TRACE MEMORY / Cing / Nintendo DS

Trace Memory looks like it has some promise at the beginning, but soon turns out to be a tepid Myst derivative with puzzles that are blatantly easy, yet sometimes still frustrating due to annoying execution, and an adolescent story that is really only mildly interesting at its best.

You play as delicious loli Ashley Mizuki Robbins (covering all the bases in pandering to the weeaboo market, I suppose), a girl who seems to have a penchant for getting her parents gunned down while she is around. It turns out her dad is actually not dead though, and sends her a modified Nintendo DS that can take pictures, along with a message that he is holed up in a place called "Blood Edward Island" and wants to spend her fourteenth birthday with her there.

The name "Blood Edward Island" will probably indicate to you that this is not the most horrific or suspenseful mystery game out there - it was seemingly intended for the pre-teen set. The interface is extremely simplistic - you move about via a 3D map on the lower screen, with a static picture of the current background at the top of the screen. The only three commands you have available are to Look at the area, snap a picture with your DS, or use an item from your inventory. It's definitely not a detective-story type of game; the whole of the game is finding and solving abstract puzzles in a linear progression, with plot elements drip-fed to you along the way. Said puzzles are extremely simplistic - usually it's spelled out for you exactly what item you need to use, and that same item is either lying around right nearby or only a screen or two away, and the game automatically picks up items that you need when you look at them anyway. In spite of this easy setup the game can still be frustrating - an excellent example is an early puzzle where you have to place an iron ball into a hand carving in order to open a gate. It's evident at first glance exactly what you have to do, and there's even a whole crate of iron balls lying not twenty feet away, but Ashley will refuse to pick one up until you've unnecessarily examined the empty hand twice, and then to tack on artificial difficulty you can't just place the ball in the hand, but have to play some poorly-programmed and nonsensical mini-game where you have to lob the ball into the hand from a distance for no logical reason.

The music and graphics are both quite decent, with some very nicely drawn character portraits and photo-realistic backdrops, but it's not nearly enough to carry a plot and puzzles that are both for the most part very dull. I could see this one working for a younger child, or as a gentle introduction to the adventure genre for a very inexperienced gamer, but I think everyone else will largely be disappointed by it.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video
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