(also known as Another CodeTwo Memories)
Review by Old
Trace Memory, the first adventure title for the DS, is a
triumph! It presents an engaging story, with creative and mostly
relevant puzzles, using fully the unique capabilities of the DS
system. Let's explore why Cing, a relatively new adventure developer,
was able to create a game I consider essential for your DS library.
"It's Not a Real Memory, Just a Bad Dream." Aunt
Jessica to Ashley
You're 13 years old, being raised by your aunt. You have unpleasant
dreams and recurring memories of your parents leaving 11 years ago,
under mysterious and even frightening circumstances. Your aunt won't
reveal any information but, near the day of your 14th birthday,
you receive a package from your father, enclosing a greeting and
a peculiar device called a DTS.
There's a message. Your dad is alive and needs to see you. He's
at Blood Edward Island, can't get out, and wants you and your aunt
to come there.
Ashley's journey begins. We find the youngster and her aunt on
a ferry heading to the infrequently visited island. Several interchanges
occur between Ashley, her aunt and the boat captain. The island
has a rather dark history, not the kind of place you would want
to spend the night. It's been virtually abandoned for many years.
The captain will wait until nightfall, but no longer. In spite of
being an experienced seaman, he's clearly not comfortable there.
You land. Jessica ventures out to explore, leaving you at the dock.
She doesn't return and doesn't respond to your shouts. In spite
of cautions given by the captain, you need to do your own exploring,
trying to find Jessica and your dad.
"You're a Curious One, Aren't You?" Captain
Trace Memory isn't a port from another system but was designed
for the DS from the ground up. The story and some of the puzzles
would perhaps translate to another system, but it is the unique
capabilities of the DS that help to make this game outstanding.
After an intriguing introduction, we're presented with beautiful
2D scenes on the top screen, and a 3D movement screen on the bottom
half. These top drawings aren't always static, with the boat gently
rocking and Ashley's hair blowing, for example.
In the top-down view of the bottom screen, Ashley can be moved
with classic button keys or, best of all, with the stylus. Simply
"drawing" the stylus in the desired direction moves Ashley
along at a rather quick rate. The top scene changes as she enters
new areas. Movement is a full 360 degrees, without restrictions.
You can move ahead until blocked by a puzzle to be solved, and you
can move back as much as you desire. Indeed, sometimes required
step retracing can become a bit tiresome.
Although you'll only encounter half a dozen or so characters, resulting
conversations become critical to advancing the story. A "talk"
symbol appears as you move toward another "person," with
a simple tap of the stylus starting the discussion.
A magnifying glass, in the upper right corner of the lower screen,
lights up when Ashley is close to a significant object or location.
Double tapping brings a close-up and the possibility of action on
your part. As with most adventure titles, careful exploring of your
locations is helpful, with the magnifier turning yellow if you approach
something potentially significant.
Shortly after arriving on the island, your DTS gift from your father
becomes activated. Accessing this from the lower screen allows for
several options. You can view photos you've taken, DTS cards you'll
collect, and your inventory, as well as save your game. Fortunately,
you can save anywhere within the game, with two save slots being
available. Also, closing the DS case while playing pauses the game
without draining very much power. This is very helpful in enabling
the puzzle-solver and reviewer to make notes!
"Where Are They, and Where Am I?" Ashley
The puzzles themselves are typically quite straightforward, reminding
me of the type found in Nancy Drew games, for example. Yet the DS
and its idiosyncrasies can be integral to solving them. For example,
without giving much away at all, very early on a drawbridge, depicted
on the top screen, raises before we can cross. As we approach the
entrance, our magnifying glass lights up. We click and find the
top screen picture now at the bottom. There's a rusty handle which
we click and now find enlarged. Using the stylus, we painstakingly
turn a squeaky wheel with circular motions, until the bridge is
now lowered. Then we can proceed.
While some puzzles are of the classic inventory usage, most use
the unique features of the DS in sometimes wildly creative ways.
