Made by the same developers as the hit DS game Hotel Dusk Room 215 and Trace Memory/Another Code – Cing – hopes were certainly high for this one. Unfortunately, Cing had hit hard times by this point and then went out of business very soon after, leaving Again feeling constrained compared to their previous titles. While I can’t say it’s an amazing hidden gem, there are some good points that make it worth looking at if you’re a fan. Note that I do say that as a really big fan of the (former) company.
The game’s plot centers around an FBI agent named J who has a special psychic ability that allows him to see into the past. Using this ability he and his partner, Kate, work on trying to solve a serial murder case that appears to be the work of the same killer that operated 19 years prior simply called “Providence.”
Again is played with the DS on it’s side and is split up into 2D animated, text-based sections and 3D exploration segments, much like Hotel Dusk. The 3D sections are where you go to crime scenes and look for clues as well as using your “past vision” on them to uncover more information. Unfortunately this can be a bit of a vague hunt at times; Again tends to be a little vague about what you’re supposed to be looking for.
Walking around is also a little clunky as everything is from a first-person view but you can’t see yourself. You’ll find yourself walking into things fairly regularly. Thankfully it doesn’t really punish you for doing so, there’s no pauses or getting stuck, but it doesn’t feel very natural. Hotel Dusk was almost exactly the same so it wasn’t that out of the ordinary, I just wish that Cing had been able to refine it a little more.
The 2D sections are interesting to look at as the characters are all real people (models I assume) but the images are altered to have a vaguely rotoscoped look to them. It’s certainly jarring when compared to Cing’s other titles but it is actually not that unusual for Japan; there are numerous games of this type that use real people as sprites. As a rare example of this little sort-of-sub-genre being localized in English, it may be worth checking out for that reason alone.
There are a few things you can do when in the 2D sections, which include talking to people, travelling between locations, using your phone, saving/loading and looking at all of the information you have gathered so far. Talking is the action that will happen the most next to travelling and this is done through text. Whenever you speak with someone, their portrait will show on one screen and a few dialogue options will appear on the next with dialogue being unlocked as you progress.
This is where the game takes the biggest hit: the writing is fairly bland. While the characters aren’t bad, they often don’t have anything interesting to say. One of the reasons Hotel Dusk and it’s sequel, Last Window, were so popular was the fun dialogue and Again has a serious lack of it. It’s not absolutely boring but it could have been spiced up. With some re-tooling, this game could have been so much more writing-wise. It’s a little difficult to know for certain but considering the release dates, it seems like the money really went into Last Window and Again was a bit neglected.
Travelling is easy as you just have to open up the map screen and select where you want to go. The only time this gets a little annoying is when you’re unsure of where to go next. While it didn’t happen that many times, there were a couple instances where I had missed a clue at a crime scene, ran out of dialogue options with all the characters and then had to really puzzle over what I was supposed to do next.
In the end this is certainly not Cing’s strongest title but I did enjoy my time with it despite some of the frustrations. I did want to know who the murderer was and why J had these strange powers. The plot kept me going despite the writing not being that interesting and the game being a bit clunky. I’d say give it a shot if you’re a fan of Cing or mysteries. It’s dirt cheap wherever you can find it so why not?
Well that’s one of Cing’s very last games, raptors. If you’ve played the game, what are your thoughts on it? Do you miss Cing like I do?
(Note: As you may have noticed, this column has been reduced to bi-weekly. It will remain that way until I’ve caught up with a bunch of work and then it will go back to being weekly. Sorry for the inconvenience.)