Blast from the past: Hotel Dusk (DS) review

Posted at 4:03 a.m. EST

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(Note: In this semi-recurring series, **read: when I don’t have anything new** I share some of my previous work for the websites I have written for in the past. Be that as it may, this doesn’t follow our coming review process. Honestly, I take no responsibility for its quality, as I was young and reckless back then. I was a loose cannon. I was told I was going to get good men killed.)

“It was a dark and gloomy night. I had been sitting at my desk, looking at all of the paper work the chief had thrown on me when the phone rang. As soon as I picked up and heard her voice, the feeling of trouble hit me like that first hard hit of whiskey and burned just as much.”

Although the exact scenario doesn’t occur in the game, Hotel Dusk: Room 215 for the Nintendo DS has that same classic film noir feeling.

The game is set in the year 1979 in a hotel near Los Angeles. You play as a down-and-out former NYPD detective named Kyle Hyde. Although the reasoning behind his early retirement is unclear at the beginning of the game, you do know that your ex-partner, Brian Bradley, has something to do with it.

Since Kyle is no longer on the force, and has to pay the bills, he gets a job as someone who finds misplaced items for clients. He’s sent to this hotel for that very reason. Somewhere along the way, Kyle’s past comes back to haunt him and that’s about when the story kicks in. ‘The basic gameplay for Hotel Dusk is much like Trace Memory, which was also developed by Cing. Unlike Trace Memory, however, the DS is held like a book and the player controls movement in the environment with either the touch screen or the face buttons. The view of the room from Kyle’s eyes are seen on the regular screen while a top-down view of the room is on the touch screen. Interaction with anything in the room is also done on this screen.

The fact you hold the DS like a book in this game fits well because the game is actually broken up into chapters. Much like a gripping novel, each chapter usually ends with some big twist to keep you going on, always wondering what the next occurrence is going to be. Since interaction within the game is integral in the progression of the story, and so you don’t forget anything, there is a mini-quiz at the end of each chapter to make sure you have all of the previous chapter’s events straight. With a game that has such a deep story as this one, it’s almost hard to keep up with everything that’s going on, so this little gameplay feature is very helpful to understand what’s happening.

Seeing as though this is a point and click type of game, there are points in the game that make the player solve some puzzle in order to continue. You can use different methods of solving puzzles by using the touch screen, the microphone and even the closing action of the DS. The developers even added a little notepad feature in the game where you can jot down any clues you may find along the way, which I feel gives a great chance for the player to get immersed into the game.

While still on the subject of puzzles, it’s important to note that Hotel Dusk has a pretty good amount of puzzles in the game. However, some of these can be very difficult to solve without the use of a FAQ. I found myself getting hopelessly lost with some of the obscure tasks the game wanted me to perform and I found myself frustrated at times. With one wrong move it becomes game over and you have to start the puzzle over.

You can also get a game over if your conversation with a fellow hotel patron goes awry. When you make someone either sad or angry at your responses, the person in front of you flashes either red or blue for a second and their facial expressions change just as quickly.

In the area of visuals, for a DS title it’s presented pretty well. At some parts of the game, there are some cut scenes that show up on both screens. The 3D portions of the game, both cinematic and the view of the room from Kyle’s eyes, show up very well on the screen and really show some of the DS’ ability.

The great visuals don’t stop there, either. The entire game is very stylized and it’s been widely compared to the music video for A-Ha’s “Take on Me”. All of the characters look hand-drawn in a sort of black and white sketch look while they’re on a color background. It makes for a great contrast between the characters and the world they’re in.

Personally, the best aspect of Hotel Dusk is its music. Since the game has no voice acting, the music takes the situation and amplifies the experience whether it’s a touching part or a part that has you at the edge of your seat, wondering what’s going to happen next. This music was actually able to make me forget that I’m spending more time reading dialog thanks to the slow moving text than anything else.

For a game on the DS, Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a title that is sure to please fans of both the point-and-click-adventure genre and fans of the DS in general. With its unique style and impressive narrative, Hotel Dusk is sure to grip the player for a good 20 hours of thought provoking, puzzle solving and intriguing gameplay. Although the puzzles can be overly difficult sometimes, this game is still a good title for DS owners everywhere.

Rating: B+

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~ by Andrew Martins on May 19, 2008.

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