Developer: Cing | Publisher: Nintendo | Release Date: 2005 | Genre: Adventure | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Amazon | Size: 256 MB
On the day before her 14th birthday, young Ashley Mizuki Robbins finds herself on a trip to the desolate Blood Edward Island to meet her father whom she had thought was deceased. Accompanied by her aunt who had raised her, Ashley is determined to find out why her father had broken all contact with her and if there is any truth to the disturbing dreams she has about the time that she was three years old.
Trace Memory is a point & click adventure game which is a genre that has become all but extinct in recent years. The DS touch screen interface lends itself perfectly to this type of game and the creators even found some ingenious ways to make use of the features that the handheld sports. The bottom screen is devoted to a top down view where players can maneuver Ashley using the traditional d-0pad method or by dragging a path using the stylus. The top screen displays a static view of your immediate surroundings. If a magnifying icon is displayed you can zoom in on areas of interest, which is then displayed on the touch screen so you can investigate. This system works well but the pace can be a little slow and you literally have to examine everything in sight if you want the best ending.
If you are not a fan of this genre, then Trace Memory is probably not going to change your mind. There is a lot of text to read through and a fair bit of backtracking as well. Ashley can only pick up certain items once she has found a use for them so you will have to keep track of everything. The game takes place inside a mansion and its surroundings so you never have to venture too far back, but it can still become a bit annoying. At least you are able to save anywhere which is always welcome. Throughout the game you will discover DTS cards which is read on a device called the DTS, sent to Ashley by her father along with her invite. The DTS has another feature which is taking photos and these are used in some of the puzzles. Speaking of puzzles, you are not given many clues so if you are new to the genre you might be stumped a few times. However, veterans will breeze through the game, although some of the trickier ones could probably only be done on the DS.
Although split into chapters, Trace Memory is actually a very short and linear title. It took me just over four hours to complete and while the story was fairly interesting it did not give me much reason to replay the game. Early on in the game Ashley encounters the ghost of a boy named “D” who had died fifty seven years earlier. Since D has lost his memories, part of the quest is uncovering items that will trigger flashbacks for him. These flashbacks flesh out the story a bit more and provides more info on the tragic history of the island and its inhabitants. The only problem I had with the game is that it is hard to relate to the rather limited amount of characters. The developers obviously want you to feel sorry for Ashley and D but since there is obviously no acting and the only emotion seen is represented by their 2D sprites it’s a bit hard. Anyone that has played one of those Japanese “visual novels” before will be familiar with the style.
The game has very sparse sound effects and also a rather limited number of melancholic tunes. This ad to the eerie atmosphere that the game has but hearing the same tune over and over becomes rather repetitive. The controls work well and like I said, some of the puzzles are rather ingenious albeit a bit obscure in places. I don’t’ want to spoil anything, seeing as the game is already so short but you can expect to use the touchscreen, microphone and even the ability of the DS to flip shut while solving puzzles. While Trace Memory is not the best point & click adventure that I have ever played, it is good to see the genre making an appearance on the Nintendo DS. Hopefully, it will pave the way for future titles on this handheld as there is clearly a lot of potential.
*Review originally published 2005.