At one point in time point and click adventure games were a huge market on the PC. Around 1995 the genre died out due to slow game play, abstract puzzles that only made sense to the designers and the rise of the First person shooter. The DS touch screen lent its self well to point and click games. Soon after the industry realized that there was a market for the genre again on the DS, and many point and click games have been released since. Trace Memory helped find that market by being one of the first point and click adventure games on the DS. Will Trace Memory awaken or reawaken the point and click genre for you, or should you look else where on the DS?
The main character is Ashley Robbins. A teenager that was raised by her aunt Jessica due to her parents vanishing when she was three. Two days before her fourteenth birthday she finds out her farther is alive and that he’s waiting for her on blood Edward Island. Things don’t turn out well though, after landing on the island the father isn’t at the dock. Jessica goes looking for the dad but she gets kidnapped. Ashley leaves the boat to find out what happened to Jessica and soon after meets a ghost named “D” who doesn’t have any memories. Throughout the game you must uncover what happened to Ashley’s family and help “D” remember what happened to him before he died. The story is well written and goes really in depth of what happened. It keeps you wondering what is going to happen next and what everyone’s motives are for what their doing.
The Game play is what you would expect in most Point and Click games. You navigate an area and click on objects to find story bits, useful items, and puzzles. The game is in 3D from a top down perspective and you are able to maneuver this world using the stylus or D-pad, but prerendered portraits are used for clicking on objects. At times though this can confuse you and your not exactly sure where you are or looking at and may throw you off on how a room is actually laid out. Trace memory has some puzzles that shine and others that are just frustrating. Some use the DS unique capabilities in unique ways. Such as reflecting one screen onto another to get an answer to the puzzle, but there are a few puzzles that are over used in puzzle games (such as the Sliding block puzzles) which are just boring and some times frustrating.
The 3D engine was fairly good for an Early Nintendo DS title, but you will be paying more attention to the static prerendered backgrounds that you explore for items. It may not have the most unique art style but little touches are added to help distinguish it from other anime style games and lots of details go into the prerendered backgrounds. Character portraits are used for conversations and the expressions made fit well and they never feel like it was used because they were too lazy to make a facial expression that fit the mood the character was in.
The music is really well done and while there seems to be a limited sound track, it sets the tone really well and you never feel like you need to turn the music off. Headphones is great for this title, some of the music uses a unique back and forth effect between headphones that make it sound really different from any other game out there. Sound effects are not really bad but something about the chime when some one is shocked really gets annoying, other wise nothing special.
Trace memories length is…very short. The game can be completed in 3-5 hours on your first run through. Since the puzzles remain relatively the same there’s really no incentive to go back and play through it again unless you want to read the story again or get the good ending. You don’t get much bang for your buck here.
Overall Trace Memory has a really good story and some interesting puzzles. It can be completed in one night. A sequel has been announced for the Wii which may be why you would pick it up now, but if you have the chance, just rent it. If you’re just looking for a really good point and click game then you should probably check out Cing’s later title, Hotel Dusk Room 215 also for the Nintendo DS. Which has many improvements over Trace memory, the games have a very similar feeling, but hotel dusk feels like a more complete package. Otherwise if you have some spare cash and want a good story, then pick up trace memory, chances are you wont regret it.