When asked about the design choices that went into the visual aesthetic behind Contrast, Compulsion Games decided to give a closer look at the artistic influences that went into the game, the setting, and its characters.
According to an “Art Talk” blog on the Contrast website, they first knew they wanted their visual style –including architecture and style–to reflect the film noir genre. From there, they chose a time period that could use noir-style storytelling while still invoking a magical tone, so they skipped 1940’s and 50’s American and settled on Europe in the 1920’s.
With the “whimsical, dark and bizarre nature of German expressionism (which was also one of the major influences on the film noir aesthetic)” and the general “artistic decadence” of the 1920’s, the team blended turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau with the more angular deco, and combined that with the “dilapidated architecture and winding alleyways you find in Mediterranean cities like Venice, Lisbon and Barcelona.” From there, the team had to balance the idea of photo-realistic cities (which are expensive and labor-intensive to create) with the abstract, making some architecture, walls and street a little simpler than normal, while keeping some things–like storefronts and windows–realistic and grounded. If you missed the Contrast trailer, check it out, and you’ll get an idea of the dark, artistic, and magical tone Compulsion is going for.
The same kind of balance had to go into the protagonists of Contrast, Dawn and Didi. Dawn in particular was said to be challenging, needing to be imaginary, from the 20’s, and athletic, plus magical without looking “too nutty.” She had to be able to run, jump and be nimble, and so couldn’t be in a flapper dress or pencil skirt, and had to be cool to both men and women without being overtly sexual. To solve this design puzzle, they chose to make her a Vaudeville acrobat/harlequin doll/burlesque dancer hybrid, which were in turn somewhat inspired by Tim Burton’s infamous character designs, making her lanky, a bit dark, and eerie. Also, as Didi’s imaginery friend, she reflects her a little, so you’ll notice her hair is a more stylized version of Didi’s.
Didi was said to be inspired by Ophelia from Pan’s Labyrinth, and is creative, indepedent, outspoken and bold. With her mother trying to make ends meets, Didi’s clothing is a little humble, yet still respectable for her time period. Her clothes were initially very simple and black, but later changed to a red jacket and white dress to avoid an Addams Family vibe.