Adventure Gamers Awards
When Another Code (Trace Memory) was released on Nintendo DS, it was heartily welcomed at the time as the first original adventure designed for the handheld. Although criticised for its brief length, many were willing to overlook its shortcomings and appreciate its tight-knit story, coupled with inventive puzzles and excellent characterisation. Now four years later, Another Code: R - A Journey Into Lost Memories has arrived on the Wii, and while the console sequel is an enjoyable enough experience, it lacks some of the elements that made its predecessor so great.
Another Code: R is set two years after the first game, which saw a young teenager named Ashley learn about her mother's death and its connection to the memory project ‘Another’ that had the ability to implant false memories. This time round, Ashley Robbins has been invited to a camping resort at Lake Juliet by her father, who is keen to tell her something more about her mother, Sayoko. A mysterious email linking Sayoko to Lake Juliet was sent to him, and he has invited Ashley to see if her memories can help determine why she accompanied her mother to the resort many years earlier. These recollections prove a main catalyst in progressing the storyline, presented as flashbacks in the form of black and white drawings. Meanwhile, the discovery of the existence of an alternate version of ‘Another’ leads to even more questions for Ashley and how it relates to her own family.
It isn't essential to have played the original to understand Another Code: R, as very early in the adventure, Ashley's father asks some questions about the events of two years ago, leading to a summary of the previous story so newcomers won’t be confused. While a couple of years older now, Ashley is still emotionally struggling to come to terms with the absence of her mother and the distant relationship she has with her father. At times she appears to have matured, gaining new interests like playing the guitar in her own band and reasoning logically about different topics such as her father's work, but at other times still demonstrates a more childlike frustration with her father's behaviour. Her struggles with her memories and her relationship with her father make her easy to relate to without portraying her too much like a stroppy teenager.
Much like in the original game, Ashley's father Richard is a likeable workaholic, who is well meaning but consistently fails to pay adequate attention to his daughter, leading to many tense conversations. As the adventure progresses, you'll encounter a runaway named Matthew Crusoe, who absconded to Lake Juliet to look for his father, himself mysteriously disappearing five years ago and last seen on the island. After some false starts, Ashley and Matthew become friends and it becomes apparent that his background and journey are very much entwined with Ashley's memories. The dialogue between the two is well written and at times humourous, with each teasing the other about their weaknesses (mostly involving Matthew's annoying habit of running off unexpectedly and Ashley's daydreams every time she remembers her mother). There is an assortment of other characters as well, from the friendly island ranger Dan Maxwell, stuck-up Elizabeth and her more friendly band members, Princess the dog and the mysterious Ryan Gray, who seems to know more about Ashley's mother than he lets on. Unfortunately, while these characters have a lot of dialogue in their interactions with Ashley, none feel as if they have anything really important to say, lacking the depth of characterisation seen in the main trio.
From a visual perspective, it is clear that a lot of work has gone into making Another Code: R a charming experience on the Wii. The entire game has a pastel-coloured painted look, and the more rural areas of Lake Juliet are particularly pleasing to the eye – you can almost visualise them as being real places to explore. Close-up character portraits retain the similar cartoon style of the DS game, but here boast more detail, although they only have very basic animation. Background music is pleasant, providing quite a relaxing feel and never intrusive. At one stage Ashley receives an mp3 player on which it is possible to listen to the entire soundtrack, which is a nice touch. Although the music never really builds up to be menacing in any way, at key moments it is silenced and replaced only with sound effects, some of which will be familiar to fans of the original game and do a good job of creating an atmosphere of suspense. Somewhat surprisingly for a full-blown console adventure, none of the characters are voiced, offering dialogue text only, which is disappointing considering the Wii is certainly capable of speech.
Despite the series switch from a handheld to home console, the Wii controls are intuitive and easy to come to grips with. An onscreen pointer is controlled simply by moving the remote accordingly, and arrows placed around the screen indicate what directions it is possible to go by pressing the A button, without any need to control Ashley manually. Any interactive items flash upon being touched by the cursor, and a simple button press will examine the object further. Using items in your inventory is just a matter of clicking on your bag icon and then selecting an item, while a combine icon allows you to merge two items together. An in-game map is a useful reference point that can be accessed at any time, but it is purely for directions and can't be used to skip travelling time. Thankfully, as the resort isn't huge, it doesn't take long to travel between each location.Continued on the next page...