"Interactive Novels" and point-and-click adventure games have been one of my favorite genres past even FPS titles and RPGs since I first played "Law of the West" on my Commodore 64. Snatcher is in my top 5 list of favorite games ever, "Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Serrated Scalpel" is in my top 20, I bought the Police Quest Collection
even though it was a collection of games over a decade old packaged with a free piece of software (DOSBox), and I own the entire "Ace Attorney" series even if Apollo isn't as cool as Phoenix. Now Konami brings over a new interactive novel with time travel and high production values? Squeeeeee.
After seeing a preview for Time Hollow about a year ago I was depressed since it obviously had way too much text and too high of production values (voice acting, music, video) to get a localization. I was wrong, which is awesome.
The premise of the game isn't exactly easy to describe in detail without making it sound profoundly stupid. Ethan (A high school student, because this is a Japanese game) wakes up one day to find that his parents 'disappeared' 12 years ago and he now lives with his uncle...despite the fact he was living with his parents until he went to bed the night before. He finds a pen that lets him make 'holes' in time and change the past and decides to find out what happened to his parents. Paradoxes and other wackiness ensue as the timeline continues to change with or without Ethan's help.
Time Hollow is an interactive novel so for the large part there's a totally linear path to follow to get stuff to happen. You have to go to the right places in the right order, look at the right things, change the right stuff, and have the right things in your inventory to advance. This isn't Phoenix Wright however in that you only have maybe 6-7 places tops you can go that are all interconnected in such a way that you can mash buttons and rapidly advance the story. Moving around until you find the right doodad to click on or the right person to talk to is important but Time Hollow's new wrinkle is that for you to be able to use the pen to mess with the past, you have to know exactly where and when you're looking to change things. Whenever an event changes the time line (regardless if it's Ethan's doing or not), Ethan is jerked into the altered time line and bombarded with 'flashbacks' of memories that aren't his own...yes I know that was in "The Butterfly Effect", shut up. Anyway, these flashbacks are stored in a menu where you can look at them and try to figure out when/where/why they took place. When you piece together the specifics of a flashback via dialogue and investigation they become 'confirmed', and critical flashbacks you 'confirm' let you use your pen at that location to change time.
Changing time is where the DS's stylus finally makes itself more useful than an on-screen cursor. When you're in the right place with a confirmed flashback the pen lights up and you can use it to "dig" into the past. Time freezes and you can draw circles to form 'holes'. The hole shows what was going on in that area at the time of the flashback you're 'digging' to, and you can drag the perspective around a bit to look behind things and take/give items needed to make the desired changes. Only one hole can be open at any time, and closing a hole takes away "energy". So if you open too many holes without finding the right spot you need to change stuff it's game over for no easily discernible reason. I guess the "memories being forced into your brain gives you cerebral hemorrhaging and brain damage" catch from The Butterfly Effect would've been a cooler mechanism for keeping you from dicking around too much in the past, but then this game would probably be MA rated then. Also that movie sucked.
As for the actual plot, it's pretty anime. It's a lot deeper than Phoenix Wright/Apollo Justice to say the least and not stuffed to the brim with goofy dialogue and internet references, which is pretty refreshing in my opinion after seeing a fucking "O RLY" reference in the first case of Apollo Justice.
This is a bit niche to recommend to anyone who doesn't like the genre to be honest. If you enjoyed Hotel Dusk and the Phoenix Wright series and don't mind a more serious, less internet humor story then I say pick it up. Everyone else should probably borrow or get it used if they're intrigued at all.