NINTENDO DS REVIEW: TRACE MEMORY
Cole
Kelly
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.5
GRAPHICS
5.0
CONTROL
3.5
MUSIC/FX
3.0
VALUE
2.0
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
3.0
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
3.0

Trace Memory is aptly titled as it seems to suffer from a bit of Alzheimer's and dementia. The story has been translated from Japanese and there are some truly awful moments of dis-connectivity which threaten to upend the storyline at any time. It does get back on track but not before you've waded through a minefield of confusion, and then it's all over.

Regarding the fact that the game is too short is somewhat of a backhanded compliment. I really wanted it to last longer since I was enjoying the ride. Sure there are some rough spots but overall Trace Memory is a decent point-and-click adventure game that makes you feel as though you've got a PC in your pants.

There are not many point-and-click adventure games available for the consoles and fewer yet for the handheld units, so it's possible that a lot of gamers have never encountered this genre before. It's old-school and I'm not suggesting that it's cool or that it's making a comeback, it's just a different style of game that was really popular in the 90s. It's story-based with a focus on exploration, puzzles and mystery solving. The further you make your way into the game the more that is revealed. Traditionally the mouse was used to simply click on items that seemed important. The DS's dual screen and stylus best replicate this process enabling you to experience this style of game virtually the way it was intended.

Adventure games are typically relaxing when compared to action games. There's no shooting, platforming or fighting - and in many games, such as this one, there is no way to lose your life. You simply go about your business and while there may be some backtracking you are always moving forward. The paths are very linear but the storyline is revealed like a book so there's really no way around this. Some adventure games feel more linear than others and unfortunately Trace Memory feels all too linear.

This is the story of a teenage girl named Ashley who discovers that her father whom she believed was dead has arranged to meet her on a mysterious island. There are more questions than answers and I'm not completely sure if everything ever gets resolved. At the very least the story will certainly raise your eyebrows more than a few times.

Puzzles consist of arranging tiles, interpreting information and throwing levers and switches. You will only be able to pick up items that are of use to you. In this way the gameplay is simplified and aimed at a younger or less experienced gamers. There are not a lot of red herrings and you really can't do anything wrong, although some items may not become unlocked until you travel a little further in the game forcing you to backtrack which can get a little annoying. It's a cheap way of extending the gameplay which can be completed in an afternoon if you're not too stupid.

There is a lot of potential for the DS, especially when it comes to replicating mouse-based control systems. Trace Memory may not be the best example of a hand-held adventure game but it's a good start. Graphically you couldn't ask for much better. The images, which include text, 2D and 3D graphics are easy on the eyes and at times loaded with detail. The soundtrack is good as it highlights the story but it's not something that you'll really notice - which could be exactly what the developers were going for; something that supports the story and not competes with it. I just wish that the developers would have strived for more overall, since the potential for an excellent game is all here.

Maybe I'm just lucky. I live in the U.K. and every once in a blue moon I get to play a game before my friends in the USA and Canada. Sorry Vaughn and Cole, but we Brits don't get to brag about much, so let me gloat.

Trace Memory (Another Code: Two Memories in the UK) isn't due in North America until a few months from now (late September) and although I don't expect much will change between now and then, I'm hoping for your sakes that CING adds a much better hint system - or make that - A hint system.

Trace Memory is a graphic adventure, much in the vein of the classic LucasArts games of old (Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle etc) and I've always fancied them.

TM stars Ashley, a young girl preparing to celebrate her 14th birthday. Instead of a birthday present, she receives a package from her dadddy. But the kicker is that daddy was thought to have died when she was only 3. He instructs Ashley to come to a deserted island where he will be waiting for her. Ashley obeys the command, and sails to the destination with her aunt in tow. Upon arrival Aunt Jessica takes off, leaving you alone to eventually stumble upon "D", a ghost who has been deceased for almost 60 years. Part of your mystery will involve finding out why D died (and who killed him) and why your father has come back from the dead.

Graphic adventures are not for the action oriented gamer usually. They are typically more serene and cerebral for that matter and rarely manage to captivate the average FPS fanatic's attention span for longer than a minute or two. Trace Memory is no different. There will be countless repetition, travelling back and forth between areas looking for that spot you've missed or that interactive object you need to locate. Unfortunately Trace Memory is harder than it needs to be, as often you'll have figured out what object you need to use but it won't be available until you solve another part of the mystery first. That wouldn't be so bad if the game didn't drop you in the inevitable black hole so often. Adventure gamers expect to be stuck, scratching their heads until the moment strikes them, but solving a mystery in Trace Memory is more like a roller coaster; as soon as you reach the top, you're stuck at the bottom again.

The story is what keeps you wanting to move forward while playing an adventure and Trace Memory had me hooked, even when I was madly frustrated at it for being too persnickity about certain solutions. It's the perfect game to play on the train, bus or trolley on the way too and from school or work and due to the pacing of the story, your eyes won't go buggy trying to keep an eye on the action.

I'm apt to give this game a higher score simply because I love the adventure genre so much and I'm geniunely thrilled to have the opportunity to play one any chance I get. If you're like me, I trust that you'll hunt for Trace Memory when it arrives in North America in late September. If you're reading this in the UK, then what are you waiting for, silly?

 

Click For Media
System: DS
Dev: CING
Pub: Nintendo Europe
Release: Sept 2005
Players: 1