When a story builds up a deep mystery, with unanswered questions, multiple motives, and complex connections, you want an ending that matches that energy. A real Sherlock Holmes whodunnit with an elaborate plan that ties up all the loose ends, or at least most of them. And Contradiction had the potential! And yet… the ending fell far short.
What went wrong?
Contradiction was released on January 14, 2015 as the first release of Baggy Cat Ltd, which later went on to release the horror thriller At Dead of Night in 2020. Set in the same universe, the name of the game in Contradiction is to catch people in their lies as you go about investigating the death of Kate Vine, a local student found drowned under suspicious circumstances.
In a similar vein to Her Story, the game makes heavy use of live action video (FMV) to have players take the role of Inspector Jenks as he goes about questioning the primary suspects and searching the area around Kate’s death. And let me tell you, absolutely everyone is suspicious in one form or another. Whether it’s the charismatic leader of Atlas or the local drug dealer, everyone has secrets they want to keep hidden, and half the fun of the game is calling out the weird behaviours of these people as you go about your investigations. But, at a certain point, it all falls flat.
Don’t get me wrong – I really, really enjoyed playing this game. I love me a good murder mystery, and it was fun to laugh at the mediocre acting in all its FMV glory. It gives the game a fun, almost campy feel with over-exaggerated motions, expressions, and reactions. Putting the pieces together and figuring out when things just don’t line up is a great feeling.
Contradiction in particular works really well as a group game, with everyone helping to spot the lies, inconsistencies, and intricacies of the characters while trying to figure out whose motive is strong enough to actually do the deadly deed. But it was disappointing that, despite all the careful build-up of the story, the final reveal felt rushed, unbalanced, and out-of-place. Pair that with a couple poorly thought-out lines and this elaborate illusion falls apart at the seams.
Spoiler time for specifics, so if you still wish to play the game for yourself (which I do recommend, despite all this), here is your moment. Skip the below paragraph.
When you’ve just been on a nearly six-hour-long runthrough looking into the suspicious, cult-adjacent Atlas, including hallucinogenic drugs, allegations of human trafficking, demons in people’s reflections, an eeirily similar suicide just a year prior, plus a controversy so bad that the entire group had to rebrand from the ground-up, you’re expecting a certain amount of cult-ish logic behind the death.
So, to have a single contradiction in the final act lead to the bar owner confessing to drowning the girl for cheating with her husband, only to find out she got the wrong girl… it feels awkward. Stilted. Unfulfilled. No grand cult sacrifice, no drug-induced mania, just a vengeful wife who misheard a drunken argument behind the bar late one Friday night. Just a pile of unanswered questions and coincidences for the player to sift through while the credits roll.
The ending of the game, pure and simple, was rushed due to budget. From a storytelling perspective, the game is excellent right up until the point that it’s not. It’s a contradiction within a Contradiction, which is almost laudable in and of itself. Combined with a couple out-of-place statements which weren’t caught in editing (saying a character had a weakness for blonde women, when not a single female cast member was blonde, really stuck out to me), it’s clear that while the game works as an excellent introduction to a more nuanced world, it needs a sequel to really make it shine. One forum user, shivermetimbers, put it best:
“If it does come out with a sequel that puts all of its intrigue to good use, I would have no problem calling it a good game. As it stands, it’s a good prologue, but it needs the sequel in order for it to be considered anything more than a novelty.”
While I would personally call it more than a novelty, the spirit of the statement remains. And this five-year-old comment, unfortunately, still rings true. Play the game and enjoy it, but be aware that most of the mysteries remain unsolved. Until next time, detectives.