Physic puzzles, the dominant force in games on the iOS market, and a genre I've remained enamored with. On a whim, I bought several iPhone games in the past week, and have been playing through each of them, including Contre Jour, a suprise-suprise, physics puzzler.
The design of Contre Jour is meant to be simplistic and evocative, with a monochromatic color scheme and limitedly mobile objects populating the game space. The name of the game: get an eyeball through a portal, and collect three sparkles per level on the way.
Before the comparison is made, I have to say that, despite reminding me of Cut the Rope, Contre Jour has an entirely different feeling associated to it. The graphics and gameplay are almost reminiscent of World of Goo, everything being somewhat elastic and sludgelike. But, still, they bear some similarities, and so the comparison can be made.
And at the end of the day, they both have strengths over each other.
Contre Jour enjoys a deliberatly darker style than Cut the Rope, meant to evoke a more chilled or at least mellowed feeling than its cartoon-esque counterpart. However, this leads to the issue of elements blending together, making it harder to immediately differentiate or recall that certain objects may not be as harmless as others at first glance.
Cut the Rope, on the other hand, holds a great advantage by using such vibrant visuals, as it allows for easier identification of game elements with a single glance. For instance, OmNom is surrounded by a small box or other object, usually radically different in tone or texture than the rest of the background, allowing the player to see him quickly and easily.
Even the candy, meant to fall into OmNom's gob, is a swirl of red and gold, and holds a sheen other objects and the background do not possess, drawing your eye when it appears on screen. Even the three stars per level rotate and shine, whereas the sparkles in Contre Jour... they're just there. The draw the eye by being the only thing besides the portal that has a color.
Though perhaps not the best choice to make the portal and the sparkles the same color.
Degree of Player Input
Cut the Rope is, in all seriousness, actually rather limited in terms of how much the player can do to the enviroment compared to Contre Jour. In Cut the Rope, your interactions can usually only be relegated to causing objects to react in very specific fashions: you cut a rope, the candy falls. You pop a bubble, whatever's in it stops rising. You press the Whoopie-cushion, there's a chance you can get the candy moving with some kind of momentum.
Contre Jour allows you to modify the landscape, platforms being somewhat malleable and movable. You can make ramps, inclined planes, curves, in the hopes that these shapes will allow for easier movement of your Eyeball.
Yet oddly enough, the limitations presented by Cut the Rope give the player much more in the way of choice. The objects interact very easily, and the ways you can move the candy is almost innumerable. Through one means or another, you can find a way to get the candy moving to any area of the screen. And this makes for a harder game. The solution isn't always obvious, but the range of the player's input helps to simplify the process.
Contre Jour's additional input more often than not gets in the way. An accidental brush of the thumb could make your previously stable platform into a ramp, leading downwards to a game over.
Less can sometimes be more, and in this case, Cut the Rope proves it.
GAME DESIGN LESSON TIME, KIDS!
If you're making a game that works on the idea that each set of levels becomes progressively more difficult, should it not follow that each level is individually more difficult than the last as well?
Just a thought.
Contre Jour is a fine game. Despite my grievances, its soundtrack and evocative art direction are enough to justify checking it out. I just prefer Cut the Rope, from a design perspective.
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