The storylines for RPGs usually fall into one of three categories: saving a sacred realm, rescuing royalty, or going on a treasure hunt to find a holy weapon of sorts. Contact breaks out of these traditional shackles by involving you personally as a character.
Let’s try to explain. A Professor crashes on a strange planet and uses your DS to make contact with you. But rather than play as yourself, you control teenager Terry, while the Professor talks to you on the top screen to give hints and suggestions of what to make Terry do next. Your goal? To find and reclaim the power cells for the Professor’s craft so that he and Mochi – a strange lamb/cat hybrid – can go back to the place they call home.
The two screens display distinct visual styles: the Professor’s isometric world is low-res and minimalist, while Terry’s is softly shaded. There’s plenty of charm and some nice ideas – like stickers that can be pealed off magic cards and stuck onto objects via the stylus. You can also go fishing, cook, and dress Terry up like a doll.
The problem is that, deep down, it’s nothing more than a tedious dungeon crawler with a battle system that’s neither functionally interesting nor flashy. You just have to tap on an enemy, select attack and sit back and watch Terry do his best. This is even the case for boss battles, which if you’ve rushed to get to you won’t have enough experience to triumph in first time. So you’re pretty much forced to go out looking for smaller enemies anyway. Which is dull.
Although Terry’s thirty – thirty! – stats are constantly increased, you never feel compelled to spend time ‘levelling up’ like you would in a Final Fantasy game. There are some puzzles – plus the odd mini-game to serve as a distraction – but none are as clever as Zelda’s. And it simply isn’t as addictive as Pokemon; there’s nothing to keep you playing, apart from the sight of the super-cute Mochi licking his tummy on the top-screen.