Developer: Cing, Inc.
Intl - 04/13/2007
N Amer - 01/24/2007
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 Review
Point-and-click adventure games peaked, both in terms of quality and amount being produced, in the early nineties. The heyday of the genre produced memorable adventures that are still worth playing through; Curse of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, and Sam and Max Hit The Road are among the most fondly-remembered games of all time. Although the genre has lost popularity on its home platform, the PC, it is quickly gaining popularity on the Nintendo DS. Developer Cing brought us Trace Memory early in the life of the DS; this title showed the ease with which a point-and-click adventure could successfully become a tap-and-drag adventure, using the stylus for interfacing with the adventure. Later, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was popular enough to warrant a second printing and a sequel, Justice For All. Now, Cing brings us their newest adventure: Hotel Dusk: Room 215, a noir detective story.
The most crucial element of any adventure game is the storyline, so much so that some games of the genre are described as “interactive novels”. There are few titles that fit this description better than Hotel Dusk; its deep, complex story is well written and well paced. The story, set in 1979, concerns Kyle Hyde, an ex-cop from New York. After quitting the force three years ago, Kyle gets a job as a traveling salesman, a line of work that leads him to the run-down Hotel Dusk. As with any great noir, the protagonist’s tortured past bears heavily on the events currently unfolding, and in Hotel Dusk, Kyle must solve several mysteries. The more he investigates the events at the hotel, the more he realizes that the situation he has found himself in may contain the answers to the questions from his past.
The writing for the game is incredibly well done. Characters have real personalities, which are slowly revealed throughout the course of the game. The ‘70s setting is woven in to the game through slang and dialect used by the characters, but it doesn’t ever get grating or over-the-top. The game also deserves credit for its masterful pacing. The story unfolds over the course of one night, and events occur at specific times throughout the night. This allows for both a very natural expansion of the game’s setting (for instance, the hotel’s restaurant opens at 7:00, and the player cannot explore that area until that point in the story) and a way for the game to keep you on task (for instance, you’re told early in the game to visit a specific room at 8:00). Unlike most adventure games, you’re never left not knowing what you’re supposed to be doing.
Gameplay unfolds in typical adventure game style. Conversations are led by choosing branching responses, some of which may lead to additional information or story secrets. Environments are explorable in 3D, and clicking on any given item in the environment will lead Kyle to comment on it and possibly add it to his inventory. Puzzles in this game are usually touch-screen based, such as a jigsaw puzzle you must put together. The puzzles contained here are some of the most intelligent and logically placed of all time. You’ll never be stuck trying to figure out what cognitive leap the developers expected you to make, like in far too many other adventure games (even some generally considered classics). Every puzzle is tough, but there’s always a solution at hand and it always makes sense, both in terms of the storyline and from a gameplay standpoint.
Visuals are definitely a high point of this game. The environments are rendered in 3D and are impressive for the DS. The real appeal, though, are the characters, who are brought to life with hand drawn sketches, animated in a style that brings the “Take On Me” video to mind. The animations are silky smooth, and the design of the characters are excellent. In a genius move, characters are presented in black and white, except for special moments used for emphasis. This both looks amazing and also pays homage to the classic black and white films that served as the game’s noir inspiration.
For fans of the
genre, it doesn’t get much better than Hotel Dusk. Even if you’ve never played
an adventure game before, it’s worth playing. It has everything you could hope
for: amazing graphics, interesting puzzles, and one of the best storylines ever
told in a videogame. As part of Nintendo’s Touch Generations series, even those
who’ve never tried a game at all could get sucked into this game for its
narrative qualities alone. While the genre may have begun on the PC, the DS is
well on its way to hosting a renaissance of adventure games—and Hotel Dusk is
leading the pack.
|Review Scoring Details for Hotel Dusk|
This is as user-friendly and interface-streamlined as it gets. Anyone with a brain can figure out how to play—but you’ll have to use that brain to get very far. Well integrated puzzles and an entertaining and thought-provoking storyline provide all you could want from an interactive adventure.
There’s some impressive 3D in the environments, especially considering the DS’s reputation when it comes to 3D graphics, but the real stars here are the sketchbook characters. A killer art style elevates good graphics into the realm of the great.
The music is fitting for both the subject matter and the setting. Music and sound effects are both low-key, though, so you won’t miss much if you play with the sound off—it’ll just make it that much more like reading a novel.
The bulk of the game’s difficulty comes from its puzzles. Although there is always a logical solution, some of them require (gasp!) actual thinking.
With its tradition of talky characters, inner monologues, and crime-solving storylines, the noir genre seems custom fit for a great adventure game. The DS-specific stuff is always fun and, in some cases, genius.
Hotel Dusk is one of those games that should be used as Exhibit A in the discussion of games legitimacy as a storytelling medium, or even as art. A brilliant art and graphical style, innovative use of the DS’s features, and one of the best noir stories to be told recently in any medium add up to a must-play.
Get drawn in to this sketchbook noir adventure.
Reviewer: Dylan Platt
Review Date: 05/31/2007