ReviewsReview: Trails and Traces

Review: Trails and Traces

The Tomb of Thomas Tew

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You’re in trouble, and no-one cares. The police can’t, or won’t, help, and you have nowhere to turn. Who do you call to assist you? A Private Detective that’s who! These specialists make it their business to help you with the most personal of matters. When a family member suddenly disappears with no clue to where they have gone, you are going to need someone with an eye for detail. They won’t stop until all avenues have been exhausted, and they have the answer to your problem. Trails and Traces: The Tomb of Thomas Tew allows you to play the part of a Private Detective. He believes he’s taken on a simple case of a missing person, but he learns there’s more to this than meets the eye. 

Developed by Because Because Games and published by Ratalaika Games, this is an old-school point and click detective game with a supernatural twist. Set in a seedy and grimy city, you will be expected to use your observation skills to gather clues and solve the many problems you encounter. Its simple gameplay and comedy laced one-liners will remind you of the Broken Sword franchise. Its straightforward concept allows you to enjoy the story that unfolds, and focus on the many simple puzzles that prevent you from progressing.

Such beautiful art!

Trails and Traces: The Tomb of Thomas Tew doesn’t reinvent the wheel.

Using a tried and tested method, fans of the genre will feel very comfortable with what is presented. A simple point and click style allows you to focus on many small locations at once. You will need to; look for clues, pick up objects, and combine items to solve the problems in front of you. Talking with the people you encounter helps you to gather information. A good ear and a keen eye will help you move through the puzzles with little issue.

The story revolves around a Private Detective known as James Labbett. He takes on the case of a missing person, but this unexpectedly leads to a new adventure. He must now discover the truth surrounding the pirate Thomas Tew. This historic figure intrigues anyone that reads his mysterious story. Rumours have it, he hid a powerful relic amongst his treasure. Whoever holds this item will be endowed with abilities beyond their wildest dreams. It’s not surprising that this sort of tale attracts some unsavoury characters, so Detective Labbett better be careful as he attempts to solve this case.

The linear approach is frustrating.

Trails and Traces: The Tomb of Thomas Tew insisted on restricting your freedom to explore. This decision was extremely frustrating, as I wanted to venture around the surrounding areas, even if it was an unnecessary waste of time. Because the story focussed solely on the valid locations to move the plot forward, it reduced the difficulty vastly. I would have liked to search each area I saw thoroughly, but the developers prevented you from entering “dead” zones with statements such as “no-one is in there, I don’t need to check it”. That’s fine, but I wanted to see what was hiding behind a closed door, or up those stairs. It made the world feel empty, and a chapter of the story rarely took more than a few minutes to solve.

What I enjoyed was the diversity of the cast, and the many locations you discover. It felt like the plot of an Indiana Jones film, with the core theme being just as insane and unrealistic. You’ll revel in the madness of the world you explore, and the simplicity of the puzzles you solve. This allows you to enjoy the bizarre people you encounter, and their relationships with one another. The story won’t win any awards for its silly ideas, but it was enjoyable for the short time you spend with it.

Being a private detective is dangerous.

Dated graphics and wooden acting.

I didn’t review this expecting triple A graphics or the best audio ever. Yet, even I was surprised by the standard set in Trails and Traces: The Tomb of Thomas Tew. It’s not good, but it’ll make you laugh continuously. I’m not sure this is what the developers wanted, but it’s the result, nonetheless.

A hazy cartoon style is used to depict an earlier era. The pastel colour palette, and retro imagery work well, but give the impression of a lack of polish. It reminded me of an early 90s PC title, that was okay to look at, but nothing more than that. Where it goes downhill drastically is the hilariously bad cutscenes and the animation. The facial details, expressions, and lack of emotion on close ups made me chuckle. If you then chuck in the wooden animation, this is one game that deserves cult status.

Talking about wooden, the acting has to be some of the hammiest, and wooden I’ve ever seen. The attempts at accents and the delivery of lines wouldn’t be amiss in an amateur dramatic society. I particularly enjoyed the quintessential Englishman, but all the characters screamed, look at my stereotypical accent.

The audio and graphical presentation is so bad, that it’s good! Once you recover from laughing, you’ll accept it for what it is, and continue to solve the puzzles in front of you.

What could have happened to his son?

No tutorial = ???

To say I was confused when I started this, is an understatement. Being chucked into the action with no tutorial confused me no end. Though the controls are simple; hold down a button, and choose between looking at, or selecting an object. With no explanation, it took me some time to work out what was required of me. However, once you know what you are doing, it’s as easy as you’d expect it to be.

I really enjoyed my time with this, but it lacks any replay value. Once the case is solved, that’s game over. The achievement list is small and unlocked through natural progression. This guarantees everyone gets the 100% completion. It will take you around two hours to finish and can be played casually. I would have liked more of a challenge, but what I experienced was fun, and worth playing.

Trails and Traces: The Tomb of Thomas Tew is fun, but lacks depth. 

I really enjoyed many elements of Trails and Traces: The Tomb of Thomas Tew, but it lacked challenge and depth. I wanted it to push me more. Because Because Games missed an opportunity to make a tough puzzle game that stayed true to its old-school roots. Its story was absurd, but enjoyable, and the locations and characters were interesting. It’s just a shame its linear approach reduced its difficulty so much that it was a walk in the park. I recommend it, just be aware it’s short, and lacks challenge. Purchase your copy here! Solve the mystery and see what powers this ancient relic holds. 

SUMMARY

Trails and Traces: The Tomb of Thomas Tew is a lighthearted and old-school point and click detective game. With simple puzzles and a linear approach it reduces its difficultly vastly. Boasting an absurd plot, and odd characters, this is a game that will make you smile.

+ An absurd storyline.
+ Old-school mechanics.
+ Interesting characters and locations.
+ Lots of small puzzles.
- Dated graphics.
- Wooden acting.
- It lacks replay value.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.
Daniel Waite
Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I've now found a new home to write my reviews, and get my opinion out to the masses. Still the lead admin for Xboxseriesfans on Facebook and Instagram. I love the gaming world, and writing about it. I can be contacted at [email protected] for gaming reviews.

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