Monday, August 11, 2014

Contre Jour (Mokus/Chillingo, 2011)

I've been a fan of the Humble Bundle for years now. Not just because it lets me pick up games dirt cheep and help out a charity at the same time, but also because it often exposes me to lesser known titles that I otherwise might not have heard of. Most of the Humble Game Bundles are for PC, but every so often they mix things up with an Android bundle. When it comes to mobile games, one of my favorite genres is puzzle games, and a few bundles back there was an interesting little puzzler included by the name of Contre Jour.

Contre Jour is a French phrase meaning "against daylight". As would be expected by this title, the games art style is presented in Limbo style silhouettes. The game itself is a physics based puzzler that combine aspects of other physics puzzlers and present them together with an original feel. There are familiar aspects influenced by games such as Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and World of Goo.

The general gameplay of Contre Jour follows the Cut the Rope model the most closely by having you make use of the physics of the level to move a thing to a spot, with the option of collecting up to 3 more bonus things along the way. In this case, you're trying to get a little black eyeball creature named Petit to a glowing blue orb. Along the way, there are some sparkly blue particles that can be collected, similar to the stars of other games. It's not groundbreaking in its originality, but it does offer a more classy artistic presentation than the usual cartoony graphics of most games of the genre.

The basic method of moving Petit around the environment is by dragging the ground to raise and lower it, creating slopes, dips, ramps, and barriers. Along the way there are also a number of objects that can be interacted with including ropes, canons, trampolines, teleporters, and my personal favorite, the elastic bands. Manipulating the environment using the touch screen is intuitive and responsive. Even the more complicated levels requiring multiple objects used in combination just seem to feel right.

It's good that Contre Jour's interface works so well, because the puzzles themselves tend to get frustrating at times. As is the case with many physics puzzlers, you often have to rely as much on timing, aim, and reflexes as you do on figuring out the trick to the level. I think I spent an equal amount of time scratching my head as I did cursing my fingers trying to collect all of the blue sparkles, some of which are placed so far out of the way it almost doesn't seem possible to collect them and still complete the level.

When you launch Contre Jour, there is a message saying "Use headphones for the best audio experience" before the game starts. Now in general, that could apply to any game that has audio, so why the special mention on this one? Having a pair of earbuds handy, I plugged them in and checked it out. The audio of Contre Jour is subtle and atmospheric. There's no catchy jingles or screaming pigs. For the most part, your phone's built in speaker won't really do the audio justice. On the other hand, most people who play the game won't even have the audio turned on. Let's be brutally honest here, most people who play the game will probably be sitting on the toilet, probably while at work. Contre Jour plays just fine with the audio off, so you won't be at a disadvantage playing it that way. But, if you get the chance, plug in some headphones at some point and at least check out what it sounds like for a little while, if only so you'll know what to imagine the rest of the time.

So, if you also happened to have picked up that Humble Bundle but haven't bothered checking out Contre Jour yet, give it a try and see what you think. If you didn't, but you're a fan of physics puzzlers and have a couple bucks burning a hole in your pocket, this wouldn't be the worst way to spend it. If you've tried physics puzzle games in the past but you've never really been able to get into them, then maybe you should take a pass on this one, as it's probably not for you.

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