Review by EternalTrance

Reviewed: 01/29/07

A noir sort of game with lots of appeal.

Hotel Dusk: Room 215

Most people were introduced to Hotel Dusk: Room 215 either by the original Japanese trailer or the ads that popped up sporadically about a week before its release. Whatever the case, one of the first questions that everyone blurted out all out once was “What is this?” So what is Hotel Dusk: Room 215?

Simply put, it’s an interactive story. It most closely relates to the last game its creators made: Trace Memory. Like Trace Memory, it is highly dependent on text and solving puzzles. However, much unlike the story of Trace Memory, the lead character this time around is Kyle Hyde, a thirty-three-year-old ex-cop who is looking for his former partner while unraveling the secrets behind the mysterious Hotel Dusk.

So how does the game stack up?

Gameplay: 7/10

One of the first things that the player will be sure to notice is that the DS is held sideways, so that the DS is like a book upon which this novel plays out. The touch screen will act as all the buttons while the other screen will show a background or character.

The touch screen controls are very intuitive: Put the stylus on a spot to make the character move there, touch an object to look at it, click one of the icons on the bottom to open up a menu or interact with a person, or move an object around by touching it.

Throughout the game, the player will be checking objects throughout the hotel. Sometimes these will give Kyle an idea for where he should go next. Sometimes Kyle will pick up the items. Sometimes checking an object will start up a puzzle to be solved (usually by means of the touch screen). Of course, sometimes the objects are just for show and do nothing. This process of looking at stuff and messing with it or getting information from it takes up half of the gameplay.

While the puzzles are usually quite fun, there aren’t very many in the game, and they’re usually simple enough to be solved in under a minute. Looking around the hotel and checking out each and every object can be a tedious task, and often the player will need to spend far too much time simply searching for what they need to do next. This results in a lot of frustration and/or boredom.

The other half of gameplay is making choices. While talking to other characters, sometimes a little yellow triangle will pop up on screen. When the player sees this, he or she can either continue on with the text or tap the triangle. If the player taps the triangle, two more options will appear which will allow the character to squeeze more information out of the character. However, the character has to be careful about what he/she chooses. Making wrong choices may ultimately end up with a certain character disliking Hyde or getting him kicked out of the hotel and resulting in a game over.

Decision-making, however, is often far too simple. Pressing the triangle and grilling the other character is nearly always the best move, and it’s never very hard to tell which option is right (normally you’ll be picking between such obvious choices as “Do I yell at this little girl for standing in my way or ask her why she’s in my way?”).

A few things to note about the controls and gameplay: This game is compatible with the DS’s rumble pak, so if you’re one of the few who bought one, enjoy it. The game has options for both left- and right-handed players, so lefties aren't going to be frustrated. Finally, the player is able to scroll to the next bit of text or move around using the buttons, but the touch screen is necessary for every other action and is far more practical and easy-to-use, so it's hardly worth using anything besides the stylus.

To conclude, the gameplay serves mostly as a means to just get on with the story. Every now and then it has its moments, but the ease or tediousness of it tends to get in the way of making it enjoyable.

Graphics: 10/10

The best part of the game is, hands down, its graphics. This game is one of the most beautiful to grace the DS.

Character portraits are done in black-and-white pencil sketches with a sort of flowing texture that draws the player right in. They’re reminiscent of those lovable noir movies and fit perfectly with the game’s atmosphere.

During certain conversations or scenes of the game, the pictures will take on color and become even more beautiful than they were before. They still retain the same sort of smooth texture found in the pencil sketches through the use of watercolour.

Just take a look at some of the screenshots or trailers for the game and see for yourself. Admittedly, this isn’t going to appeal to some people, but to those who do, this is paradise. And, unlike other games some other DS games that astound with a short burst of great art only to revert back to bland graphics for the rest of the game, these pencil sketches are used every time you talk to a character, so you’re not going to be left wanting.

Sound: 10/10

Much like the graphics, the sound fits right in with the game’s setting and story. The sound effects aren’t the tinny fair you’ll be annoyed with instantly like they are with far too many games. A potted plant crashing to the ground is going to sound like a potted plant crashing to the ground, and not some series of monotonous beeps.

The background music for the game is made up of a bunch of jazzy tunes that are also quite enjoyable rather than irritating. There are a number of tracks, too, so you won’t be stuck listening to the same song over and over again.

Bottom line here: The tunes are relaxing and make the game that much more fun.

Game Length and Replay Value: 7/10
The game will run the average player around 10-20 hours to beat, but leans more heavily toward the 10 hour side. The game’s somewhat short length works fairly well for the game, and it stops the game from continuing on pointlessly and making the adventure far too boring. However, there’s a good portion of the game still between the middle and the end that the player will have to trudge through, so the game could have been a bit shorter still.

And then there’s the question: Would I want to play this again?

The answer is probably no. While there are ways to somewhat alter the ending, the sheer amount of text in the game is going to make most players hesitant to give it another go. It’s a lot like Phoenix Wright in this aspect; once you know the story and figured out all the puzzles, it’s hard to want to go through it again. I suppose there are a group of people who live for replaying games like this, so maybe that’s you. But the average joe is probably going to find it a hassle rather than fun.

Story and Cast: 7/10

The saving grace here is the cast. The characters make the game by being deep, thought out, full of mysteries and secrets, and – most importantly – entertaining. Whether you’re shaking down your pal Louie the bellhop for information or being scolded by the sassy maid Rosa, you’re sure to have good time with these guys.

However, the plot isn’t so great. While the characters are wonderful, the story tying them all together takes a long time to come together. Most of the game, in fact over 2/3 of the game, is spent just setting up the setting and the characters’ backgrounds. When you finally get to the grand finale, the secret behind everything, the pay off isn’t so wonderful. Loose ends and predictability abound while surprises and interesting twists are slow to come and far too rare.

Overall: 8/10

This game is sort of an artsy title, filled with lovely art and jazzy music with that special feeling previously only found in noir fiction and films. Despite the game’s shortcomings, there are a good number of things about this game that I absolutely adored, and I’m sure that the average player will find some enjoyment out of it. Cing had a lot of good ideas here that, should they improve upon them, are sure to make their next game a classic.

Who do I recommend this to? Anyone who liked Trace Memory or Phoenix Wright will probably be the biggest fans, since the game focuses on the same aspects (puzzle and mystery solving) as those titles. Yet, I still think that due to the intuitive play style, any player could enjoy this title.

Is it a rent or a buy? Due to the short length and the lack of replayability, I’d say rent. Unfortunately, this game has proved hard to find for many of those interested in it, so the best advice I can give is just to get it if you can get it.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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