Revisiting Trace Memory

When Trace Memory was released for the Nintendo DS in 2005, I had never played a game like it before. Trace Memory is a text-heavy point-and-click adventure game. The genre existed long before I began playing video games, but as the industry has moved forward the genre seems to have been mostly left behind.

The Nintendo DS is perfect for point-and-click adventure games because it is both portable and has a touch screen (which allows pointing and clicking). Often, playing Trace Memory is like reading a book, so it is nice to be able to stop reading and put down the “book” to do something else. It’s just as easy to pick it back up and start again.

I greatly enjoyed Trace Memory in 2005, and I played through the game multiple times. I was also very excited when the developer, Cing, released a similar game, Hotel Dusk: Room 215, in 2007.

Following the announcement that Xenoblade would finally be brought to North America, I began thinking about other games that were never localized and was reminded of the sequel to Trace Memory. Unfortunately, Cing filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and the sequels to both Trace Memory and Hotel Dusk: Room 215 were never released in North America.

I may never be able to play the sequel to Trace Memory, but I decided it was time to re-play the original. So, this past weekend I started and finished Trace Memory once again.

Trace Memory is a very short game.

Before I began, I knew that Trace Memory was not an incredibly long game and wouldn’t take very long to complete, but I was surprised at just how little time it actually took. My latest play-through lasted about three hours. However, I already knew the solutions to most of the puzzles even though it has been a few years since I played the game. There are a handful of puzzles in the game that were so irritating the first time that I will never forget the solutions.

A new player could probably experience five or six hours of gameplay before completing the game.

Trace Memory is unusually short, but six years later I am still impressed by the game as a whole.

Trace Memory has an very interesting story.

 

In particular, Trace Memory’s story is among my favorites. The story takes place on one island during the course of one day, but you are constantly piecing together two separate stories and I found each one to be very interesting.

The first, and main, story covers the events happening during the one day the game takes place during. There are some related events that are mentioned throughout the game, and all of those related events happened ten years prior to the events of the game.

The main story is about Ashley, the character you control, as she uncovers the truth behind her mother and father’s disappearance ten years prior and the government-sponsored project called Trace.

The second story is about the Edwards family who once lived on the island and in the mansion you explore throughout the game. Early in the game, you learn that through an unknown series of events many members of the Edwards family died unexpectedly. Since then, the island has been referred to as Blood Edward Island.

As you explore the mansion on Blood Edward Island, you’ll also uncover the mystery behind the deaths of the Edwards family.

Neither story is completely original, but I didn’t feel that they were unoriginal or predictable either.

As I mentioned previously, playing Trace Memory often feels like reading a book. There is a lot of text to read through (some of it optional; some of it required), and some players aren’t going to find the game enjoyable because of it. This game (and genre) is certainly not for everyone.

Trace Memory includes a few well-designed puzzles, but little interesting gameplay.

Fans of more traditional video games won’t find much to enjoy in the gameplay. The lackluster gameplay reinforces that this game’s strength is in its story. If you aren’t interested in reading you might as well not be playing the game at all.

One of Trace Memory's early puzzles.

The actual gameplay involves walking through the mansion and examining each of the different rooms for clues about Ashley’s parents, Trace, and the Edward family.

You will run into puzzles in many rooms, but an experienced gamer will not have any trouble solving most of them. However, there are a handful of puzzles that may make you want to throw your Nintendo DS across the room. For example, there is one puzzle that requires that you close the Nintendo DS. On my first play-through, I was clueless about what to do for a very long time.

I also found some of the puzzles to be fairly interesting because of the setting. The Edwards mansion has been mostly untouched since the late 1940’s, and some of the items they left behind reflect the time period well. I found the zoetrope to be among the most fascinating because I had never actually heard of a zoetrope prior to playing the game.

The only part of the gameplay I found a little irritating is the backtracking. The game doesn’t have a ton of backtracking (and the mansion isn’t all that large anyway), but because most of the game does not require backtracking, it can be confusing when you cannot find a way forward.

Trace Memory is a great, but short-lived video game series.

It really is unfortunate that Cing is no longer in business. I found Trace Memory to be very enjoyable, and it’s a shame that the series cannot continue. I hope that someday I am able to play the one sequel that was not released in North America.

If you’re looking for an interesting story and don’t mind reading (a lot) then Trace Memory is a great way to spend an afternoon. Despite being a few years old, Trace Memory doesn’t appear to be particularly difficult to find. A quick search found that most of the Gamestop locations in my area had the game in stock, and a used copy is very cheap.

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One thought on “Revisiting Trace Memory

  1. Joshua! So I decided to join this just so I could comment. I’m also following your blog now. Anyways I LOVE LOVE LOVE this game. And I was so sad to find out that we will never get it’s squeal. When I first got this game, I couldn’t put it down. Just like a good “book” I had to keep going. So when the game only lasted me 6 hours I was soooooooooo sad. I got the best ending right off and never played the game again.

    I loved the story and felt so engaged. The game play was also something that had me hooked. I’m 7 years older then you so I remember those older games. My dad and I use to play a lot of PC games that were rather similar. Though rather then point and click you would have to type in commands, but I have such fond memories of those gaming times with my dad.

    Anyways, this is a great review. I like your writing style quite a bit and I also enjoy how you break up the sections. I look forward to reading more!

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