Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (NDS) – Review

Hotel Dusk Cover Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is another adventure game put out for the Nintendo DS by Cing, following on their early title “Trace Memory”. Hotel Dusk borrows much of the concepts from Trace Memory in a good way, and works in a rather great, multilayered, gritty story with additional good gameplay concepts for a text adventure game. Unfortunately, the game comes off a bit too linear and too easy for it’s target audience, though still is definitely a good “read” for the story it provides.

Story: A

The strongest element of the game, Hotel Dusk presents a story with several tiers and interconnections between all the characters in the story as the game slowly unfolds. The main story is that of Kyle Hyde, an ex-NYPD cop who’s now posing as a salesman but really is doing errands for people, trying to locate and recover items that they don’t want around. Furthermore, he’s looking for his ex-partner, Bradley, whom he thought he shot and killed, but clues hint that he’s still alive. His current job checks him into Hotel Dusk, a seedy establishment outside of Los Angeles, but quickly finds that things are very suspicious. For one, a person posing as him checking in 6 months ago, as well as a mysterious girl that cannot speak. As he interacts with the various staff and guests of the hotel along with investigation, he finds that there’s a lot more to Hotel Dusk than just a place to rest his head.

Gameplay: B

Hotel Dusk uses the DS opened like a book like Brain Age, with handedness taken into account. The touchscreen is used to move about the hotel on a minimap while a first person view updates along with your position on the other screen. The touchpad is also used to examine objects and to interact with your inventory and with puzzles that may come about. However, the bulk of the time in the game is spent talking to the various residents in the hotel. If you’ve played Trace Memory, most of these puzzles will be familiar, including some tricks with the DS itself, but none of them are very hard.

Hotel Dusk ScreenshotThe conversation screens use typical techniques in text adventure games but with a few additions. At some points you’ll be alerted to an oddity the person is saying with a caution icon, which you can tap to interrupt and get more information from them. At other times, the person will say something that will trigger a thought for Kyle, which later, along with all other collected thoughts, will be presented as a list of additional topics to ask the person. In some cases, you’ll be presented with an option of two things to say. Sometimes this choice is harmless, but there are times that if you say the wrong thing, you’ll find yourself kicked out of the hotel and thus ending the game, though you can restart at saved points or usually a point just right before the conversation so you can correct yourself. You can also present items to persons in case that may lead to additional clues.

The game is broken into 10 chapters, based on a block of time in that night. Time itself does not progress at the same rate as you play, but, like most of the other major events in the game, triggered by completing key actions, with brief interludes to let you know how close you are to the end of the chapter time. As with Trace Memory, at the end of each chapter is a brief quiz, used as a way for Kyle to gather his thoughts, that summarizes the events of that chapter, though you’re only re-asked the question if you get it wrong. There’s 10 chapters total in the game.

Unfortunately, while the gameplay and story support a possibly strong adventure game, most of Hotel Dusk is a linear path, with your only difficulty being to find the right path if you’re not so obviously lead to it by the last conversation that you had. Save for a small handful of conversations, I usually knew exactly who I needed to see or what I needed to search out and where it was after speaking to somebody. There’s almost no points where you have an option of doing something, and even when you have it, it doesn’t affect the order of events in the game. The puzzles themselves were also not that hard, and the overall challenge of the game is really low for something that seems aimed at a much more mature audience. Even if you didn’t know where to go, it was usually just a matter of walking the limited amount of space there was in the hotel to find someone to talk to or triggle the next scene.

The other major annoyance with gameplay is what also plagues most text-driven games for consoles: the inability to speed up the text display. Understandably, with the strong dependence of the story on the gameplay in Hotel Dusk, you do not want to miss a single line of dialog, the display rate, to me, was aggravatingly slow. While you could speed up text upon seeing the same lines on subsequent dialog points, there’s no way to speed up the first time display. I really would have loved to see this option, even if there’s a short pause before you could tap ahead to the next line. But even given that there’s a conversation log that you can track what was last said, even the jump-ahead protection really isn’t needed.

Value/Replayability: B

The game took me about 7 hrs to complete, which for a text-heavy and none-too-uplifting story, feels about right. While considerably shorter than Phoenix Wright games, Phoenix Wright tends to have much more interaction with the game and written for comedy effect, but lacking these, Hotel Dusk certainly does not need to be as long. The story doesn’t vary should you play again though as I read it, there’s a few new twists added to be found on subsequent plays.

Graphics: A

The game uses a combination of pre-rendered background graphics along with black and white pencil-drawn, “Squigglevision” cutouts of the characters as they talk and show emotion, trying to come off with some film noir appearance. In most conversations, Kyle’s shown on one screen, and the person he’s talking to on the other; in the method the game is presented, this nicely comes off as seeing a conversation in a movie or TV show nicely. The 3D view as you move about the game is about as good as you can expect for DS graphics – a bit blocky but certainly not unusable.

Sound: A-

Obviously, with the limitations of the DS cart, there’s no spoken dialog, but use the standard methods like in Phoenix Wright to intone text as if it’s being spoken. Most of the game is supported with a deep mysterious musical track that varies with situations, and while a few segments can get a bit old fast, there’s more than enough variety to give the music a nod to.

Overall: A-

Hotel Dusk does get some things nails: a strong story with very interesting characters that wants to make you continuing playing. In addition, the method of conversation could be used again for numerous types of situations. The presentation of the game is top-notch as well. The game unfortunately is very linear and easy, despite being a game aimed for older players due to content, and suffers the usual problems for a text-heavy computer game. Still, though, if you treat it as more an interactive novel than a game, it comes off very well and provides hopes that future games can still improve on the formula.

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