Hotel Dusk: Room 215 DS Review
I have never being a huge book fan. At most I read a few books a year and frustratingly I gave up on great deal of them after a few paragraphs… they are just not my thing. The DS however seems to want to change that – it wants to make me read and have fun doing it! The DS’ latest attempt to work the ol’ grey matter in turn is the subject of this review: Hotel Dusk: Room 215. Now read on…
But Today There Is No Day or Night
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (which shall from now on shall be called just Hotel Dusk – I hate writing as well, apparently) is set in beautiful 1979 Los Angeles. In the game you play the role of an alcoholic ex-cop called Kyle Hyde, who now – rather boringly – has taken up the position of a salesman. The game starts off with Kyle trying to track down a missing friend but as you would expect it evolves beyond this very quickly as you happen upon a hotel.
Once in the hotel the game plot starts to take off – although at a very slow pace. The main points the game focuses on are puzzle solving, character interaction, and well thought out character development. In fact the game develops the characters so well; adding layer upon layer of info as you work though the game that by the time you reach the end you will know them all extremely well and remember them fondly after playing. Puzzles are the game’s next big plus point as most of them are well thought out and thanks to the DS the inputs remain instinctive throughout the length of the game.
Today There Is No Dark or Light
The way the game controls is also very intuitive with the touch screen relied on highly for almost 95% of the inputs. You can use the stylus on a map on the touch screen to drag around an arrow which represents Kyle then glance over at the other screen to get a first person view of what Kyle sees. If Kyle then happens upon something important an icon will appear showing you can interact with it and you press it either look for clue, enter numbers or if it’s a door just open it. Another aspect of the game that I liked was how you use the items. Instead of the stylus representing an item you choose, the item actually appears on screen for you to move around with the stylus to perform the action. This is only a small change from the norm but also a very important one that infinity adds to the game’s appeal. On top of that there is the addition to use an in-game notebook to write down clues you may think will be helpful later on being another minute yet hugely immersive feature and one of those little touches that really make the game.
The game has its problems though – the big one is that some of the dialog is an absolute chore to read through and due to the game having a hell of a lot of it: 5+ minutes at a time. There are times when you do get bored. Next is that some of the puzzles mentioned above don’t seem to work well with more than a few having very illogical explanations that you seem to just stumble upon rather than solving. It should be noted though that most puzzles are of a good quality with only a few resulting in said inconsistencies. In fact a few of the puzzles are the greatest seen since you said “I wonder will this torch burn that spiders web” in the opening level of Ocarina of Time. The final niggle is the way you have to hold the DS which is an annoyance in two ways. 1) It tires your hand much quicker having support the DS’ weight vertically 2) It will get you loads of weird looks on a train or bus should you choose to do you handheld gaming on the move. Thankfully these criticisms do little to ruin the fun of the game and depending on your threshold for irritation may not even seem like that big of problems at all.
Today There Is No Black or White
Graphically the game supports a highly unique style that proves you really don’t need countless polygons to make something eye-catching. All the environments on show are full colour and at times 3D, but all of the characters in the game resemble 2D pencils drawings. All of the drawings have some small animations that make them look like they are moving rather than just placed in front of the environments. This is a truly one of a kind look, but thankfully does not come across as gimmicky and suits the noir style of the game down to the ground. Audio however is less impressive. Firstly I believe there is absolutely no spoken words in the game… not one grunt, erm, yay, boo, or umm is uttered at all; everything is text-based meaning you have to read everything you see on screen if you want to keep up do date with what’s going on as there are no other audio hints to signal emotions. Music however is more captivating with many jazz tunes accompanying the action. The music also remains very low-key throughout the game and never overtakes the action on screen and also suits the game style very well.
Only Shades of Grey
Overall Hotel Dusk is a very entertaining albeit slightly disappointing game. It shows a lot of promise as you play through, but never really evolves beyond that to become truly fantastic. It is also EXTREMLY slow paced which can be off-putting if you are the kind of gamer that loves an AK-47 strapped to your shoulder in every game you play. Nevertheless the game is fun as well as massively unique to play and even after you’re done with a section you will always want to play a bit more even if it means the clock creeping even further into the AM hours… which to me is truly a sign of a great game.
So if you are the kind of person that loves to just read the end of reviews as you can’t be arsed to read some random guy’s ramblings then I will try to condense all the above words down to their simplest form. If you loved Phoenix Wright or Another Code (Trace Memory), you will no doubt love this. However if you are a long time point and click fan and want some more comparisons, then when compared to the likes of Secret of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango, Hotel Dusk comes up short and in the long run will be nowhere near as memorable as those genre greats. It is however still memorable in its own unique way.
Point-and-click is alive and well… even though it may as well now be called touch ‘n tap.