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ups: great use of stylus, shows what the ds can do, intriguing storyline,
downs: short

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Trace Memory Review
game: Trace Memory
four star
posted by: Laurie Taylor
publisher: Nintendo
developer: Nintendo
view related website
ESRB rating: T (Teen)
date posted: 09:43 AM Wed Oct 12th, 2005
last revision: 09:33 AM Wed Oct 12th, 2005

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Click to read.Trace Memory showcases the power of the DS in changing genres--in this case the adventure genre. Trace Memory blends the traditional adventure genre, complete with a compelling back story, with the DS\'s interface to present puzzles in ways previously unknown to gaming. Much more than a novelty like the PowerGlove, Trace Memory manages to adapt the adventure game into a console-friendly format such that gamers and new would-be gamers will be impressed.

Before a review of Trace Memory can make sense, a word on Trace Memory and Nintendo\'s gaming philosophy is necessary. Nintendo promised to provide more innovative games that would be focused on fun and play, instead of simply more elaborate games. Trace Memory is one of the shortest games I\'ve played in recent years, at around 5 hours for a full play through. My gut reaction to rating Trace Memory was to give it a lower ranking because of its short game play. However, as Nintendo keeps arguing, it\'s quality and not quantity that counts. Whether or not this is a successful market strategy, it leads to Trace Memory being a very successful game.

Trace Memory manages to be completely enjoyable and interesting for basically every moment of game play, without annoying repetition or extraneous puzzles. While Trace Memory only takes about 5 hours to play, it provides more hours of enjoyment than many games that require over 20 hours. That, combined with the fact that Trace Memory retails at $29.99, shows that gaming doesn\'t have to follow a single trajectory where bigger, longer, more expensive games are the only option.

Trace Memory begins after Ashley Mizuki Robbins, the child of Sayoko and Richard Robbins, receives a letter from her father. Ashley believed that her father was dead, and she\'s been raised since her third birthday by her aunt, Jessica Robbins. Richard\'s letter directs Ashley to Blood Edward Island, which is a beautiful island with an enormous mansion. In addition to the letter, Ashley also received the DTS as a gift from her father. The DTS looks like a DS and functions as a camera, save device, and more. The DTS is also part of the mystery surrounding Trace Memory as well as a tool because it takes pictures and reads various memory cards. Using the DTS and her wits, the game requires Ashley to explore Blood Edward Island to find her father.

As the game begins, the DS\'s presentation of game play is really quite remarkable. The top screen depicts the area that Ashley faces, and sometimes zoomed in images, while the bottom screen is a top-down view of Ashley exploring the island. Ashley can examine particular items, in which case the bottom screen provides a closer look at the item with the top screen providing context. During conversations, the top screen depicts the conversation text and the bottom shows the different conversation options. This may seem like a gimmicky presentation on an otherwise traditional adventure game, but the dual screens aid game play making the game less annoying and more fluid. The stylus also dramatically improves game play from the often annoying point and click structure found in many adventure games. Because of the DS\'s two screens, the interface is intuitive for all players and makes for a clean and simple play style for a complex game.

In terms of both game movement and game puzzles, gone are the confusing attempts to access an item or move, simple actions that sometimes become overly complicated in traditional adventure games. These are replaced by a better interface for game play and better puzzles. Many of the puzzles are simple adaptations from earlier adventure games-find an item, use the item type puzzles. Others consist of finding the item and then using the item with the stylus. This makes for some rather interesting moments, like one which proves that cutting a rope by making a cutting motion is more enjoyable than just clicking on a knife and then a rope. Other puzzles are elegantly constructed while being impossible to replicate on any other system. For instance, one of the puzzles requires players to partially close the DS in order to see the top image reflected in the bottom screen to provide the puzzle\'s answer. This particular puzzle could be replicated using a mirror inside the game that players would replicate, but it wouldn\'t be as interesting nor would it be as much fun to see the puzzle within the game as it is to see the entire game system as an additional part of the puzzle.

The DS as part of the puzzle also carries into the game narrative with the DTS. Trace Memory\'s basic plot revolves around memory and remembering, of which the DTS is a component to the larger \"Trace Memory\" project which fuels the game\'s story. Because Trace Memory is focused on memory-both Ashley\'s memories of her family and her reunion with her father and the mystery surrounding D, a ghost on the island-the emphasis on memory in the DTS makes the game play mirror the game narrative. This is further reinforced because Trace Memory has short quiz segments at the end of each chapter. The quizzes are easy and, oddly enough, they fit within the game.

For gamers wanting only what has become the norm--huge games with hundreds of hours of game play--Trace Memory isn\'t the game to pick. For all others, Trace Memory makes for an exceptional afternoon or weekend of play. Trace Memory is still a bit pricey for the hours of play, so most players may be better off renting or borrowing the game. For new or reluctant players, which unfortunately most often means teenage girls, Trace Memory is exactly the right type of game to entice them into playing. Trace Memory\'s excellent game play, intriguing narrative, ease of access, teen rating, and short play time also provide the perfect argument for games being carried in libraries. Public libraries carrying games should be the next step in the gaming media evolution-libraries already carry books, CDs, and DVDs-and games like Trace Memory promise to expand gaming into places it\'s never been before.

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