Trace Memory stars Ashley Mizuki Robbins
, a 13 year old girl who for most of her life has been raised by her aunt, Jessica, because her parents mysteriously vanished when she was an infant. Both parents were believed to be dead, but a couple of days before Ashley's fourteenth birthday, she received a package that contained a letter from her missing father and a small machine. The letter said that he would be waiting on Blood Edward Island
, an island located off the coast of Washington in the United States. The next day, Jessica and Ashley ride over to the Island, but Ashley's father isn't there to greet them. After realizing that Ashley's father isn't around, Jessica goes to look for him When Jessica fails to return also, Ashley decides to go out to find both of them.
As an adventure game in the traditional point-and-click style, you'll be directing Ashley to pick up and examine objects, as well as scrutinize written (often cryptic) clues for use in puzzles scattered about the island. Simple examples include fitting broken pieces together to make a workable lever, valve or handle; more complex examples include thinking outside the box and actually using the Nintendo DS itself in clever ways to generate solutions.
Ashley can be controlled with both the stylus and the d-pad, offering varying degrees of precision with which to move her from location to location. To facilitate this, the polygonal environment is presented on the touch screen. The top screen shows any area of significance within Ashley's immediate viewpoint. For instance, having Ashley trot in front of a gate or a sign will bring up a more detailed illustration of that gate or sign. If the object(s) being looked at are interactive, the game will then let the player use the touch screen to manipulate the object.
At the end of each chapter, Trace Memory asks a series of simple questions to test the player's memory with regards to the events that just transpired within that chapter. Worked into the game's theme surrounding "memories", this technique was also used by developer Cing in its follow-up point-and-click adventure, Hotel Dusk: Room 215
. This is ostensibly done to keep the player from not paying attention to the events s/he's supposed to be scrutinizing carefully.
Trace Memory offers additional exposition in a second replay. Logs and diaries will contain slightly different text in the second run-through than they do in the first one, so the player will have to play through the game more than once to get ever detail regarding the plot. As these are small--though interesting--details, it's not necessary to play through the game twice to understand the main story.
Trace Memory differs slightly depending on the region. The North American version portrayed Ashley as being more skeptical in comparison to the somewhat more accepting Ashley of the Japanese and European version. The American edition also contained more humor than the other regions' editions, possibly to lighten the game's generally dark story. Finally, the European and Japanese releases stated that Ashley is British-Japanese, while the American edition states that she is Japanese-American.