Indie Insight - James Moulang's 'Contacts'

It's time to play out the most frustrating part of wearing contact lenses - putting them in.

Rowena Tylden-Pattenson
20th November 2017
Image: Georgina Howlett (Contacts)

Contacts is marketed as an ‘intentionally annoying game’, and is indie games developer James Moulang’s contribution to the gaming community in 2017. As far as story goes, there’s not all too much, though as this is only a small game perhaps we shouldn't have expected there to be. The product of Moulang having spent a few frustrating hours trying to put contact lenses in himself, Contacts certainly serves to irritate the player, bordering on the extreme annoyance levels that 2048 once caused.

It took me way too many… well, years, to complete that game. I’m hoping Contacts won’t take quite that long - though I'm yet to find consistent success as of yet. It’s a simple enough idea: after rigging a controller up to a computer, use trigger buttons to slowly open two eyelids and put a lens in a freakishly giant eye. After a few attempts, it becomes clear what makes this so difficult; the figure’s need to blink increases the longer the eyelids are opened, and adapting the trigger pressures to combat this becomes fiendishly difficult. The moment you get both eyelids open, you find the finger’s juddered off to one side.

Image: www.jamesmoulang.co.uk

This is a game in concentration, with excellent multitasking skills required to avoid poking the figure in the eye and returning to square one. There’s a lot of concentration and finesse required to finally get the contact placed right! Although difficult, it’s proved popular in the few instances I’ve seen it played, with heady competition growing between players to see who can get the contact lens in fastest. The replayability of this game probably comes from a situation like this, where it’d be easy to mess around as a group (and no doubt cause an even higher difficulty, with all the distractions).

After a few attempts, it becomes clear what makes this so difficult; the figure’s need to blink increases the longer the eyelids are opened, and adapting the trigger pressures to combat this becomes fiendishly difficult

Perhaps Contacts could be improved with a timer, to encourage this competitiveness, as currently it’s a bit of a one-trick pony with no way of recording high scores (or low scores). Nevertheless, it’s pretty enticing as a game. There’s nothing like your every move being watched by a giant staring eye! The art style is simplistic but distinctive, certainly marking the game as slightly unusual. Little noises and starburst animations when the controls start to line up add to the zen feeling of the game, which definitely means I end up playing for way longer than I should do.

Image: Georgina Howlett (Contacts)

When I think of ‘intentionally annoying’ in a game, I think more of flashing lights and loud noises, so I’m glad that this one has gone the other way, creating a relaxed atmosphere but a technically infuriating play. Another bonus is it’s pay-what-you-want, so if it doesn’t take your fancy after a trial run or two, you’re not too out of pocket. Very important on a student budget!

I’m thankful I don’t have to put actual contacts in every day, because I definitely couldn’t cope with it if it’s anything like as difficult as this. I’ll be watching what else James comes up with, because I think Contacts would make a great party game, and I’m hoping there’ll be more similar on the way. Contacts is available on Itch.io if you'd like to give it a try for yourself, and feel your patience slip away...

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