Another Code: Two Memories Reader Review
Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max, Monkey Island, Full Throttle & Grim Fandango…some of the greatest point-and-click adventure games ever to be released. Whilst some of those games inevitably now require rose-tinted specs, for anybody other than a point & click fan, in order to enjoy them, many would still creep into our individual all-time Top 100 lists and one or two might even make the Top 10. For a genre that’s produced some of the finest and funniest games ever, it is somewhat sad to see it in its current state of decline. But with arguably the last decent point-and-click adventure game, Grim Fandango, coming out no less than seven years ago, it’s hardly surprising. Thank goodness for Nintendo then, seeing the potential in their touchy-feely console and deciding to release Another Code, developed by CING. Clearly Nintendo felt that Another Code showed enough potential to join that list of greats and would sell enough copies to make it financially viable to release.
Well perhaps the best word to describe Another Code was used in the previous sentence, potential. It’s got bags of it and in some places even delivers on some of that potential, but you can’t help but feel that if Another Code was a book, it would be “Point-and-Click Adventures…For Dummies”.
Ashley, I say Ashley!
It all starts off with you as Ashley, a 14 year old girl who’s just heard from her Father who she thought had died when she was 3 years old. Obviously excited by the news, Ashley gets her Aunt Jessica to come along with her to Blood Island in order to meet up with her Dad. Cue Jessica deciding to find your Dad on her own and leaving you at the boat, getting kidnapped and then further into the game instructing you to carry on searching for your Dad on your own. Aunt’s eh! Not what they used to be are they!
Without wanting to give away any more of the story, the rest of the game has you not only trying to find out what exactly happened with your Mum & Dad and just what exactly ‘Another Code’ is, but also trying to unravel the past of D, your Casper-like friendly ghost who after being dead for 57 years has lost his memory. Strange really as D openly admits to roaming the island for years trying to remember his past, you would have thought that he’d have used his ghostly ability to walk through walls sooner & looked around Blood Mansion himself, which is seemingly the only house on the island. If D was still alive no doubt his Mum would have to wipe his arse for him as well.
The story is delivered by cut-scenes, which unfortunately have a tendency to repeat themselves when you’re looking around, trying to find out what to do next. You’re often given questions, which you can ask in any order you want to further the narrative, but these are really there to just break up the monotony of what is quite a poorly delivered script. To be fair, the story is interesting enough and has enough twists to keep your interest but the delivery of it leaves a lot to be desired. Any adventure game that relies on eight pages of increasing “!” and “?” to deliver tension and confusion really is testing the patience of the gamer, as well as the touch screens endurance when you rapidly tap the stylus against it just to get through it as quickly as possible. With a bit more time spent on the script the story could have lived up to its potential, but I never once cared for any of the characters in the game.
Graphically Another Code is very nice with a 3D overhead view for the touch-screen and a static Myst-like image for the top screen, which ideally suit the excellent interface and retro feel of the game, but it’s certainly not going to persuade graphic whores from purchasing a PSP. Worryingly it does have audio problems that cause sound coming out of the right channel to intermittently crackle or cut out altogether. Cue me being worried that my DS had become faulty and anticipating a huge wait whilst I sent it back to Nintendo to repair, until Peej (the game’s previous owner) confirmed that there were known sound faults with the game and that it had done the same on his. Phew!
Blink and you miss it
Considering that you’ve got to find your Aunt, discover what ‘Another Code’ is, find out what actually happened to your Mum and Dad all those years ago and help D remember his past, you would quite rightfully expect this to take more than an afternoon. Unfortunately if you start it at lunchtime, the chances are you’ll have finished Another Code before teatime. It does have two endings but after completing the game, I didn’t feel compelled to sit through it again to experience the full ending, especially as I had only missed one thing that meant I got the basic ending. At just over 5 hours for an average completion time, it’s inevitable that a lot of purchasers will feel a little short-changed and that needn’t have been the case.
All of the puzzles use the DS’ unique features perfectly and some in ways I’m sure not even Nintendo would have expected. Arguably Another Code is the perfect showcase for Nintendo’s new handheld, using the features perfectly rather than trying to shoehorn them in just to make use of them, but being a great technical demo for the system is not enough reason to purchase a game.
The majority of puzzles are really far too simple and can be figured out within a few seconds, with only two really providing any form of challenge, making you think completely out of the box. Most of the puzzles even come with a clue on how to solve them right from the very start, which has undeniably got something to do with Nintendo’s desire to position the DS as the handheld of choice for the casual and perhaps even new gamers. An option to turn these hints off though would certainly have been of benefit to veterans of the genre, who are those most likely to show an interest in Another Code in the first place.
That leads me to wonder how many people will actually purchase Another Code. Whilst many DS owners have been crying out for ports of classic LucasArts games and see the DS as the ideal platform to resurrect the point-and-click genre, I do wonder whether Another Code will sell enough to be considered a financial success. I do hope so as a success here would show the potential for others (LucasArts, I mean you) to port or possibly even create new point-and-click adventures for the DS, but I do have my doubts.
Going back to my book comparison made earlier, the ‘For Dummies’ books are an ideal purchase for anybody new to a particular genre/subject and can be quite entertaining whilst they hand-hold you through the learning process, but apart from a couple of new features, it’s not going to show veterans anything that they didn’t already know and hadn’t seen before.
Another Code is undeniably a game that deserves to be played and shows other developers how to get the most out of the DS’ features and if DS games were available to rent, this would be am ideal choice. But as Choices and Blockbusters don’t see fit to rent out DS titles, you’ll just have to make use of that Game 10 day return deal to get your point-and-click fix.
6 / 10