Friday, December 18, 2009

Games You May Have Missed - Hotel Dusk: Room 215

(Read my previous post for a run-down of my reviewing policy.)

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (Published by Nintendo, developed by CING) for the DS is a great title. It's from the same team that brought us Trace Memory (also for the DS), which I also loved. If you've played Trace Memory, this game is much in the same vein, just more complex. Hotel Dusk is a mystery point-and-click adventure game with a deeply involving story and a lot of intriguing character interactions.

It's hard to talk about the story without giving things away, but the basic premise is that you play Kyle Hyde, an ex-detective who has recently taken up "door-to-door salesmanship," although there is more to his occupation than meets the eye. Kyle stops at Hotel Dusk to try and figure out what happened after the mysterious disappearance of his partner, but of course gets himself into a much deeper, twisted web of secrets than he originally intended. At first, the story seems pretty unoriginal, but as the game progresses, it starts to twist and turn in lots of unexpected ways, and the game always leaves you guessing as to what's going to happen in the end. The story wraps up nicely in the last few segments of the game, and brings all of the game's many characters together in a lot of creative ways. The writing in the game is pretty cheesy and dramatic at times, but the game has a strong noir feel to it and is interesting enough to overlook the cliches. The art style in the game is also interesting, and all of the illustrations are detailed and expressive.

The gameplay mechanics of Hotel Dusk are very simple. You hold the DS sideways and drag your stylus around on the touch screen to move and tap to interact with things, while the other screen displays a real-time 3D rendering of what your character is facing. A lot of the game is spent talking to/questioning the many characters that you run across throughout the story, and the rest is spent exploring the hotel for clues and items to help yourself along the way. In a lot of ways, the gameplay feels very similar to an old-school text adventure in the fact that the game is merciless about your failings. There are many situations where simple mistakes such as a single wrong answer, asking questions in the wrong order, or leaving items in the wrong place can cause an immediate game over.

The puzzles in Hotel Dusk stem primarily from finding the right items/being in the right place/interrogating people and uncovering the proper information. There's nothing too brain-busting about it, but there are some very tense sections and a few places where you will probably get stuck for a little while. As a mildly related side note, I highly recommend using the notebook in the game to write down what you are supposed to be doing when you turn the game off, because even coming back to the game after a few days can leave you totally lost about what to do if you forget, as the game doesn't give you any reminders. There are a few occasions in the game where you are not really given clear directions about what to do next, which isn't always a bad thing, but sometimes it leaves you wandering around the hotel for long periods of time, only to accidentally complete a task and then feel stupid because the solution was so obvious. There are a few slow periods in the story, and sometimes the objectives seem to take a little bit longer than they should (as you often have to talk to a series of people and do a chain of very specific things to make the solution even available), but the rest of the story makes up for it.

Overall, Hotel Dusk is a great game for fans of the genre. As a genre, it is very, very slow-paced when compared to other games, and these sorts of games require a good bit of memorization, trial and error, and patience. If you are not looking for these things in your gaming experience, then you should probably steer clear of this one. If you like these sorts of games, however, then Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a solid example of the genre.

Verdict: Buy.

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