Review by Cooper736

Reviewed: 03/16/07

A $30 Novel

Books are wonderful tools that can take you on fantastic adventures through the unknown and the exciting. The DS is the latest in handheld gaming technology, and is great on the go. When I heard that I could buy a DS game with all the properties of a novel, I jumped on the chance. Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a wonderful tale filled with drama, noir, bowling, and apples.

As has already been mentioned, Hotel Dusk plays the role of a novel, and like every novel, it must have a protagonist. That protagonist is Kyle Hyde. Until three years ago (the main story is set in 1979), Hyde was a cop working for LAPD with his partner Bradley, who was working undercover in a crime syndicate, until he turned rouge and sold out his fellow officers. After tracking him down, Hyde lost his temper and shot Bradley, who fell into a nearby river. Hyde took the heat and hung up his badge, though he didn’t believe Bradley was dead. He swore he’d find his missing partner. Three years later, Hyde is a traveling salesman for Red Crown, which has a side business of tracking lost items. His work has sent him to Hotel Dusk. As Hyde walks through the doors, he gets the feeling he’s going to learn a lot more about Bradley than he thought.

Why is Hyde even at Hotel Dusk, you ask? He has been given the assignment to locate two missing items. Though he finds them early on, he’s paid for a full night in Room 215, and he wants his money’s worth. So while he’s there, he figures he’ll talk to some people, maybe put the detective’s hat back on again. But as the story unfolds, you’ll find yourself trapped in a web of lies, deceit, and murder, all surrounding Kyle’s search for Bradley.

The story is fantastic in my opinion. Although it starts out slow, the cast of characters you’ll soon meet enhance your journey through the game. The story takes many unexpected twists and turns, and surprisingly everything seems to tie into Hyde’s personal quest. My only problem with the story aspect of Hotel Dusk is that it is too much of a story. There’s very little room for variation, and you’ll find that more often than naught the game will tell you exactly where to go and how to get there, with minimal effort on your part.

Hotel Dusk takes full advantage of the dual screen system, though you’ll only be playing on the bottom, or should I say the right. When playing, you must treat the game as a book, and you’ll hold it as such: on its side. The left screen is used for displaying either what Kyle sees as he walks through the hotel or what he is thinking as he talks to the other guests. The way the game plays is like a detective story (makes sense): you’ll be given a clue or story to follow up on, and using the various tools at your disposal, you must find a way to do so. Many times you’ll have to double-back and retrace your steps to find the necessary item to progress through the story. Story progression is easy enough: upon understanding (completing) one aspect of the story, something else will pop up based on what you just found out.

The right side of the screen is how you move and talk. Hotel Dusk must be played entirely with the stylus. The control pad can be used to scroll through text, but the stylus is used for walking, checking things out, talking, and accessing your notebook. The stylus is also used for playing minigames, of which there are many, ranging from simply turning a key in a lock to solving logic problems. I found this to be quite enjoyable, though many of these little interactive quirks were very short-lived. How disappointing....

Pointing and clicking: how this game functions. The biggest use of the stylus and the way to initiate conversations and minigames, ultimately making your way through the game, is examining objects in the hotel. Upon tapping an object, you will zoom in on it and the area surrounding it. At this point, there are several options available to you, such as making notes in your journal, using an item from your bag (which initiates a minigame when the appropriate item is used), or further examination, which gives you a detailed and often humorous explanation of what the item is. Sometimes you can also pick the item up for later use.

The graphics in this game are phenomenal. Due to the fact that there are no battle sequences or explosions to animate, the designers were able to focus on picture quality. Hotel scenery in completely pixelated, and characters are hand-drawn, with several facial expressions, ranging from serious to happy to amused. I found it intriguing and a breath of fresh air from the sprite animation of other games I’ve played recently.

The sounds of Hotel Dusk can do a lot of things, from making you rock back and forth to the rhythm to catching you up in the drama of the moment. Much of the walking and talking will sound like elevator music, as most of it isn’t very important to the story. But usually you can tell an important or dramatic moment from the mood change. The sound department obviously took some inspiration from old private eye movies. The other sounds of Hotel Dusk are excellent, as doorknobs sound like doorknobs and locks turning sound like locks turning. However, I feel the sound team went overboard with the touch perception. Whenever you touch an icon or item, it pings. It’s really annoying after a while, and what makes it worse is that background music stops when you’re examining something.

Hotel Dusk is relatively short (I beat it in about 13 hours), but to me, it seemed long and involved. The replayability appeal of the game will really only grip you if you re-read books you like, and after all, Hotel Dusk is a novel to be read over and over again. I haven’t replayed the game (though I intend to), but it does recognize that you’ve cleared it. I’m not sure how this affects gameplay at later times.

Final Recommendations:

Hotel Dusk is a fantastic game, albeit rigid. You can have a lot of fun with the game, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading. Or books. Or the English language in general.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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