With so much hoopla over new systems, this nifty little RPG slipped in under the radar for most folks. Contact is a strange RPG that is mildly action oriented and surprisingly deep (your character attacks his foes in real time, but you do not directly control him, much like in the BioWare RPG's like Baldur's Gate and Knights of the Old Republic).
The game attempts to both alter the player's perspective and have some fun with the story by not having the player be the protagonist, but rather an intermediary that assists the "hero" along as he goes. In the opening cinematic, "The Professor" makes "Contact" with you (even commenting on your DS), asking for you to help the hero, a kid named Terry, track down bits of his space ship's energy core.
In all actuality, the game plays pretty conventionally and the whole idea of the player actually being a "helper" to the hero doesn't really add to anything. But that is fine, because underneath the quirks lies a very deep RPG experience. Terry levels up in a staggering array of different categories and can carry a huge variety of weapons and items. From baseball bats to iron knuckes to weird mystic staffs, it's all covered.
Terry can also cook. While fighting various animals, Terry will get to pick up raw meat, which he can then cook later, if he has the skills. He also gets to fish (Link isn't the only one these days, it seems).
This game also has a morality system which mean... yup, Terry can viciously murder any NPC he wants! Of course, doing so cause the townsfolk to flee in terror, making some aspects of the game harder.
I like how your actions (or Terry's) have consequences such as this. And its not just confined to NPC characters. Once lower level enemies become easy to dispatch, they also run away, which is quite satisfying (ah ha! I'm DA MAN now! You RUN!).
The graphic style is an odd blend: the top screen is intentionally done in an older style, reminiscent of Earthbound. The bottom screen (where most of the gameplay takes place) is a more standard 2D art design.
The sounds are an assortment of space rock tunes and funky rock numbers. They certainly didn't blow me away, but the battle tune sounds pretty cool.
The story is quirky and enjoyable, with plenty of light comedy throughout. There was even some references to Sony's E3 disaster planted in the first boss battle, which was, of course, hilarious.
Action oriented or non-patient gamers might have trouble with Contact, however. Some of the quests require tedious hunting and searching, and it is sometimes unclear what to do next. Look up a walkthough on the internet, you'll need it. I also don't like how the game makes you wait for no reason. Every time you travel to a new area, you have to stand around on the Professor's ship for a minute or two. There isn't any loading going on here, so I am at a loss as to why this is so. Some tighter, more focused design could have helped here, as I've had to go back to the same areas again and again simply to find some item I wasn't really told I needed. This is very frustrating and certainly hurts the game.
Overall, however, Contact is one of those games where I found myself coming back again and again, despite the frustrations stated above. This is because of the game's intelligence and deep design, which generally overcomes the games sluggish nature. The lightly comedic story also helps overcome the lack of a dramatic fun factor, creating a comfortable feel for the player.
There's a lot under the hood here, so I'd go ahead and give Contact a B-. A solid and underrated DS RPG.