Contre Jour Review

How Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince inspired a physics puzzler starring a cyclopean blob is well beyond me, but iOS gamers will be glad that it did! It’s easy to understand why Contre Jour (Out Now for $0.99; HD for $2.99) has become the game du jour of August; Mokus and Chillingo have brought us the best action puzzler since the dawn of time.

Physics-heavy action puzzle games starring rotund creatures have been done time and time again on this platform, granted. If you take a chance on Contre Jour, however, you’ll start forgiving it the moment its (amazingly short) credits list ends and it introduces the player’s ability to actively shape its sepia landscape. The cyclopean blob the player’s supposed to be getting from Point A to Point B is completely helpless, you see, so the player has to make the game’s environments come alive and act upon it so it can reach far-flung destination portals.

To this end the player will be molding ramps to get the blob rolling and stop it from going too fast; stretching tentacle-like ropes toward it so it’ll start swinging around like Tarzan until released; shooting it through some contraption I’m still trying to come up with a name for; and, yes, occasionally slingshotting it Angry Birds-style. Contre Jour feels like a fine purée blended from all the best iOS physics puzzlers, lending it variety and depth the likes of which I haven’t seen since Marblenauts.

Whereas Marblenauts was a more mechanical and methodical genre offshoot, Contre Jour‘s physics feel bouncy and organic, requiring quick fingers as well as a swift mind. I worried at first that Contre Jour might lack challenge, but my suspicions were quickly put to rest by plenty of bottomless pits, spiked walls, and Venus Flytrap-like-things that view the player’s blob as a nice snack. As the hazards heap up Contre Jour become incredibly intricate, sometimes requiring multitouch to get the blob through tricky situations.

Unspeakable care went into the game’s level design, requiring the player to build the blob’s situation just right, and at just the right pace, if achieving a perfect solution is the player’s goal. This leads into the one thing I have on my wish list for updates: a shortcut virtual button for re-starting a level once the player realizes he or she has squandered a critical opportunity. Retries currently have to be conducted through an intermediary pause menu. My other minor gripe is that the pinch-zoom function gets confused with the landscaping function; the one-screen nature of Contre Jour‘s obstacle courses renders this fairly moot from the player’s perspective, though.

Contre Jour‘s aesthetics are just as fluid and organic as its level design. One of the most ingenious things the developer came up with was to completely shake up the game’s visual presentation in each of its worlds. If you love the soothing piano track that accompanies the first world, however, rest assured that its entire soundtrack carries that silent film era feel — or at least it would, were it not for the little blob’s cute commentary on the player’s performance.

Weighing in at “only” 60 levels, Contre Jour is good for three to four hours of high quality head-scratching – pending retries – and the developer’s already promising an extra set of levels.

iFanzine Verdict: You must pick this one up unless you have a complete aversion to physics and action puzzlers, and even then, the $0.99 version will probably change your mind about how good this genre’s become on iOS.