Tracer Download (1996 Puzzle Game)

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Take an interesting plot idea and combine it with a puzzle that requires quick reactions and careful planning and you get something great, right? Well, in the case of Tracer, what you get is something that comes up as being significantly less than the sum of its parts.

The idea of Tracer is that you are a high-paid renegade computer hacker who works in cyberspace. You've taken on a huge new contract only to discover that it's a set-up. Instead of being a normal job, you find that whomever hired you wants you eliminated. To do the job, they've inserted a Tracer virus into cyberspace with you. Now, to get out alive, you need to travel through 50 levels of cyberspace grids with the virus hot on your tail.

To move from place to place, you must create a path using a series of code pieces that you attach end to end by matching up the colors. And you'll need to keep moving, because the Tracer virus starts eating the path behind you from the first moment you start moving. Since you can only hold 10 code pieces at a time, one of your constant priorities is finding additional caches of code pieces, which are located around the grid.

Additionally, you'll find a few useful items like magnetic distortion pads that slow down the virus behind you and zipper pads that allow you to move several spaces at a time and to cross small chasms. The levels become more and more difficult as you progress, some requiring that you find keys to unlock the exit and more.

Sounds great, right? Well, it could be, but it really isn't. There are a number of things that simply don't work in Tracer, or don't work as they should.

For instance, you have a small personal assistant who appears at the start of each level and gives you a heads-up on what to expect. While this assistant was likely supposed to be funny and attitude-filled, it comes off as being annoying and smarmy.

The largest problem comes from the gameplay itself. Many of the higher level puzzles are quite difficult, and feature only one good way through them. But, because of the perspective you have on the game, it's difficult to see where you are supposed to go and what you are supposed to do. A vital piece of the level may be hidden in a remote corner, easily passed over as you run away from the virus.

Worse, there's no indication of where you may have messed up when you lose a level. This makes solving some of the higher levels very frustrating, since it's a trial and error process of discovering the path through, and very little to guide you as to where you were right and where you made a mistake.

In-game, the graphics are decent but not spectactular. The cyberspace world of Tracer looks like a high-tech kids' cartoon. The cinematics at the beginning of the game are extremely grainy and hard to watch. While the music in the game is pretty good and never gets annoying, but other sounds aren't memorable, with one exception--your personal assistant.

Ultimately, Tracer is a great idea that simply didn't pan out. It's fun for a few minutes and frustrating beyond that. Too bad, really.

Graphics: The graphics are fine in-game, but the cinematics are grainy and almost amateurish.

Sound: Music, good. Computerized assistant, bad!

Enjoyment: Great for a few minutes, but ultimately frustrating and unsatisfying.

Replay Value: If you manage to get through the game, you'll stop playing.


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