T (Teen)Release Dated:
January 22, 2007Written By:
Daniel SimsScreenshots: LinkAmazon: BUY NOW!
Point & click style adventure games, especially outside of PC gaming, are pretty few and far between these days. So when one shows up on a platform like the DS, better yet, one that does the genre justice, you'd think it would draw some notice.
Hotel Dusk Room 215 from Cing (Trace Memory), a perfectly well-written piece of an almost bygone way of game design with solid mechanics built on clever use of the DS hardware would seem like a fitting title to promote Nintendo's commitment to traveling in new directions with their software. But instead it's taken the hardcore community to bring this work the attention it probably deserves.
Whereas the enjoyment of most games is based on the simple ludic experience of playing while narrative is usually represented by little more than a simple scenario to provide a contextual foundation for the gameplay, classic-style adventures are some of the only games where the narrative is the gameplay.
Set in the Midwest at the end of the 1970s, Hotel Dusk is the story of former NYPD detective Kyle Hyde, who stops at a hotel out in the middle of nowhere called Hotel Dusk on what starts out as a benign sales job, but ends up turning into an elaborate mystery that players must unravel by exploring the hotel and interacting with its other guests.
The tools with which players will investigate it are what make Hotel Dusk such a great DS game. While playing the game the DS is held sideways like a book (similar to Brain Age) and is operated entirely by touchscreen, allowing players to move by dragging around a cursor on the touchscreen and using icons on the touchscreen for functions like opening doors and talking to people instead of trying to teach players an entire button layout, so practically anyone who was able to enjoy the aforementioned book-style DS game or has any interest in reading can potentially enjoy this game.
Hotel Dusk also has a nifty interface that allows players to investigate areas in full 3D by simply "looking around" them and gives players a notebook in which they can write down their own notes, kinda like the reminder notebook from Shenmue except itís actually your book now instead of a reminder tool of the game.
Although the entire game takes place within the confines of a single small hotel, Dusk has a way of getting players to investigate every single inch of it. The mark of a failed point & click adventure game is when playing is simply reduced to randomly searching a static screen in order to find the next important item that you can interact with. Hotel Dusk on the other hand succeeds in making everything on the premises feel tangible. Everything can be either examined or interacted with on some level and every individual item will get a different reaction from Kyle, thus encouraging players to thoroughly think through and examine everything they encounter, similar to how a detective would leave no item unchecked.
The other big part of Hotel Dusks' intellectual challenge for players is interacting with its characters. The hotel's staff as well as the several other people staying there each has their own past filled with their own secrets, secrets that Kyle will have to uncover if he is to unravel the mystery that he pursues. The main procedure of the game mostly involves Kyle finding clues by either investigating the hotel or talking to the others there, clues that will usually point directly towards one of the game's characters whom Kyle will eventually have to interrogate one by one.
Doing this involves selecting questions to ask each person based on the information you currently possess. Asking the right questions will get you your answers faster, asking the wrong ones will cause Kyle to lose his only chance of finding what he wants or simply being forced to leave the premises. The interrogation mechanic in this game works very well mostly due to the game's writing.
First of all, unlike other games that allow you to dynamically talk to people (like Knights of the Old Republic) where responses are mostly black and white, properly probing for information from people in Hotel Dusk requires from the player a good idea of how to treat each person given the current situation, and the game's story does a good job of subtly suggesting what kind of attitude players should have when talking to each person. Whether a character is probably lying to Kyle or they are guilty or innocent of something, Dusk's narrative is written well enough to let you know that and allow you to act accordingly without blatantly saying "hey! I bet he's lying!"
Eventually after enough Q&A each character usually spills to Kyle everything they know, whether that is their reason for being at the hotel, their entire life story, or both. What's so interesting about the inhabitants of Hotel Dusk is that each of their stories is connected somehow either to the hotel, the stories of other characters, or even to Kyle himself, which succeeds in keeping players guessing about the storyline through much of the game.
Dialogue and localization here are both top notch. It never feels cheesy and it never feels contrived, painting a cast of believable characters. Kyle Hyde himself is made to have a certain cynicism to his character that proves to be one of the more entertaining parts of Hotel Dusk.
In addition to the character interactions and the investigative elements involved in the game, Hotel Dusk also has you go through some seriously clever puzzles that make some pretty interesting use of the DS's capabilities. These puzzles range from simple piece puzzles to some rather advanced use of the touch screen, requiring some thinking as well as delicate use of the stylus.
Probably one of the most striking elements of Hotel Dusk is its visual design. The most noticeable thing about the game when it's first booted up in fact is how the characters are depicted in cutscenes and during dialogue with a sort of sketchy, hand-drawn art style that lies somewhere between comic book and photo-real. Even better his how well the art style complements the gameís graphics engine to make 3D environments that are more detailed than in probably any other DS game.
If Hotel Dusk has any flaws to it, they are mostly minor, such as the game's somewhat campy music score and the inability to speed up the mountains of text that youíll be reading, but given everything else that the game does right, these things are easy to overlook.
The only thing that could really be any detriment to Hotel Duskís standing is the fact that for everything said above, the whole experience really resembles an interactive novel more than it does an actual videogame. Pretty much all of the game's challenge is placed in solving puzzles and not saying anything that will get you game over. Hotel Dusk does an excellent job of leading you through all these things, but they are all played out in an incredibly linear fashion.
If different dialogue choices or being a different places in the hotel at different times had led to branching story paths, or if inappropriate dialogue choices made the game more difficult later on instead of just ending the game outright, Hotel Dusk could've probably been a truly great game. There are several different endings in Hotel Dusk (possibly as many as a dozen in fact), but the choices made during the game that make the difference between these endings are so subtle that no one has even yet determined exactly how many endings there are, or even how to get each one. The lack of what could've made it an excellent game however still don't hold back Hotel Dusk from being a piece of work that those interested in something different on the DS should give a look.
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