Hotel Dusk: Room 215
by Polly

Note: Yeah, yeah, it ain't got no fuckin pictures so you can hit your back button now. There aren't any decent ones around and I can't exactly take them myself.

Meet Kyle Hyde. He's a rough around the edges kinda guy that's been around the block a few times and has a few scars to show for it. Three years ago after his partner Bradley disappeared, he hung up his gun and badge and took on the not-so-glamourous role of a travelling door-to-door salesman. Ghosts of the past continue to haunt him, however, as he's still not given up his search for Bradley. The gears begin to turn when Hyde is assigned a seemingly harmless new job at the dreary and rundown Hotel Dusk. Things seem normal enough and almost downright boring to our smart-assed protagonist at first, but a chance meeting with a former acquaintence sets the ball-a-rollin on a mystery that slowly unravels the pasts of not only Mr. Hyde, but every guest in the hotel.

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 continues the little revival that seems to be happening with point and click adventure games on the DS. It borrows elements from all the good games before it, such as Myst, Deja Vu, and Shadowgate to weave its own little tale of mystery and suspense. Be forewarned: If reading isn't your thing, you really aren't going to like this game. Take a look at the back of the box. See how it says "interactive mystery novel"? Well that's exactly what this is. There's not much in the way of gameplay at all. A majority of your time will be spent slowly creeping around the halls of Hotel Dusk and chatting up its various inhabitants for the 10 or so hours it'll take to complete the game. There's a healthy smattering of logic-based puzzles to solve here and there, but they're far from the meat of the game.

You'll hold your DS sideways as if you were reading a book (how appropriate) while you play the game. The touch screen lets you move around using an overhead 2D map of the area you're in, while the right screen gives a decent 3D representation of your environments. Come across an environment you can investigate and you tap the little maginfying glass icon to search the area using the touch screen to pick up various objects and gain valuable hints to solving the hotel's next riddle. That's pretty much it as far as normal gameplay goes.

The other portion of the game involves conversating and questioning every guest in the hotel until they spill the beans you need to create that special kinda mystery solvin' chilli. This is really the only part of the game you can fuck up as there are right and wrong answers for everything, and too many wrong answers will get your ass thrown out of the hotel and a game over. It's a lot of trial and error, but the questions you need to ask are usually always blaringly obvious.

The art-style is great. While the 3D environments themselves are pretty damn slick and show off a lot of what the DS is capable of, it's the 2D noir-ish character art that really sticks out the most. Unlike most text-driven games the characters aren't just cardboard cutouts that sit there emotionlessly while you click away. Everyone in the game has a unique manner of expression and a very nice range of them too. Needless to say many-an-animated conversations will be had, nyuk, nyuk.

If there's one thing you really can't fault this game for, it's gotta be the writing. It's probably some of the best dialog I've ever read in a game. All of the characters are very unique and have very distinct ways of speaking that make them stand out and seem very alive. None of the dialog feels forced and it's not always proper grammar. That's right, they talk just like me and you! The casual way characters speak goes a long way toward drawing you in and making you feel like you really know these people. I also enjoyed how they threw in a lot of 70's-era slang to establish the game's setting.

That's all the good, so how about the bad? There's gotta be some bad, right? Of course there does.

I think the number one gripe I have with this game would be the text scrolling speed. My GOD is it fuckin slow. You can hold your stylus on the touch screen or hold a button to speed it up a TINY bit, but it in no way helps at all. So, next time how's about some text speed options huh? Some of us read fast.

Another huge problem with the game is how it relies on event triggers for the player to advance and how some of them are a bit fucked up. There are many times where the game won't let you do something until its decided that it's time for you to do so. For instance, the game will almost always present you with the pieces to finish a puzzle HOURS before you ever need to use them, but it won't let you pick them up and stash them in your inventory until you're ready to tackle that puzzle. Other times you'll end up walking around the same fucking halls for 30 minutes to an hour with NOTHING happening at all only to realize that you forgot to examine that one unimportant item in Dunning's office, but were still able to leave his office with the item you came in to steal because the proper event didn't trigger. It's really sloppy planning that aggrivated the hell out of me.

The faults aren't game-killing, but they do make the whole affair quite cumbersome at times. The story's contrived to hell and back, but still manages its own little interesting twists and turns here and there. The logic-based puzzles are fun to try and figure out, but they're few and far between. As you can see, Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is an odd mix of good and bad design choices. It's great to see the Adventure genre getting a second shot at life, I just hope that the next game offers more adventure and puzzle solving and less idle time and pointless searching.

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