Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (DS) review
"Point and click adventures have arguably been in a declines in recent years of gaming. Another gem that certainly hasn’t been explored enough in games would be the film noir style of story telling. Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a game that brings both aspects together, in a game that makes full use of the DS’ touch screen capabilities. For those who have ever heard the classic Eagle’s song “Hotel California”, you’ll find many interesting parallels between the song and this game. "
Point and click adventures have arguably been in a declines in recent years of gaming. Another gem that certainly hasn’t been explored enough in games would be the film noir style of story telling. Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a game that brings both aspects together, in a game that makes full use of the DS’ touch screen capabilities. For those who have ever heard the classic Eagle’s song “Hotel California”, you’ll find many interesting parallels between the song and this game.
“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night”
Hotel Dusk follows of the story of ex-N.Y.P.D detective Kyle Hyde, who turned in his gun and badge three years ago. Hyde quit his job after shooting his partner, Brian Bradley, who had betrayed him. After a brief confrontation at the city docks, Hyde fires his gun, and Bradley disappears into the dark water. His body was never found.
Three years later, a burnt out and disillusioned Hyde is working for a California sales company known as Red Crown. Red Crown was a company founded by Ed Vincent, an old family friend. Hyde’s job is to sell household goods across the state, and occasionally helps Vincent in his side business, which consists of locating and acquiring certain objects for clients who contact Vincent. Hyde believes that Bradley isn’t dead, and has spent the last three years searching for him. Hyde’s travels bring him to a lonely hotel in the middle of the freeway. As Hyde chats up the other guests and the staff, he realizes that this might be the night that he finally uncovers the truth of what happened to Bradley. As he investigates late into the night, he unfolds a tale much greater than Bradley or himself.
“Welcome to the Hotel Dusk
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel Dusk
Any time of year, you can find it here”
Perhaps what makes Hotel Dusk: Room 215 unique is the fact that the player has to hold the DS like a book, as opposed to how the DS is held normally, in a horizontal position. As stated earlier, Hotel Dusk is a point and click adventure. Hyde is moved around with either the directional pad or by holding the stylus down on the map where the player wishes Hyde to walk. Whenever Hyde has to move about, the DS’ two screens offer different perspectives of the same area. One screen shows the “top down” map of the area, while the other shows the room from Hyde’s perspective. While in this mode, there are a few basic actions Hyde can perform. When near an object, door or fixture, Hyde can go in for a closer look. This will allow players to search the object or area in question, and allows them to look at the objects from different angles by moving a slider on the bottom of the screen. Almost every single object in the game can be examined, and although it becomes obvious that most objects aren’t worth looking at a few hours into play, Cing was clever enough to write several different lines of dialogue for most objects in the game, most of them worth wasting time looking at because of Hyde’s sarcastic personality. Several of the comments are bound to make the player smirk, if not downright laugh out loud.
While exploring, Hyde can also enter “conversation mode” when he is near other characters. This brings the player to the conversation screen, where Hyde usually stands on one screen, while the character in question stands in the other. In some conversations, Hyde must choose what to say next to continue the conversation, and this will usually slide onto the screen and allows players to point at the one they would like to say. Two other less used, but no less important features are the notebook and the inventory options. The notebook is where Hyde’s thoughts are collected. At any given time, Hyde can open his notebook and use the stylus to jot down notes on. On several occasions, another character will write in the notebook, and Hyde will have to check it in order to continue the conversation or line of questions. The inventory shows what Hyde currently has on his person, and this often provides clues as to what items needs to be used next.
Hotel Dusk is split into ten chapters. Most of the chapters involve Hyde setting goals for the allotted amount of time. Time will not move until the player has completed what Hyde has set out to do. More often then not, another character will interrupt, and Hyde must unveil yet another layer of the mystery. The basis of this often involves running errands, questioning other characters, and gathering evidence. Most chapters end with Hyde confronting a certain character, and learning most of their back story. This is one of the few moments in the game where Hyde is at risk. If he asks too many of the wrong questions, Hyde risks never finding out the truth or being kicked out of the hotel. Either way, the player must tread more carefully during these segments as opposed to the rest of the game.
As Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a DS title, most people don’t boot up the game hoping for high definition visuals. In fact, Dusk didn’t even bother trying to look good. Instead, the characters in the game are all sketched and animated. The environments look mostly hand drawn, although they lack the cell shaded vibe of most hand drawn environments. Colors play a large role in the visual understanding of Hotel Dusk, as it does in many film noir movies. Characters that Hyde react favorably to are shaded in color, while characters that Hyde is neutral about, or doesn’t care for are black and white. If Hyde says something that offends a character during a conversation, a streak of red will go down their body to indicate that the wrong question was chosen. Although the backgrounds aren’t stunning, they are more then enough to serve their purpose. The largest graphical flaw however, was that characters in Hyde’s first person view, while exploring, look terrible. Although the characters are detailed and fantastically animated in conversation mode, if Hyde passes a character in the hallway while exploring, it would appear that a cardboard cutout of the person had been superimposed onto the image.
The audio is where Hotel Dusk: Room 215 really dropped the ball. Although there are one or two stellar tracks in the soundtrack, most of the music is not only boring, it will actually make players stop wanting to go into certain areas due to the fact that it has terrible background music. Dusk is a game that makes people feel like they are infinitely stuck in an elevator with boring music. Although most of the sound effects are up to par, most aren’t that memorable, and the sound of Hotel Dusk in general feels…boring. While Dusk features an amount of character dialogue on par with the Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy series, it lacks one very important thing. There is no dialogue at all. This makes playing Dusk more like reading a Tom Clancy novel more than playing a game, although those who enjoy mystery novels and the like won’t mind reading it all, most other people would probably prefer to have at least a few voice overs.
“You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!”
Hotel Dusk: Room 215, like a mystery novel, only holds the same amount of suspense the first time through. Subsequent playthrough are bound to be much more boring due to the confession marathons that the characters like to go through. With very little new content other than a few additional scenes and some of the puzzles being different, Hotel Dusk: Room 215 doesn’t offer enough incentive for most people to play through again.
So how does this case end? With an excellent story, innovative gameplay and engaging characters, Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a thoroughly engaging game that makes it hard to put down. Despite minor graphical issues and a horrendous soundtrack, Hotel Dusk is a game that any DS owner should try.
Community review by Probester (October 25, 2008)
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