Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hotel Dusk (DS)

Hotel Dusk is pretty unique. On the surface it seems like an adventure game, but it's both more and less than that. While it has some game elements, it's really more of an interactive novel than anything else.

You play (or more accurate, the story is told from the viewpoint of) Kyle Hyde, an ex-cop who now works as a salesmen and sort of a private detective (specializing in finding lost stuff). His latest case takes him to Hotel Dusk, sort of a run down motel. Little does he realize that there he will confront his past - why he became an ex-cop, although it's pretty obvious to the player (since otherwise you wouldn't be seeing those flashbacks).

The story unfolds over one night there, each chapter being an hour or two of time (though will likely far more to play, at least early on).


Gameplay basically consists of 3 things - wandering around the hotel in a 3d view; doing various sorts of "puzzles" and talking to people. The latter makes up most of game - you talk/listen to (well, read) people a lot.

So, just how much you like to read and just how interesting you find the characters in Hotel Dusk really determines how much you will enjoy this. I found the hotels denizens to be quite interesting for the most part.

Generally speaking, talking to the characters is simple. You basically pick from a list of things to say or ask, and the character responds. Sometimes you can pick from 2 responses asking the same basic thing, but in different tone, one usually being a real jerk, but much of what you ask is simply linear and has to be asked.

Still, I was impressed at the quality of the dialogue in the game. Each character has their own personality and speech patterns that they stick to. While I did spot a few anachorisms (the game is set in 1979), most of the speech is quite accurate.

That personality extends to you as well - you are pretty much stuck playing Kyle Hyde's personality, which can be somewhat limiting. For instance, one of the guests in the hotel is an attractive young lady. I would imagine a lot of guys would want to flirt with her. But Kyle doesn't like her, and pretty much always insults her. At best you can pick the least offensive question/comment.

Most of the puzzles aren't even really puzzles in the adventure game sense. Most of them simply have you doing something easy with the stylus, to get you more involved with the gameplay. Some are extremely annoying in that they require you to hit just the right pixel ("hunt the pixel" it's called in adventure games), but there are only a couple of those.

Really, I think the puzzles are meant to immerse you into the story, not simply be puzzles. Many of them require you mimicking with the DS the sort of actions Kyle does in the game. Some of these are pretty innovative, such as folding the DS up to turn something over or bring the objects on each screen together.

There's not a whole lot of exploring to be done in the 3d view. Basically just 2 floors of the hotel, plus the roof and basement. You can use the d-pad or the stylus, I found both to be somewhat awkward, but mostly used the d-pad. Your view is prety much fixed.


The graphics are quite stylish. Everything has a handdrawn look, especially the characters which look pencil drawn, and rotate through 4-5 different black and white sketches of them. The hotel is a bit more realistic, but still somewhat stylish, just in color. Still, I was somewhat disappointed in the graphics in the 3d view - they look more like something you'd find on the GBA or SNES. The DS isn't a 3D powerhouse, but I don't think it's that bad.

The music is generally nice. Some tunes seem a little out of place, but most is the sort you would expect in a noir-tinged mystery. On the downside, because you play this held sideways, you lose the stereo effect of the music.

Final Thoughts:

I think fans of mystery novels will like this. It's clearly inspired more by popular mystery fiction (and TV shows) like say Perry Mason or Columbo, than the more high brow literary stuff. A lot of people will probably find this boring, because it's more reading than anything else. Adventure game fans will find the puzzles too simple.

But it's something very different and the end result was quite compelling. I'm not sure it's worth the price ($30), but then again, that's about what hardback novels cost. I have had a DS for about 7 months now, and this has been the most fun I've had with it. It's not quite perfect, but I'm giving it an A-, or a 9/10 here. Just be aware, it's not for everyone. However, for people like me (who have read every Perry Mason novel) it's great.