I first became aware of Contact in the pages of EDGE magazine back in 2006. The bright visuals jumped out the page at me, and I immediately started scouring the internet for more information about the game. Unable to hold on for the UK release, I eventually ordered it from the US and fell in love with its quirky gameplay styles and cute visuals.
The player takes control over protagonist Terry, a young boy who, along with the enigmatic Professor, finds himself embroiled in an inter-galactic quest for precious power cells.
The quirky visual style smacks you between the eyes in the game's opening moments, with Terry exploring a a lush and detailed universe via the DS’s touch screen, while the Professor – and his loveable pet – inhabit a stranded starship, which is presented in a simple isometric view on the top screen.
What makes the game interesting is the fact the Professor talks directly to the player, not Terry. So in a sense, you are simply controlling Terry’s actions, while the Professor gives you, the player, advice on what to do next.
Unlike most DS RPGs, Contact dispenses with random turn-based battles, instead adopting a more MMO feel to combat. When prompted, Terry continues to attack until he is successful or flees from danger. To help Terry defeat foes, he finds several suits on his journey, which grant him special attacks. Some take a bit of exploration to find and are well worth hunting down - even though they don’t really add a great deal of tactical nous to proceedings.
While Contact is a traditional Japanese RPG wrapped up in delightful visuals, game director Akira Ueda has woven in some original ideas to spice things up. Decals are adhesive stickers which can be peeled using the stylus to unleash special attacks. These limited powers are useful in tight situations, but restoring their effectivness is sometimes more hassle than it's worth.
Another neat touch is the Chef’s Suit, which allows Terry to rustle up stat boosting food. There’s a limit to how much food Terry can eat, though, so you have to think carefully about when Terry chows down his grub.
There’s a lot of grinding involved and you’ll die quickly unless you’re extremely careful. However, there’s something compelling about the adventure which keeps the player ploughing onwards.
It was never a huge hit and might be quite hard to track down these days. But if you stumble across Contact, you should definitely pick it up. One of my favourite games on the DS.