A space craft disguised as a pirate ship, a dog who dreams of becoming a cat and a professor who loves taking baths all blend together in Grasshopper Manufacture's latest role-playing game, Contact. We've come to expect strange new things from the developers of Killer 7, and Contact delivers in spades in the weird and wacky department with colorful characters, tons of puns, and hilarious references to the classic '80s gaming era.
You'll begin by making contact with the Professor, who recognizes that you have the ability to communicate with him via a strange device called a Nintendo DS. Soon his ship comes under attack by an intergalactic, nihilistic, terrorist organization called the CosmoNOTs. The damage to the Professor's ship results in the loss of his precious power cells which scatter throughout the world below.
It's up to you to use your Nintendo DS to guide a young boy named Terry in his quest to help the Professor repair his spacecraft - which he's disguised as a pirate ship in the meantime - by finding his power cells before the CosmoNOTs can grab them.
Missions are formulaic: talk to the townsfolk, clear the dungeon, collect the power cell, and move on. However, Contact still manages to inject its distinct style and humor into these otherwise mundane scenarios. In one area, you're required to sneak past enemy guards in a homage to the NES version of Metal Gear. Fun nods to classic games like this are abundant and will strike a chord with fans of the old-school era.
The battle system is straightforward and overly simplistic. Just move Terry near an enemy and switch him to his Battle Mode stance and he'll automatically begin whacking away at the enemy in real time. You can use your stylus to peel and stick battle decals on enemies to damage and inflict status ailments on them.
However, since the decals are limited in number and fairly weak, you won't find yourself bothering to use them very often. Because the battles are so boring you'll find yourself hating how hardcore level grinding seems to be a requirement.
Throughout your adventure you'll come across a variety of costumes which provide Terry with special attack powers. For example, the Aqua Shot outfit allows Terry to blast enemies with water attacks and the Knuckle Mole outfit allows him to use earth-based attacks and dig for treasure in certain areas. Unfortunately, these special attacks are quite yawn inducing. You'll have to use pathetic moves like Trickle or Throw Rock for a long time before gaining any new abilities.
Fortunately, the Fisher King and Mr. Cuisine costumes breathe some life back into the game's costume system. Once you find the Fisher King costume you can play a fun fishing minigame along any body of water you come across. Besides fish, you can also reel in treasure and rare items. It's also quite satisfying to fry up the carp and sardines you caught with your Mr. Cuisine outfit. You can create lots of delicious and useful items by experimenting with the raw ingredients you find.
Contact is a mixed bag and will delight some while disappointing others. It feels "classic," but the flipside of that is "outdated." Even though it's chock-full of personality and pomp, Contact falls short on fun, with some disappointing shortcomings. Casual RPG fans will have no problem finishing this game in less than 14 hours and a lot of that time will be spent backtracking through previous areas and grinding to boost your stats before boss fights. Also, weapons and special attacks unlocked near the end are just as unimpressive as the ones you begin with. Contact does sport an incredible surprise ending that adds depth and changes your perspective on all the main characters in the game. However, its impact is greatly diminished by the extremely short play time.