If I’m going to be honest, I’ve made – much to the chagrin of my long-suffering co-editor – a point of not exactly hiding my vibrant, undying love of Capcom’s Ace Attorney series on the DS. Thus, imagine my ecstasy when Konami announced the release of Time Hollow, which follows the same basic principles of a text adventure game but combines them with a dash of temporal manipulation; the one things that tops courtroom OBJECTIONing in my books. Unfortunately, Time Hollow, while a decent enough game, has some shortcomings which only serve to further illustrate just how clever Capcom was with their series.
The game follows Ethan Kairos, a normal student of your everyday Japanese high school where everyone is a coffee addict and wears and SS uniform. However, on the night of his 17th birthday he suddenly discovers that his doting parents have mysteriously been removed from time itself, and he now lives with his curmudgeonly uncle. Ethan must now use a mysterious family heirloom called the ‘Hollow Pen’ to hop between parallel universes and right the wrongs caused by a shadowy figure who is manipulating the timelines.
It’s a shame, then, that what is in fact an extremely clever premise is somewhat let to go to waste, as the game never fully takes advantage of it. Perhaps due to a somewhat uninspired translation effort, the true ramifications of the proceedings never really seem to sink in for Ethan, who one can only assume has been dosed up in ketamine by his aforementioned uncle. Whilst some rather intriguing ideas are raised (such as whether one specific character is happier in a ‘bad’ universe or not), none are ever explored, and when the antagonist and their motivations are finally unveiled its something of an anticlimax.
What Time Hollow crucially lacks is charm. Perhaps my vision is slightly clouded by Capcom’s efforts and a hazy mist of high expectations, however the game reeks of unfulfilled promises. Nor does it possess the general humour or clever emotional exploitation that Phoenix Wright has been managing for the last few years, instead relying on a tepid plot populated by bland characters and more hand-holding than at Woodstock. Though fundamentally solid, Time Hollow lacks the spark to make it great, and leaves the player upon reaching the game’s conclusion with a cold, lonely feeling in their stomach.