One of the first things I did as an owner of a shiny new PS4 was to sign up for PS+, Sony’s version of Xbox Live.  On top of being able to play multiplayer, Sony gives out a few free games every month.  The first batch of games for the PS4 are Resogun and Contrast.  The short of it: Resogun might be the best launch game out there and Contrast is… not.

Good thing this arcade game doesn’t eat quarters

Resogun

Pretty lights and exploding robots is always a recipe for fun
  • TL;DR: Classic shoot-em-up fun and possibly the best launch game on the PS4
  • Platform: PS4
  • Score: 9.0
  • Hours Played: 5
  • What I Played: First four levels with two ships
  • Recommended: Even if you don’t like arcade shooters, yes for the visuals

Resogun is a twin-stick shoot-em-up and that’s all it needs to be.  There’s no reason to weave a story around a game like this, although one is attempted with you having to “save the last humans” from some sort of alien/robot invasion.  The left stick will move you up/down/left/right while the right stick aims your ship’s guns.  An interesting twist is how the screen moves while you play.  While you can strafe vertically, your horizontal movements bring your ship around in a circle, looping over the same area/city as the stage continues.  You have two special abilities aside from your standard gun: overdrive, which charges as you kill enemies and can be unleashed for massive damage, and boost, which turns your ship into an invincible missile.

Each stage is beautifully crafted and set on a dark background to help the vibrant colors really jump out.  Ships explode and buildings fracture into an incredible number of exploding, shimmering pieces.  Stages are broken into phases, which seem like arbitrary points of when the game wants to give you a little pat on the back.  Each stage also has an end boss which, so far, have all been tough.  There are three ships to choose from — one more agile but weak, one stronger but slower, and one even on all fronts.  Stages also have 10 humans to save, which the robotic voice in the controller’s speaker will remind you of.

The game plays directly into the hands of the crazy, perfectionist players most shoot-me-up games draw.  While there are some bullet-hell moments, never once have I felt frustrated or mad at the game for me dying.  A combo multiplier helps your score climb higher, as does saving humans and some end-stage bonuses.  On top of being an arcade game at heart so it literally defines replay value, there are trophies for beating each stage while either saving all the humans or with each ship.  There is also co-op play, which I’ve yet to try.

Resogun knows what it is and doesn’t try to do too much.  It gives you classic shmup gameplay, beautiful graphics, and tight controls.  Even if this game wasn’t free, it’d be a must have.

Contrast

Your imaginary friend was probably cooler than Dawn
  • TL;DR: Puzzle/platformer plagued by bugs and not-quite-there gameplay
  • Platform: PS4
  • Score: 3.0
  • Hours Played: 1
  • What I Played: Most of the first act
  • Recommended: No

Contrast tries to capture something all of us loved as a child — an adventure with our imaginary friend.  Didi, a young girl with a dysfunctional family, sneaks out of bed with her imaginary friend Dawn, who you control, in an effort to find out what is going on between her mother and father.  Being imaginary has it’s perks, allowing you to, as Didi puts it, “do shadow person stuff” like become a shadow and walk along the shapes and forms created by them.

The game takes place in the early 1900s.  Didi’s mother is a burlesque performer, her father a circus promoter.  Dawn is an acrobat, which means you can… jump pretty high.  You also gain the ability to shoulder tackle through weak structures, which I don’t remember seeing in any circus.

While the idea is cute, the gameplay doesn’t quite stack up.  The puzzles I played were very simplistic and in the first five minutes I saw Didi glide across the ground without stepping and speak without moving her mouth.  The areas where you can go into/out of shadow-land are often finnicky.  Since you are imaginary and don’t exist in the real world, all of the people that Didi sees and hears in the real world appear as shadows to you.  Background story can only go so far when you only have silhouettes to attribute voices to.

There are some good ideas in Contrast, but they aren’t executed very well.  I’d steer clear of this one.

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