Review by gbarules2999

Reviewed: 08/09/07

The butler did it!

A fat man walks up to you into a diner and asks you for a bookmark.

No, that’s not a joke at the obese’s expense; it’s merely a scene in Hotel Dusk. And I’m here to say, that fat guy likes to talk. A lot.

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a point-and-click adventure game for the Nintendo DS driven mostly by plot and dialogue. It uses the DS in unique ways to present not only a story-driven game, but an interactive novel--as the back of the box claims. Although a few of the gameplay mechanics and objectives are vague and uninviting, the game has such an amazing presentation and plot that it’s worth picking up for anyone who misses the old days of the graphic adventure.

The game is played from the perspective of Kyle Hyde, a burnt out cop who has picked up the profession of a salesman after he shot his partner. His new job leads him to Hotel Dusk, a roadside stop with a bunch of crazy characters that all have something strange about them you can’t quite tell. There’s a coincidence around every corner, and it brings Kyle closer to what really happened to his lost partner. The plot thickens as the clock gets closer to ten.

The game has a really good plot, and by really good, I mean, it’s the sole reason why this game is in such high regard. Without the story the game would be nothing. It’s told exclusively through character interaction and text, where the silly hold-the-DS-sideways gimmick seems to be pretty neat. Not only is the story well done, but it’s written extremely well, with many speech patterns and saying to keep the well-layered cast handy. Those characters, by the way, just keep talking and talking, revealing interesting personalities and foreshadowing. And it all spirals down into a stunning climax, which is the key to its conspiratorial concept.

The graphics back this up with one amazing style. You put a noir film, a sketchbook, and an anime film into a blender, and what comes out will astound the biggest graphics hound. While it doesn’t always look great, the game just oozes cool. It feels almost like Grim Fandango without those silly puppet models, with a character set made entirely in black and white and a great range of expressions and animations. Other objects, namely the environment, have a realistic quality to them, which makes the sketchy models look even more contrasted.

It’s not all perfect, though. The 3D screen on the left when the player walks through the hotel usually looks pretty boring and drab, and the developers cheated on a lot of effects. The lights the lamps create are transparent “sheets” that look like a mist as the camera moves through them. Just the little things like that are the most notable when the rest of the game has such an amazing look. That aside, I haven’t met a person who has yet to resist Hotel Dusk’s visual appeal.

The gameplay is okay in respect to the rest of the game, however. Usually what happens is a conversation tips you off on what to do next, and you do it, which triggers another conversation. That is basically the game in a nutshell, unless Kyle is sometimes set free to wander aimlessly about Hotel Dusk, where the weakest points of the game lie. The game either has the path set out for the player, or the player has no idea what to do next.

But those are faults with the genre, not the game itself. It is an interactive novel, anyway: you interact but you never actually “play.” Instead of the game telling you that you picked a lock, you do it yourself, which is gratifying but is only a minigame and is nothing that will tide over a gamer. It will intrigue a reader, though, so the lenses that the game is viewed have to be altered slightly. Then it becomes a fun experience.

The music is great, flat out great. It’s moody and atmospheric, but has a sense that it’s always there. It’s hard to forget that the music is on because of how well it handles the tension in the conversation or position at hand. Some of it is really well done, and it stands as one of the great DS soundtracks. Some of the great tunes are the interrogation themes, as well as the soft but dark piano in the menus. The sound effects are nice, like a door sliding or dishes clinking in the background, and they are always context sensitive. Together, the sound really adds a lot to the game, and there’s little reason not to have the sound on.

If only it lasted longer. The game will give any decent player around six to seven hours, and it has very little replay value. It is a book, after all, and if the player were to consider it to a typical mystery novel and you’ll see why there’s little incentive to play it again. There aren’t any unlockables, just the game. At least the game is fun.

Well, that’s all there really is to say about Hotel Dusk. Everything is so cut-and-dried in this game: some things work, other things don’t work so well. But it’s an amazing story, however, and the writing is top-notch. Anybody looking for something a little different for their handhelds will be very pleased; gameplay junkies should look elsewhere.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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