Another Code: Two MemorieslikePEGI7 Developer CiNG Publisher Nintendo Genre Adventure Platform Nintendo DS Release 24th June 2005 It's hard to imagine that not too long ago, the Nintendo DS was an inconceivable device. In many regards this is undoubtedly true. No one could have really predicted a machine like the DS, utilising two screens, one of which was touch sensitive and other oddities like a microphone. No one really saw just how big the system would be in terms of sheer popularity. Now, 5 years later and 128 million units sold world-wide, the DS looks to be giving way to a new DS-series handheld. With this in mind, allow me to share with you, an often over-looked gem of the Nintendo DS' first-generation video games; Another Code: Two Memories. This review is timely as well, as the developers of the game, a small Japanese development house; CiNG, recently shut up shop at the start of March 2010.

Life places many obstacles in your path. Most don't look anything like they do on the top screen.
Another Code is a top-down perspective adventure game. It's heavy on text, heavy on ambiance and heavy on your heart-strings. It's a very difficult game to judge, the game itself seems rather comical and light-hearted on it's exterior, but deep down inside, it's a dark, quite depressing story of events the main character seems to have very little control over. However, really, for every depressing moment in the game, there's a heart-warming piece to pick up the mood somewhere later down the road. I actually consider the game to be my favourite video game of all time, if that says anything. It is very, very good.

And so, once more into the review abyss; Another Code follows the story of Ashley Robins, a 14 year old girl. She is on a boat destined for a long-deserted piece of land called Blood Edward Island, rumours of strange deaths have surrounded the island for decades and no-one has visited in just as long. Ashley and her Aunt; Jessica are to meet Ashley's long-thought-dead father on the island. However, upon making land-fall, they realise something is amiss, Ashley's father; Richard, doesn't meet them as they arrive and soon after looking for him, Ashley's aunt Jessica vanishes. It's up to Ashley to find them and settle a disturbing memory which has haunted Ashley for 11 years...

I also believe this was CiNG pre-empting the iPad. Just saying.
That's probably the best I can summarise the story for you without blowing everything. For an adventure game; Another Code is cripplingly short. 5 hours is the typical 80% completion/first run time for the game. It's significantly less on subsequent play-thoughs. But don't stick your nose up at this, the game packs an awful lot of punch in those 5 hours. If you're the kind of gamer who likes to pick up and put down handheld games as-and-when, you'll find Another Code akin to your play style. It's short game time makes the story compact, you can save when and where-ever during the game and even within the course of a 10-15 minute play, you'll have at least one puzzle to solve or story to sink your teeth into. 'Very little down-time' is how I would describe it.

The game is shown to you from the top-down perspective. You control Ashley and move around the game world either by touching the screen with your stylus or using the D-Pad. You'll often encounter scenery which you can interact with by getting close enough to it and hitting the "Search" icon in the top-right-hand corner of the screen or press the A button near it. From here, you control a pointer around the screen like old-school point-and-click adventure games. Here you can find items or interact with objects and start puzzles. When you enter puzzles, you must use your wits and the capabilities of the DS to solve the puzzle at hand.

I think I found a place which matches up 1:1 with what's on the bottom screen as the top. Huzzah!
Puzzles are great gimmicks in the game. Remember that in 2005, all we really had for the DS was Super Mario 64 DS, Sprung (which still is horrible, by the way) and Ridge Racer DS. So suddenly having a game where all the DS' main features are utilised in such an ingenious way was really exciting. It may still be today for those who haven't played the game yet. The game used some pretty out-there puzzle ideas, including one where you had to close the DS completely to stamp paper, one where you had to close the DS' screens just enough to make the top screen reflect into the other screen and made full use of the DS' touch-screen and microphone capabilities. As well as some very clever software-orientated puzzles like taking photographs with the in-game DS (called the DAS. Oh yes, people. CiNG called the DSi back in 2005. Geniuses, I swear.) and super-imposing two images over one-another. Clever stuff.

Visually, the game probably isn't too much to look at. The game may remind veteran point-and-click gamers of Myst, somewhat. As you roam around a real-time 3D environment looking down upon the world, you're sometimes greeted with pre-rendered CGI stills of parts of the game being presented on the top-screen as you move about. This was done to overcome the DS' graphical limitations, especially for release titles. However, the game's art style is pretty inconsistent. Characters are drawn in a very simplistic, somewhat cartoon-ish manner, while the CGI scenes are more realistic. This often leads to confusing conflicts of art-styles, with CGI stills matching inconsistent portrayals of characters in the game. Fortunately, the game does offer up explanation whenever these occur.

Sound-wise, the game is very dramatic. The somewhat moving nature of the game accompanied its ambient sound, haunting melodies and simplistic (but not basic) approach to a game score makes it pull just that little harder on the ol' heart strings. And it works. The game gets to me every time I play it, what with its charming nature. There's no voices in the game, instead each character speaks in bips and bops as text scrolls on-screen, but hey, these are the limitations of the system, especially for first-generation DS titles.

I'll be honest with you. This was the best picture of a 'puzzle' I could find on Official Nintendo sources. I'm sorry I couldn't do better.
So how can I explain Another Code? It's as much a game as it is a novel. It's as much a puzzle game as it is an exploration game. It's a fine balance. The game lays a lot of story on you in a short amount of time and it never gets dull. Puzzles in the game can be an utter breeze or something more notable depending on how good at problem solving you are. The game feels like it falls short in many regards, it's game time being one, the other being an unclear notion of goals in the game. There's two stories running side-by-side in the game, whether you realise it or not and an almost 'hidden' good-ending in the game if you are able to complete both stories, not just the required story-line. The game offers itself up to repeated play-throughs, but I fear many will simply put the game down after the first time. Seriously, if you're playing the game, play it twice, make sure you get everything. It's well worth the investment of your time.

Overall then, I feel my views on the game are skewed. I made that quite clear though when I proclaimed the game to be my favourite video game of all time, topping even greats such as Super Mario World and even this game's Wii sequel; Another Code R. This game, to me, defines the Nintendo DS. Using all but the game's WiFi, it brings together a truly unique game, even if it borrows heavily off an almost-dead genre. It's sad that CiNG has left us now, their talent made beautiful games like this and Hotel Dusk. And for that, I thank you, CiNG. Sure hope you guys are putting your talents to good use somewhere else now.