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Trace Memory

(Nintendo; US: Jul 2007)

Monkey Island meets Resident Evil

Ever since Nintendo launched the DS, we were promised a truly revolutionary gaming system set to alter the way we play games forever. However, as much as I love my DS, if I’m going to be perfectly honest, I’ve yet to come across a game which has delivered on the early hype. That’s not to say that I haven’t experienced some form of innovation, examples being controlling the Metroid Prime Hunters demo using just the very tip of my fingers, drawing Pac-Man on Pac Pix and seeing him come alive on screen, and of course shouting at the microphone during Feel The Magic to grab a girls attention. While all fun, they feel more like tech demos rather than full-blown games. Trace Memory is difficult to describe as it feels like it’s stuck somewhere between the two.

Now I must admit I’ve very little experience with the point-and-click genre; apparently LucasArts used to do loads before they decided to milk Star Wars dry, but that’s one of the things I most appreciate about the DS, the fact that we’re getting to experience genres and games that would usually remain Japan-only. In that regard, Nintendo and the DS have delivered.

In Trace Memory you assume the role of Ashley a 13 year old girl who has been living with her aunt since the age of three. Ashley like all Nintendo characters is instantly endearing and just as she approaches her 14th birthday she receives a mysterious package and a letter from her father whom she thought was dead. As a result, she travels along with her aunt to the mysterious Blood Edward Island were her adventure begins.

As the game starts the first thing you’ll notice (aside from the stylized intro) is the quality of the rendered graphics. And while I’m aware of the fact that visuals are hardly the most important ingredient in a game, here they really do help to create a strange and at times uncomfortable atmosphere. It’s a shame then that the touch screen visuals are limited to an isometric viewpoint and are barely of PSOne quality.

Though there are no bloodthirsty zombies or killing of any sort, it’s best to compare Trace Memory‘s gameplay and atmosphere to Resident Evil. While the comparison might seem odd… well, it is, but it’s appropriate. More so when you consider the wonky controls (frustrating problems arise when you attempt to click on items; instead of giving you the desired information, data concerning a neighboring item appears) and all of the backtracking (Ashley is not allowed to collect useful items until she absolutely needs them, which results in a lot of useless backtracking and wandering). Toss in a plodding pace, occasionally excessive dialog, and a few touch-screen puzzles that don’t really need to be touch-screen compatible and you quickly find that while Touch Memory might have a few good ideas hidden deep within itself, it’s really not a worthy addition to the point-and-click genre that LucasArts made famous with titles such as Monkey Island and Grim Fandango.

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