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Review – Contact

posted on February 28th, 2007 by jay

A game is like a meal. An excellent one both pleases your palette and assuages your hunger. Resident Evil 4 was a full plate of filet mignon. Extremely filling, but not excessive, and delectable (this is getting creepy). A Nippon Ichi game is more like three plates of macaroni and cheese. Decent, but if you eat it all you’ll feel sick. And then there are games that are so bad you look forward to them ending. Eating less vomit or dog shit is preferable.

Enough of something decent can make an average game more satisfying than it should be. Dragon Quest Rocket Slime is by no means gourmet, but there is enough of it to really fill the player. The play mechanics aren’t spectacular, but the game is long enough to both build and expand on them. It achieves the rank of full plate of steamed vegetables.

Contact is barely palatable and, even worse, is at most an appetizer. This is a letdown because its packaging (complete with blog entries in the manual) and buzz – which drools over the music for no apparent reason – make it sound like an exotic dish most of us have never tasted. Before reading off the menu items that disappoint (if that even makes sense), it’s worth mentioning that the graphic design is spicy. But like everything else in the game, there isn’t enough substance to it. The top screen that displays the scientist looks old school, cool. Now can we see a second screen in this style?

The prospect of playing long enough to get to level 70 makes me sick to my stomach.

The plot, supposed to be refreshingly original, is nearly incomprehensible, and more fatally, uninteresting. A scientist has found you (yes, you!) through the DS and needs your help collecting power cells (apparently an attempt to pretend you aren’t collecting crystals in an RPG). Using the DS, you control Terry, the main character in Contact. And then there’s some band of pirates who is also a band. They don’t like the scientist, and so you fight them when not listening to them perform. Now you know as much about the plot as someone who has finished the game.

Contact’s battle system takes after Diablo’s — it’s a game that basically plays itself. You hit the fight button and then wait until your character kills the enemy. Now and then you can spice this up by selecting a special move, but it does little to make the battles engaging. There are a number of special attacks to learn but they are too similar to each other to be exciting. Like the plotline, the battle system isn’t very good but could have been significantly better if it were expanded.

Then there’s the character development. There are enough constantly changing stats that the system should be very addictive to RPG fans. Taking after Final Fantasy 2, attacking raises your attack, dodging raises your dodge stat, getting hit raises your defense and HP, and so on. Even more exciting to anal retentive min/maxers are the separate costumes the player can don. Each gives him different stats boons and penalties as well as techniques. Only they are criminally under developed.

More weapons, items, enemies, a fleshed out plotline, a wider variety of techniques, more to do with each costume, and an overall longer playtime would make Contact a drastically better game. Even if none of the elements are particularly succulent (eww), enough content to fill our stomachs would have been appreciated. Like the DS Dragon Quest demonstrates, enough of a mediocre thing can somehow become good.

Marvelous decided not just to serve players an appetizer, but also a secret dessert. The game ends quickly but there is still much to do, like fish and chat with girls on the various islands the game offers as a playfield. Only the change in meal gives us enough time to realize what we were eating wasn’t that good. If you enjoyed Contact enough to try dessert too, maybe it fully redeems the game. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stomach any more courses. No doggy bag for me, garcon. This is one meal I can’t wait to pass. I won’t be leaving a tip.

1 Comments

  1. TrueTallus said on March 5, 2007:

    Spot on.  How could something that looked so exotic and interesting turn out to be such a frustrating snorefest?  This is one meal I kept eating hoping it would get better,  but nothing ever did.  It was (to keep the meal analogy alive hear) a bit like ordering a neat looking salad at a quirky resteraunt known for its unusual but appreciable food then being handed a small plate of shriveled lettuce with unidentifiable dressing dribbled on top.  The lettuce is unpleasant and the dressing isn’t that good, though it tastes a bit odd, but you keep choking it down hoping that your missing something.  After a little while, its finished and there wasn’t really any kind of culinary epiphany.  The salad wasn’t particularly memorable except that it wasn’t that good but it cost as much as the delicious roast you had waiting at home.

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