Time Hollow (DS) review
"There’s been a rash of new DS titles recently – Kirby Super Star Ultra, the remake of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, and the craptacular Sonic Chronicles. Yet, out of all the releases this week, most people have forgotten about one that would be the best had Nintendo not decided to release Kirby this week. That game is Time Hollow. "
There’s been a rash of new DS titles recently – Kirby Super Star Ultra, the remake of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, and the craptacular Sonic Chronicles. Yet, out of all the releases this week, most people have forgotten about one that would be the best had Nintendo not decided to release Kirby this week. That game is Time Hollow.
Time Hollow is essentially the bastard child of Death Note and the Phoenix Wright series. The premise is fairly simple: you play as Ethan, a Japanese kid who finds a pen that lets him manipulate certain events in the past in an attempt to find his parents who disappeared mysteriously. As much as this sounds like a generic Japanese visual novel type game (and technically it IS a visual novel type game), it actually works out to be quite a bit of fun, albeit extremely short.
Gameplay works something like this. You bring Ethan to certain places, and he gets “flashbacks” of events in alternate pasts that may or may not have actually happened. Your first major job is to confirm the details of the flashbacks – when and where they happened. From there, you lead Ethan to wherever the flashback occurred and attempt to alter the past using Ethan’s pen (read: the stylus). A prime example is one of the first flashbacks you recieve: Ethan’s best friend’s sister losing an envelope full of money at school. Ethan recieves a flashback of the moment, you find the envelope and bring it back to the school. The pen sequences give you a picture on the top screen of the flashback, and the same area in the present on the bottom. You’re ideally supposed to find the area of interest in the flashback and point it out by drawing a circle. Of course, you have a bar on the top of the screen, and every hole you open in time causes it to drain a bit until you hit a game over.
This is one of the two problems I have with Time Hollow. The pen sequences can be extremely frustrating because the game wants you to point out a very specific area that you may not be able to reach with the hole you’ve drawn. Take one of the other pen spots – trying to cut a rope holding a dog to a tree. While it’s blatantly obvious you’re meant to cut the rope, the game wants you to point out a very specific spot in the middle of the rope, which took me two or three tries to figure out, even though the rope was in all three holes I drew. In some cases it’s also very hard to hit the exact pinpoint location with the stylus even if you drew the hole in exactly the right place.
The other problem I have with Time Hollow is the way the game handles dialog with other characters. There are points when the game will force you to talk to people multiple times, even if they say the same thing over again, which can get extremely frustrating and convoluted. Questioning is also kind of bizarre – you usually have to ask the same person a question multiple times to progress, even though they usually just re-word the answer they gave you the first time.
One last thing that needs mentioning is the game’s graphic quality. Instead of doing large, detailed sprites (ala Phoenix Wright), Time Hollow opts for a series of very well-done anime style portraits, which actually work out slightly better than Phoenix Wright. The net effect is that the game looks like a comic book or manga and that each character has way more animations than in any of the Phoenix Wright games. I was honestly surprised at the quality considering the game’s genre and choice of hardware.
Also of note: Time Hollow is extremely, extremely short. I beat the game in less than ten hours, and wasn’t ever really stuck except on one or two of the more convoluted points. There’s a New Game + mode.. which lasts for all of five minutes. Yes, I’m serious when I say it lasts five minutes. However, by the same token the plot is good and doesn’t overstay its welcome unlike a certain manga series it takes inspiration from (read: Death Note).
If you enjoyed the Phoenix Wright series (and hell, even if you never played any of them), you’ll most likely enjoy Time Hollow. The game is extremely hard to find in stores due to a very limited release (which is practically a Konami trademark by now), and it would probably be cheaper in the long run to just buy a flashcart and download the ROM. This is one of those games I can see as going for $50-80 on EBay for a while until Konami gets off their asses. Final Score: 8/10.
Community review by timrod (September 26, 2008)
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