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If you think of Time Hollow as a graphic novel on the DS, it succeeds brilliantly with a top-notch story and memorable characters. As a game though, which is what it’s supposed to be, it fails miserably. You “play” as Ethan Kairos, a boy who wakes up on his 17th birthday to find himself in an alternate reality where his parents disappeared many years previously. Tied to his cat Sox’s collar is a mysterious Hollow Pen that allows Ethan to draw holes in time and alter past events. With the Hollow Pen, he sets about tinkering with the past to restore his life to the happy existence he enjoyed for the first 17 years of his life.
The plot thickens immediately, as Ethan soon discovers he’s not the only one who wields the power of a Hollow Pen, and it seems he has an enemy who’s trying to screw up his past in every way possible. Adding to the mystery is a young girl named Kori who apparently hasn’t aged in over decade; she knows about the pen and Ethan’s flashbacks but appears completely helpless in the crossfire of competing timelines. With her help, Ethan must work to undo the destruction caused by his psychotic nemesis faster than said nemesis can create more trouble.
You can’t just whip out the pen willy-nilly though – first Ethan must have a flashback of a previous event before he can return to that spot and open a hole in time. Even then, you can’t just start poking holes any old place you’ve had a flashback, because the game will only prompt you at specific times, telling you explicitly when you’re supposed to use it and what you’re supposed to do. Using the Hollow Pen is the closest Time Hollow ever comes to actual gameplay, so it’s unfortunate that you don’t really use it much, and when you do it’s always really obvious what you’re supposed to do, so there’s not much of a puzzle element at all.
The problem with the game is that it really isn’t a game at all. We’re not just saying it’s too linear – what little (very little) gameplay you’ll find smattered throughout is completely spoon-fed to you. So if you’re expecting any kind of logic puzzles or clue collecting, forget it. Time Hollow makes Phoenix Wright look like a marvel of interactive technology. Still, if you’re looking for a pleasantly passive DS experience with a great story that’s more akin to reading a graphic novel, Time Hollow is quite enjoyable.
Oct 14, 2008