Ten years after her parents’ presumed deaths, thirteen year-old Ashley Robbins receives a mysterious package – apparently sent by her father – that contains a small device coincidentally resembling a Nintendo DS. Tracing this package to the deserted Blood Edward Island, Ashley sets out on an adventure to dislodge the truth behind the events that happened a decade ago.
While exploring Blood Edward Island, Ashley befriends “D”, a ghost that has apparently lost all his mysteries. After agreeing to help him recover pieces of his past, Ashley and her new companion enter the Edward Mansion in hope of finding answers that will help them make more sense of their past. On their adventure there are many strange occurrences as the pair are lead inexorably towards the game’s breathtaking conclusion.
Within the package Ashley received was the DTS (“Dual Trace System”) – a mysterious handheld device that bears a striking resemble to the original Nintendo DS. Using the portable machine, Ashley can take, store, and manipulate photos in order to solve the game’s many puzzles, as well as read DTS cards that contain stored information. The DTS plays a pivotal role in the game – more so than first glances indicate – and players will become accustomed to progress through the story.
Right from the start of the adventure, Trace Memory does an amazing job engaging you within the storyline – it’s clear that a lot of effort went into creating this engrossing murder mystery title. Although, even with its high production values, Trace Memory still lacks that all-important longevity we seek from such games – it feels way too short. From start to finish it will only takes a couple of hours to complete, with the alternate endings providing the only real reason to want come back and play it again.
Despite this, Trace Memory is still a great game. While at first it feels like an old-school point-and-click title, you’ll soon come to realise that Cing managed to push the Nintendo DS to its limits and create a much more compelling and innovative title than expected. Each of the game’s many puzzles are well crafted and possess a difficulty level that makes them a decent, yet not taxing, challenge. Better yet though, it seems that every challenge uses the Nintendo DS in its own way to create an enjoyable, diverse experience.
In terms of controls, Trace Memory does a great job of making them feel very natural. Players mainly control Ashley using the D-pad and action buttons, but nearly all of the controls can be handled via the stylus on the touchscreen. From a presentation perspective, the game utilises a masterful blending of 2D and 3D elements to create nice visuals, and the fitting soundtrack helps build suspense and add to the atmosphere of the adventure.
Trace Memory, like most point and click adventures, is very linear in its design, but doesn't do anything to punish gamers for doing wrong things. In other words, there's absolutely no way to lose – no death, no game over, nothing. Though that may seem like a good thing, it really isn’t. The puzzles are straightforward and, once you dig in under their surface, easy to solve. Only players not versed in such a genre will find a testing challenge here. As a result, Trace Memory is aimed more towards casual audience who haven’t really played any puzzle adventure games before.
Despite the lack of difficulty with the game, Trace Memory is an enjoyable title once you get going. It makes good use of the DS and provides an engaging storyline, but the short length of the story ultimately lets it down. Still, it is a great experience from dawn to dusk – or breakfast to lunch! – but it will leave you wanting more. For those looking for a lengthier experience, it might be better to knock at the door of Trace Memory’s spiritual successor, Hotel Dusk: Room 215