Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (DS) review
"Take the essence of Phoenix Wright (or for those of you who have experience with Japanese games, a so-called "play novel"). Add in backgrounds done by what look like Team Silent during the time they made Silent Hill 1, and some film noir ripoff graphics ala Max Payne. This is what makes up the game called Hotel Dusk - Room 215. In some ways, it's unique and different. In others, it's exceptionally repetitive and boring. "
Take the essence of Phoenix Wright (or for those of you who have experience with Japanese games, a so-called "play novel"). Add in backgrounds done by what look like Team Silent during the time they made Silent Hill 1, and some film noir ripoff graphics ala Max Payne. This is what makes up the game called Hotel Dusk - Room 215. In some ways, it's unique and different. In others, it's exceptionally repetitive and boring.
The first thing most people will notice is the way Hotel Dusk orients itself and your DS. Unlike most DS games, which are played with the DS facing the proper direction (touchscreen and buttons on the bottom, second screen on top), Hotel Dusk is played like a novel, with the DS held sideways. There are different orientations for right or left handed control, selectable when starting a new file. As unique of an effect as this might seem, it's really a novelty that quickly wears off, especially when you realize the several troubles that arise when holding your DS like a book.
First off, there's the issue of accidentally whacking the volume control slider on the bottom. Second, there's the issue of accidentally ejecting your game cartridge/flashcart. If you manage to get past these two things (both of which happened to this reviewer while playing), there's a few other issues that take away from the overall game. The main one is the way the speakers on the DS are set up - they're meant to be positioned correctly when the DS is held properly. The way Hotel Dusk would have you handling your DS, all the sound is on your left (or right, if you're using left-handed control) side. For some people, this might not pose a problem, especially if you realize Hotel Dusk has no sounds or background music of note and should probably be left with the sound off. However, if you leave it on, it can get quite annoying quite fast. The good point of this, however, is showcasing what it was meant to - making it look like characters that are having a dialog are facing each other, the way they would if they were real people having a conversation. The downside is that the text jumps all over the place, making the text hard to read at times, especially when doing the introduction to a new scene (where letters randomly fly in on either side).
Getting past the new forced orientation of your system, there's the horrid graphics to deal with. Hotel Dusk's characters are all done in a sort of wannabe film noir style - black and white, with only the shadows moving. The problem, however, lies not with the noir graphics, but with the horrible backgrounds and world environment. While exploring the game's environment, you have a map of the hotel on the touchscreen and an extremely pixellated 3D render of the area on the other screen. The people look flat, the areas look like they were ripped directly from Silent Hill 1 (which suffered from the same problems, mostly lack of any kind of detail on anything) and whenever you look at an object in detail, it's usually drawn, not rendered in 3D. While it is understandable that the development team for Hotel Dusk had a very limited amount of system power to work with, they could have gone for a much easier route - doing everything in drawn style, the way the Phoenix Wright games are. Yes, if you're shooting for perfect realism it's not exactly the best thing in the world, but it's much better than having a goreless version of the original Silent Hill as your game world.
The storyline could also probably have used some more thinking through. You play as Kyle Hyde, an cop turned salesman staying at the Hotel Dusk while trying to play private eye for his boss, which he apparently does as a side job. During his stay at the Dusk, Kyle goes around and investigates the reason for the sister of his long-dead partner from the force being at the hotel. This turns into the most socially awkward and painful to watch situation you'll have seen since Harry Mason wandering around the town of Silent Hill asking various monsters if they've seen his daughter (short, black hair, just turned seven). Kyle questions every little thing. For instance, a typical dialog consists of Kyle asking the same thing over and over again, usually small things like "So, why was this?" and "Why did you do this?" The dialogs become so long and convoluted you begin forgetting entirely why Kyle is interrogating everyone. One other thing this game's storyline manages to share with Silent Hill - half the doors in the hotel are locked, and never open. On a side note, one might wonder if Kyle Hyde and Harry Mason are related - they seem to say the same inane things when looking at objects that have no relation to their case. Looking at, say, the bed in Kyle's hotel room will net you "This is my bed.". Looking at the phone will net you "This is a phone."
One other thing that needs mentioning is how lame the puzzles are. For instance, in the beginning of the game, Kyle's suitcase is locked. You have to take his suitcase key and open it - but wait, the key breaks in the lock. There is a coathanger in the hotel room, which you get to use TOUCH SCREEN ACTION to bend straight by pressing a few times. You might think that since it's an introductory puzzle, it's going to be easy, but it never gets much harder than this. Also at the end of every "chapter" of the story, Kyle goes psychotic and quizzes the invisible voices in his head about plot events. While amusing to watch, it's not worth the time. Yawn.
Controls in Hotel Dusk leave something major to be desired. As previously stated, you move around the hotel by dragging the stylus on the touchscreen map. However, from there it only gets worse. Examining objects requires that you tap them twice - and doing so can cause extreme frustration, especially if the object you want is small compared to the scenery around it. The best example is early on in the game, where Kyle grabs a paperclip from a hotel brochure lying on the table in his hotel room. You can examine the table for the usual stupid response, but you must click on the brochure, which is lying flat on the table. Yes, you can rotate the view using a slider on the touchscreen, but it really isn't enough, especially when you can't click the damn object no matter what angle you're using.
Music and Sound in Hotel Dusk are about equally offered, which is to say they both blow. The background music is the same repeating elevator music loop, and the small "blip-blip-blip" noise of people talking. Yes, Phoenix Wright had this, but Phoenix Wright did it correctly - the background music was exceptionally good. Hotel Dusk just makes you want to reach for your DS's volume slider and jack it all the way down, then tape it down to ensure you don't bump it back up while playing with the DS in the sideways position.
Overall, Hotel Dusk is nothing special. If you like to read books, go buy a book. It's cheaper than this piece of trash game, and probably has more replay value. If you want a good storyline game, try Phoenix Wright. Don't waste your time, money (or space on your R4) with this game.
Community review by timrod (December 07, 2007)
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