In most role-playing games, you take on the role of a particular character and play as him throughout his adventure, commanding his every action. But really you are just a player, controlling a character and guiding him through the game. Contact picks up on this fact and addresses the player as exactly what he or she is: A person who exists independently of the game and who controls the actions of the main character. When you start up the game you are addressed by the character, who sits on the top screen for the majority of your time playing Contact. He is an old professor type who, for some reason, is rendered in essentially 8-bit graphics, while the rest of the game is closer to what you’re used to from most DS games. The professor knows you, the player, exist, but the character on the bottom screen, Terry, is unaware of your existence. It is your job to guide Terry throughout his journey, with the help of the professor.
The game is a strange one for more reasons than just the way it sets up the role of the player. The way you increase Terry’s abilities is via fighting things, where you get points in certain aspects, like running or attacking with swords, by doing those things. You don’t actually level up. In this way it is similar to certain other RPGs, such as Ultima Online (or other Ultima games, probably. I don’t know, I don’t remember any of the ones I played well enough.). It is very different in where you travel and what “monsters” you fight, though. You will find yourself playing through all sorts of areas, from pyramids to videogame conventions, fighting everything from pill bugs to possessed refrigerators and using weapons like tee ball bats, frying pans, and brass knuckles.
This makes the game fun to play for those who enjoy RPGs, since it’s not such a huge stretch away from other ones, but it provides a fresh storyline. I won’t spoil too much of it, but basically the professor needs to get back several crystals to power his space ship, and he needs you and Terry to help him do it. Along the way you can do other things, such as taking some time out for cooking or fishing, or get Terry some girlfriends. You can have four girlfriends come back to your home base to live with Terry. All at the same time. The only thing that could make that situation more badass is if the home base was made to look like a pirate ship. Oh wait, it is made to look like a pirate ship.
Since the game doesn’t stick too hard and fast to the rules of traditional RPGs, choosing just to use some of their elements, it is not a bad choice for people who aren’t all that into gaming. Better still for less “hardcore” gamers, the game is rather short. You only have to invest about 20 hours into this to beat it and do a pretty big chunk of all there is to do. This is perfect for games on handheld systems, I’d say.
On a final note, I would like to mention what I always mention in DS reviews: Whether or not the touch screen is abused and the game becomes annoying due to it. The answer for this game is no. You can use the touch screen to point in certain directions and have Terry move that way, but you can also just use the directional pad to move him. This is good, since I would never be able to play this game if I had to move with just the stylus. The main thing you use the stylus for is peeling decals, which, when you stick them, either power up your character or have other special effects. Special effects such as placing a balloon on the screen which you have to blow up, by blowing on the touch screen, until it explodes and damages any enemies on the screen. Boom.