequent addiction) to Contre Jour. It’s all pretty fun stuff.

If you put Zeptolab’s Cut The Rope and Mokus’ Contre Jour (both published by Chillingo) next to each other, the similarities in their playing styles and in-game mechanics are obvious. I can see why they carried the style through both games, as it works very well and didn’t bother me at all when playing either. Mokus simply took the idea in another direction by adding their own unique visual style, blurring the lines between game and interactive art to create Contre Jour, and by doing so have created a truly beautiful game.

A lot of Contre Jour’s appeal too comes from it’s presentation, and here’s where it brings itself above other pseudo-puzzle/platforming titles available on the iOS and beyond. Lying halfway between Io and Braid in it’s striking visual style, Contre Jour uses bold, block colours of black, white and grey to create crisp visuals and fluid animation. Imagine my reaction when I completed the first level ‘Monsters’ and moved onto ‘The Night’. Here the style changes somewhat, and Contre Jour truly embraces its ‘Against daylight’ of the photography technique. Petit becomes now a vivid blue colour against the black, as do some of his surroundings, making for a truly beautiful experience.

The environment also feels alive. The ropes have eyes at their bases that blink at you and the blue orbs float about like excited fireflies buzzing around a lightbulb. It’s these little things like these that really impressed me, how polished Contre Jour was. Chillingo have opted for a more minimalist audio experience and this really comes to light as the game progresses, with little “Oh’s” and “Aaahh’s” from Petit as he swings through the level to get to the warp gate. My only quibble with this is they could’ve varied the background music a little more, as it’s only a one minute loop. I mean, it’s a lovely, soothing piano piece but I would’ve liked some more variation.

I quickly found myself addicted to Contre Jour. I loved the way Petit would roll as I shaped the land around him, like some divine power. How his one eye would frown as I send him flying across the screen, miss the rope and career into darkness, only to have him pop up where he began as if nothing had happened. Having to multi-task and prioritise to avoid the hazards is what makes Contre Jour challenging and I often cursed my stubby fingers as I failed to catch Petit in time to get the third and final floating blue orb and just settle with the two I’d already obtained.

Then that was it. There are no more levels after the completing the third world, which comes all too abruptly I’m afraid. With the fourth world ‘coming soon’ at the time of writing, I’m forced to scour the previous levels for those I haven’t quite completed fully yet, which is a work in progress. There is an achievement system but as is the tradition with many iOS titles, it’s linked to a central hub which spans a few other titles and not just Contre Jour.

Although a little short, Contre Jour is beautiful in its gameplay, design and execution. With a polished finish and attention to detail rarely seen on this platform, from start to finish it’s an addictive and stunningly fluid experience guiding Petit to safety using a variety of methods at your disposal. My one word of advice would be to truly appreciate all that Contre Jour has to offer. Make sure you play it on an iPad if you can, the effect is magnified ten fold. Who cares if we’ve seen it before? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, say I.

Contre Jour is available now for iOS

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