Another Code for the DS has been perched quietly on shelves around the country for a little while now, minding its own business and generally not making too much of a fuss about itself, which is a bit of a shame really. Having finally managed to wrestle it out of the groaning pile of games in the office, currently threatening to topple over and crush anyone flat should they create too much of a breeze as they saunter passed, it turns out Nintendo has yet another understated little gem for its increasingly quirky handheld.
Harking back to the LucasArts-dominated adventure game days of yore, Another Code is a delightful, if fleeting take on the traditional point-and-click genre. Playing as fop-haired female protagonist Ashley, you arrive on the ominous-sounding Blood Edward Island on the eve of your fourteenth birthday, having received a strange message from your apparently-not-quite-as-dead-as-you-thought father. As your quest to uncover the truth of his whereabouts gets under way, so begins an adventure rife with all the exploring, puzzling and item-scavenging you could ever hope to wave a three-inch stylus at.
Developer CING has clearly embraced the numerous unique possibilities offered up by the DS and created a fantastically slick interface, making participation in the unfolding mystery an absolutely effortless joy. You'll guide Ashley around the island using the fully 3D overhead view that appears in the bottom screen - simply point her in the direction you want her to walk, and off she trots. The top screen offers a Myst-like pre-rendered view of your surroundings, which changes to highlight key areas of interest as you navigate the environments. If anything looks like it warrants further investigation, you simply tap the magnifying icon to bring the scene to the lower screen then explore it using your stylus.
Often, you'll stumble across abandoned notes or helpful clues that go some way to furthering the story. Occasionally however, you'll be given the opportunity to talk to one of the island's few inhabitants or solve a relatively straightforward puzzle. Conversations are simply a matter of initiating banter then selecting one of several different topic threads as they're revealed over the course of a character's ramblings. While your selection won't alter the outcome of the conversation, it does serve to break up what would otherwise be a mammoth slog of textual outpouring.
Puzzles are a little more complex and varied - you'll use the stylus to drag, twist, poke and otherwise molest various items you find along your journey. While Another Code's brain-twisters aren't likely to tax adventure gaming stalwarts for too long, they're involved enough to offer up that all-important satisfaction factor upon completion. What's more, while it's fair to say that puzzles aren't always especially innovative for the genre - you'll come across ye olde sliding square puzzle early on and reassemble more than your fair share of paper scraps - the uniquely hands-on way in which you use the touchscreen to interact with them more than makes up for any originality shortcomings.
Having said that, Another Code does occasionally throw up some genuine creativity in its puzzle design - at several points you're asked to take photos, overlay them and fiddle around with the semi-transparent images until they combine to unleash some handy scrap of information, such as a code number. Furthermore, there's at least one puzzle which uses the DS's not-so-obvious features in such a mind-bogglingly clever way that it's likely to stump you for ages before sending you reeling with it's utterly unexpected ingenuity.