Crack the case, catch the perp, try not to get too frustrated
You may have seen The Trace featured in the App Store. Though it talks of the player being akin to a Sherlock Holmes sleuth, or Miss Marple, in reality this absolutely undersells the game. It actually has a far more modern approach, putting you somewhere between an old school cop, getting down and dirty and finding the clues among the trash, but while simultaneously using more high-tech approaches; scanning for fingerprints, and DNA, to get the job done.
So what happens? Well – it’s straight up with the action. You’re thrown into Oakley Classic Cars – a garage, owned by one of the characters you’ll soon come across. What we loved about the game is the lack of tedious scene-setting. Of course, there is a story here – but it’s unveiled subtly, and in pieces – like a jigsaw. This gives it a much more realistic feel.
The detective’s name is Sam Pearce, and alongside his phone operator back at the base, Alex Price, he has to investigate a brutal murder that’s just taken place at the garage. And it’s all about the case. As soon as you’re in the door, you’re looking for clues. As with most games on mobile devices, there’s a built in tutorial – but in The Trace, this absolutely flows with the main story, simply giving you a few pointers.
Interacting with or investigating an object, or a person (well, body) can have different outcomes but generally the view will zoom in and allow you to pick up an object to look for evidence. This comes in the form of using a dark light scanner to find fingerprints, or scanning any DNA (like blood), or removing something from the object, like a clip on a gun. This style of gameplay is incredibly fast and fluid. There’s no tedious walking around which is largely testament to its POV style.
Interacting with things will throw up new leads. These are presented on screen as an alert. Collect enough and you can start to build together what’s going on.
In the menu you’re presented with a kind of spider diagram with a series of question marks, all linked together. Once you’ve found enough leads or clues, these start to form into questions. To answer these questions you tap on one of them, and then drop in the relevant clues which, when combined, provide the answer. Match enough and you’ll be shown some great freeze-frame style cut sequences that shows your theory played out.
It was all going pretty smoothly until chapter two. By then we’d gotten used to the games’ mechanics and approach and found we begun to actually work out what was going on, or solve a question without all the clues. Unfortunately, the game needs to catch up and we were left hugely frustrated trying to find the remaining clues became that it took away some enjoyment.
Now, how much of this is bad design, and how much of this impatience because we knew the outcome and were just a bit rubbish at finding some of the harder clues? The point is, this genre is notoriously difficult to get right. Too easy. and people cry ‘it’s boring’, too hard and people go – oh, it’s a stupid game. In our case, we had to search around until we found… maybe a bullet in the wall, that confirmed it came from a certain gun. But we already knew! It’s just we… didn’t… have all the evidence, yet. Okay, we concede… that is how you’re supposed to solve crimes, but there are some very specific steps you have to take, such as solving something, or finding one clue, before you can be notified of a new lead or clue elsewhere. Do it out of sequence and you can be left scrambling around trying to find something hidden just to confirm what
you already know.
It’s a short game – just the three chapters – but with a greatly executed narrative that’s oh so satisfying upon completion. Some elements of the gameplay could be smoother, but it’s a perfect game for a lazy weekend – give it a try.
Size: 150 MB
Developer: Relentless Software
- Fluid, fast gameplay
- Great attention to narrative
- It could be longer
- Finding those last clues can be frustrating