Time Hollow is a visual novel game by Tenky and Konami for the DS. Like Trace Memory that came before it, this is one of the more obscure games but in Konami’s library. Time Hollow is considered to be a successor of the PS2 game Shadow Of Memories. It is also created by Tenky and it is a time traveling game, with a similar concept and premise.
The story, written by mangaka Takehiko Hata and Tenky developer Junko Kawno is interesting and engaging. The game has up to six chapters including a prologue and epilogue, each with its own unique and strange scenario that mostly takes place in the entirety of one day. Ethan Kairos is the main character of the story. He is the typical teenager who just turned 17 and is a student as Kako High school. On his 17th birthday, he discovers that his parents have mysteriously vanished 12 years ago. Once he wakes up after a bizarre nightmare in cold sweat, he comes across a mysterious pen called the “hollow pen”. The pen which is a Kairos family heirloom allows him to change certain events in the past by opening up portals and rewriting history. Only he really seems know about the truth of what really is happening while everyone else is unaware. He is helped by his childhood friends attending the same high school to solve the mysteries in each chapter.
The gameplay is very simple its mainly a point and click game with a large emphasis on story. The control system is very simple and easy to use and the game is mainly used on the touch screen. Puzzle solving is a key element of the game from choosing the right dialogue to using certain items for whenever you are using the hollow pen.
The Hollow Pen is a mysterious pen that only one person can see and use to manipulate the past to change the present and to a certain extent, the future. With the hollow pen, you are able to change certain events of the story and you can only use it once you have found out the location of where the flashback has taken place, and when you have finally received all of the information beforehand. That is when the hollow pen will start to glow.
You can use a map to travel to any location in the game at any time. The map is clear and concise and it is very simple to use. You can visit up to 10 different locations in the game. Traveling locations in the game is transitions seamlessly without long loading times.
The story is told from a first person perspective and you can slide from left to right on the bottom screen with the D pad or the thumbstick on the 3DS. The top screen shows conversations and cutscenes while the bottom shows your current location. By touching the screen with the stylus, you can interact with the world around, from moving around to interacting with people or objects. Ethan, the main protagonist, always has something to comment about in his inner monologue.
The clockwork art design of the user interface is creative and very easy to use even for newcomers to visual novels. You can be able to find flashbacks and key details from characters, items and story moments with easy straight to the point information.
Throughout the game you explore through different locations gathering information and talking to others to learn more about the events from the past and present in order to solve the mystery of the chapter you are in. With the time hollow pen, you can use the stylus to draw portals in a circular manner to find certain items or clues from the past in areas where flashbacks have taken place in. The hollow pen freezes time while you are digging up portals and once you have found what you are looking for, you can interact with the item from the past. In order to prevent certain things occurring in the past, such as preventing one of your friends from falling down a ladder, you can use a new string on the ladder to make it stable and safe.
Depending on the situation when using the time traveling pen, you have multiple options to look, examine, place an item or even talk to someone in the past. Each situation is different from the other and provides a variety of ways to interact with the world. Drawing a portal uses a small portion Ethan's health and if his health runs out you have to load up to the latest save point. This provides some minor challenges in the game. Finding Ethan’s pet cat Sox in certain locations like outside of the antique shop Aeon will give you greenish orbs called “Chrons” to restore health so this is useful. It can also be used to open more holes in the game as you collect them throughout your mission during the day. After you complete an objective, you must close the portal and this is when the present starts to become very different and things change pretty unexpectedly, either good or bad.
Throughout the game Ethan has multiple flashbacks from key events in each scenario. Each flashback shown has no information behind it initially so Ethan must travel across from area to area talking to characters or visiting the library to learn more about the flashback. If certain flashbacks are not correct, it will repeat itself and you have to reopen the portal again. Once the changes have been rectified, the story will eventually move forward and the changes will be reflected in the current reality of the story.
You can look through each flashback on the menu screen to take a look at the information that you gathered. Once you get all of the information while in the mission, it becomes a confirmed flashback that is now resolved and this will help you along the way in the quest to finding Ethan’s parents.