Grasshopper Manufacture is certainly developing a reputation for unpredictability. Opinions on their last Nintendo foray, Killer 7, were all over the place -- some loved the twisted rail-shooter, others hated it, and many just scratched their heads and offered up a simple "wtf, mate?" Their new Atlus-published RPG Contact, while a little more straightforward, seems to be getting the same wide range of responses. As this is a metareview, Contact seems like a metagame; it's the little things that are praised, the inclusion of other games, references to games, influences from games, the touches from old school games. Unfortunately, the actual game seems to have suffered a bit -- even the most praise-worthy reviews indicate some gameplay issues.
1UP - 80%: "Savvy players will almost certainly enjoy all these little references and arty concepts, so it's a shame the entire package won't hold up to their scrutiny. In crafting their gaming curiosity, Grasshopper has made some design choices that are simply curious. The autobattle system is far from engaging ... fighting enemies in Contact is a woefully straightforward process. It's impossible to dodge or block attacks. In fact, the player can only watch as Terry trades hits with his target."
Games Radar - 60%: "Contact is a mixed bag and will delight some while disappointing others. It feels "classic," but the flipside of that is "outdated." Even though it's chock-full of personality and pomp, Contact falls short on fun, with some disappointing shortcomings. Casual RPG fans will have no problem finishing this game in less than 14 hours and a lot of that time will be spent backtracking through previous areas and grinding to boost your stats before boss fights. Also, weapons and special attacks unlocked near the end are just as unimpressive as the ones you begin with. Contact does sport an incredible surprise ending that adds depth and changes your perspective on all the main characters in the game. However, its impact is greatly diminished by the extremely short play time."
Yahoo Games - 70%: "The linearity is one area where Contact is particularly disappointing. You'll end up stuck because you can't figure out how to trigger a certain bit of scripting (pay attention to the dialogue!), or maybe you can't figure out the trick to defeating some inscrutable boss battle. Or perhaps you haven't quite leveled up enough to easily dispatch the latest round of monsters in a new area. At times like these, all of Contact's charm can't save it from the tedium that bogs down a lot of RPGs. But it's still as solid as they come, not terribly spectacular, but the perfect fare for devotees of the genre."
So it seems Contact definitely reaches out with its intriguing concept, and Grasshopper knows how much we like references and in-jokes, but RPGs have evolved over time for a reason. Some of that evolution should have perhaps been maintained for this title.