Unless your game has depth, putting the word "hollow" in its title is a bad idea.
Time Hollow, available for the Nintendo DS, is a point and click adventure where you use a magic pen to fix the past. While a neat concept, publisher Konami mishandles it with linear play and lots of random poking. That makes enjoying the story rather difficult.
In the game, you play as Ethan Kairos, an inquisitive young lad that suffers a horrible nightmare on the eve of his 17th birthday. Upon waking, he makes a puzzling discovery: his parents are gone, his room has changed and he lives with his shady uncle Derek. In addition, he comes across a hollow pen, a magical item that enables him to open portals through time by tracing circles within his environment.
Although we expected Time Hollow's story to be stereotypical Japanese fare, Konami surprised us with an intriguing narrative with plenty of twists, turns and mature themes. Dialogue is well written, and the anime cut scenes are low resolution but effectively communicate the goings on. So if anything, the desire to see how things conclude is reason enough to trudge through the game.
That is, if you don't mind the brain-numbing gameplay. Much of what you'll do is search for clues in Ethan's house and around town, and it may take you quite some time before figuring out what to do. Since it's point and click, that means Konami wants you to leave no proverbial stone unturned, even if it means poking every single object in the hopes of triggering something, anything, that'll help you move on. But it's tough, especially the second or third time you absentmindedly tap Ethan's desk or his TV. We get it, Ethan. You don't watch much TV. Shut up.
Over time, Ethan encounters flashbacks, moments frozen in time. You must find the aforementioned clues, visit the location and use the hollow pen to "dig." Doing this allows you to sneak inside the past and alter the present, passing objects back and forth and preventing things from occurring. Fixing one problem, however, usually creates another (Ethan's nemesis also has a hollow pen).
Tracing circles on the touch screen is cool, but it comes with little challenge. Most times, you'll know exactly what you must do in order to advance, which makes it seem like you're just going through the motions instead of genuine puzzle solving.
It's a missed opportunity, because we like the story as well as the sharp and colorful graphics, but hunting for clues had us falling asleep. We understand that point and click is all about sifting through everything, but when you repeatedly click the same object without realizing that you need to do something random to trigger the next event, well, zzzzzzzzzz.
What's Hot: Ethan's hollow pen, engaging story, cool looking graphics and cut scenes.
What's Not: Woefully linear gameplay, lots of random poking, average music.