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Trace Effects


A time-traveling adventure that teaches English as a second language.




Trace Effects is an open-world adventure game that aims to teach American English as a second language. Players take the role of Trace, a university student who, after accidentally time traveling to the present, is trying to return to the year 2035. His trip, divided into seven chapters, takes him across the United States to places such as New Orleans, the Grand Canyon, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

The player walks around conversing with other characters to gather information, collect items and complete quests. Dialogue is simple and clean, and characters speak clearly. Players literally pick up vocabulary as they go — words, as well as items, are scattered across the environment for players to find. To put new vocabulary into practice, players use verbs and items from their inventory to fill in blanks and make short phrases (i.e., “show” the “student ID”), which carry out actions that allow them to progress through quests.

Helpful features for English-language learners include dialogue logs for reviewing previous conversations and the ability to replay audio from spoken lines. The game’s link to Merriam-Webster’s American English dictionary was broken during our play-through, so players will have to look up the definitions of words outside of the game. Designed for students 12 to 16 years old, Trace Effects also comes with a teacher’s manual and 28 practice activities to review grammar and vocabulary. It also has four multiplayer language games.

U.S. State Department