You'll be doing some unusual things with your stylus, microphone,
and the system itself. I found a few of them difficult, though smiling
when the solution finally became apparent. But, hey, I sometimes
find Nancy Drew puzzles hard as well.
We suggested earlier the graphics are excellently done. To elaborate,
given the capability of the DS, I think Cing did an outstanding
job. The artwork with the more static scenes is detailed and lovely.
Indeed, I took a couple of DTS pictures just for the sake of it.
Once used to the 3D aerial view of the lower screen, these graphics
become equally pleasant and involving. Occasionally a bird will
fly overhead or some other action will occur that gives depth to
the presentation. Character depiction on the top screen is detailed,
with frowns, smiles and other facial contortions clearly setting
the mood of the conversation. There are myriad places to visit,
including a large mansion, with all artwork nicely conveying a sense
of place and story.
Music and ambient sound are also superb. As with most DS games,
Trace Memory has no spoken word. The reflections of Ashley
and discussions with others are laid out textually, which works
fine. There are musical themes often present, which can become a
tad annoying, but they serve their purpose. Indeed, there are occasions
when the music will simply stop cold, causing a startle, implying
something important is about to happen. Ambient noises are plentiful
and nicely worked in. These range from a cold wind blowing to birds,
splashing waves, squeaky handles and locks.
"No One Remembers Me, Not Even Me" D
Soon into the game, Ashley meets a pal, D, a ghost of a boy who
died 57 years ago with absolutely no memories of himself. Together
they form a partnership in their respective quests for memory and
As with any good mystery, there are surprises, twists and turns,
unexpected outcomes. The story and script are very fine, nicely
translated and redone from the original Japanese. Further, character
development is nuanced both with the script and, more subtly, with
the graphics. When Ashley's aunt comments: "Don't be difficult,
Ashley," we are clearly shown a petulant teenager. The youngster,
like most teenagers, can be awkward, stubborn, difficult, and yet
always elicit concern in her quest. This is a child about whom you
"Death Has No Expiration Date" D
Trace Memory is a cracker-jack adventure game developed
and beautifully suited for the DS system. It's not at the level
and complexity of the best adventure titles for the PC, but it's
not reasonable to expect that for a handheld title. What it does
bring to the table is an engaging, wonderfully done and integrated
story with facilitating puzzles. It can be played, given save-anywhere
capability, in short sessions. My total completion time was around
eight hours actually on the DS (not off it thinking), but others
may need less. Although a bit brief, it's well worth the money,
with even some replay potential.
My DS library has 11 titles. Trace Memory reflects the maturity
of game development for the system. Unlike some early titles (Madden
2005), it's not a "poor reflection of the original"
port. Also, it's not just a bunch of exercises designed to show
off DS characteristics (Feel the Magic). Rather, TM feels
like a tightly created game with the developers integrating the
strengths of the DS, not just to show off or be gimmicky, but rather
because these attributes worked to advance the story they wanted
to tell, the game they wanted to make. Congratulations!
I'm pleased to award this outstanding game a Gold Star and, as
mentioned earlier, strongly urge this to become a part of your DS
library, particularly if you love adventure games. Given the teenage
heroine and nature of the script, I could easily see this as a fine
first adventure for a youngster, although it's a bit more mature
than the typical Nancy Drew effort (T rating). In that regard, the
Drew games would nicely translate, with a little work, to the DS
system. I'm hopeful that Trace Memory is but the first of
several adventure games for the DS, given the system's unique capabilities,
so well suited to an effective adventuring interface and general
What I Liked Most About Trace Memory
- Engaging, involving Nancy Drew-like story;
- Creative and full use of DS features;
- Slick, efficient interface;
- Gorgeous 2D still scenes and 3D world;
- Realistic ambient sounds;
- Save-anywhere feature.
What I Liked Least
- Some required backtracking was a nuisance;
- Can't pick up an observed item until needed;
- Musical themes can become repetitive.
Release Date: September 26, 2005 (Trace Memory in North America);
June 24, 2005 (Another Code in Europe)
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