Trace Memory – Old School Adventure

Trace MemoryAny game with a female protagonist is refreshing IMO. Trace Memory’s appeal increased for me because it’s also one of the very few point and click adventures out there right now, a genre that I never quite played much beyond Myst and a Monkey Island title, but enjoyed nevertheless (does the latter count?). Especially since this one was on the Nintendo DS.

Some reviews of Trace Memory I’ve seen lament that most of the puzzles are much too easy. But this didn’t bother me for some reason. I still got that small rush of gratification when solving things and was eager to advance the story forward each time.

The game is quite linear, requiring a certain amount of backtracking every now and then. One thing that was somewhat clunky: even though you may have already encoutered a key item, you cannot add it to your inventory until you’ve proceeded to a later location or triggered an event. This makes the puzzle-solving in these situations a bit easier since the connection is clear between what you need to retrieve and how you need to use it. But it lowers the level of satisfaction you feel when solving it. Why not let players pick things up when they encounter them, then figure out which is the right one to use later?

Trace Memory makes good use of the DS touch screen, and on a couple of occasions, the microphone. But searching through rooms oftentimes amounts to aimless stabbing of the touch screen to find a hot spot. Even then, it’s possible to miss them, and I’m pretty thorough. The ease of the majority of the puzzles lulled me into carelessness. Getting a less than perfect score here resulted in the “non-happy” ending for me. 😦

An interesting game mechanic tests the player’s memory after each chapter. A series of questions relating to everything that happened must be answered in order to advance. This linked well enough for me to the concept of memory that the game’s story explores: how it shapes our reality and how negotiating different versions of each come into play in solving the murder mystery. Fun!

The (storage) limits of a cartridge-based game always seemed apparent to me in the lack of voicework. Though this also means deliverance from some truly dreadful voice-acting or hearing ludicrous lines spoken out loud, part of me always disdained Nintendo portables for having these kinds of games. Text is so 1994. But I got over it quickly enough.

Trace Memory lasted about 5 hours to play through. And though I enjoyed it enough to play it again to try and get that “happy ending”, the need wasn’t irresistable. This was the perfect rental: diverting, interesting story and use of features unique to the DS, short. It’s linear enough not to have much lasting appeal beyond the initial playthrough, but when it comes down in price I think it’s worth picking up as a keeper anyway. More point and click adventures please!

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