Monday, October 30, 2006

Suda 51's Contact mini-review

Suda 51 and Grasshopper's Contact was easily one of the most anticipated title of 2006. From the moment the game boots you will find that this isn't just any RPG. Faced with an old school computer keyboard of the first three function key, which is used to begin the game, all harks back to the good old 8-bit computing days. Then it begins. You tap the Professor, who finds your DS communicating device pretty impressive. He also asks a series of questions - personal questions mind you. Then we meet Terry.

I will explain the gameplay mechanism first. Contact does not allow you to directly control Terry. In fact the game revolves around three characters - Terry, the mysterious Professor and you, the player. While you can control Terry to a certain extent, the Professor mainly communicates with you. Put it simply, if there ever was a god, you are one - although you will taking your orders from the Professor. This is why the game is called Contact.

Battles are simplified. In order to command Terry to attack, you only need to toggle the 'A' button once. Terry will then attack the nearest NPC. The only control you have over Terry is to move him around, thus avoiding damage from enemies, or to toggle the battle mode off and run away. Special attacks exists in the form of touchscreen decals but this is limited. The game does allows extreme freedom in who Terry can attack, including friendly NPCs. In time if Terry attacked enough friendly NPCs, they will finally wise up and gang up on Terry. Stats are in real time. For example, anytime Terry gets hit, his defence level goes up.

A couple of unique gameplay mechanism exists in Contact, including one that almost mimics that of killer7's (it was developed by the same team after all). As Terry progress through, costumes can be unlocked (found) which gives Terry new abilities (jobs in RPG lingo). Basically certain weapons or abilities can only be toggled when Terry dons a costume. Want to cook? Then Terry has to adorn an chef costume. This is similar to killer7 where the main character has to 'morph' into another character in order to gain certain skills.

The graphics, while utilising 2D sprites to provide a pseudo-3D isometric view, is equally as unique. In order to separate the world in which the Professor and Terry are from, the developers went for two unique looks, one for the Professor's world (his spaceship) and another for Terry's. The Professor's section (top screen) has a look that is similar to the Mother series - isometric sprites, clean lines, simple geometry etc much like early SNES titles. Terry's world on the other hand, while still simply enough, is more like watching a moving surrealistic environment.

Contact, like killer7 is a brilliant but flawed game. At times, it is as brilliant as Mother 3 - which was fantastic (in the 30 minutes I tried to play with an FAQ translation until I grew fedup with having to switch on my PC just to play a GBA game - I will wait for the rumoured Mother DS compilation), and at times you feel like throwing your DS against the wall due to the frustration with the game's lack of direction. You can easily get stuck as objectives are rarely given, and those that come through from the Professor are often vague and cryptic. Having said that Contact is an experience. This is very much a game you could easily hate as much as I love!


Buy now Play-Asia or Amazon UK

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