“Hotel Dusk Offers A 5 Star Accommodation”
Several months back (nearly half a year or so) I noticed a neat looking game in my latest Nintendo Power magazine. A game made by Cing, the company behind Trace Memory. It instantly caught my eye because of the awesome art direction, and the nature of the game. Detective like gameplay mixed into a noir like setting, sounded like a winner in my book.
The time came for the game to release, and it came out like the silenced shot of an assassin’s rifle. No big bang, hardly any ads, nothing. It just came out, and seemed in very short supply. It took me some serious effort, but I was able to eventually track down a copy of the game to call my own. And I was quite ready to enjoy this game that’d completely sparked my interested months before. The game started out like reading a good book, not a lot happening, but keeping you hooked none the less.
The pace continued, and I found a lot of love in this obscure little gem of a game.
So stay for the evening with me in Room 215 of the cozy little hotel called Dusk…
Surprisingly, gameplay is NOT the biggest aspect of Hotel Dusk, contrary to the average video game. What’s here is solid however, and well implemented. First and foremost it’s important to note that this game is pretty unique through and through, even in how the DS is to be held while playing. You’ll be holding the DS sideways, like a book, and while this has been done in the Brain Age/Big Brain Academy games, it’s still pretty unique. Control will be done ENTIRELY with the Stylus, no button presses whatsoever, period.
The layout is like this, one the left side of the DS, in the left screen, you’ll either be seeing a portrait of your character, Kyle, or a first person view of your surroundings. The right side of the DS, the touch screen will mostly be showing an overhead layout of your surroundings, which you’ll use to navigate Kyle around the environment. By clicking on objects you can come in for a closer look, and then further investigate by clicking, dragging and tapping things. This is what most of the actual “gameplay” consists of.
This isn’t actually the meat of the game however. The majority of the entire experience will come in the form of dialogue often exchanged between Kyle and another character. LOTS of text in this game, lots and lots of it. And if you don’t like reading a lot of text, you might as well skip this game entirely, no questions asked. This game tells a story, which I’ll be getting into shortly, but the fact of the matter is, there’s a WHOLE lot of dialogue and just text in general. I had no problem with this at all, but some players might.
There’s a lot to read in the game, and thankfully the writing found within is absolutely superb, some of the best I’ve ever experienced in a game actually. Quite realistic and natural conversation, a major plus for a game that’s probably 80% or more text. This wholesome amount of reading never once made the game boring, or even slightly uninteresting for a moment throughout the entirety of the game. In fact I rather enjoyed the game completely from start to finish. The game told one helluva story, and kept me more than interested through the whole ride.
Aside from this, there is also the occasional puzzle bit thrown into the mix. These segments range in variation quite a bit, and help to keep things fresh. Some of these puzzles are rather easy, and sometimes not even actually much of a puzzle, and more or just a bit of interaction. None the less they almost always make the game feel a lot more immersive. Sometimes these parts are as simple and straight forward as piecing together a jigsaw puzzle, while other times you’ll be decorating a Chstmas tree, or even doing a simple task such as inserting and turning a key into a lock. As just said, this helped me really get into the game, as I felt like I was actually doing some of these things, adding a sense of immersiveness that would have otherwise not been as apparent.
Though the story certainly starts out pretty vague, it swells into something pretty big in the conclusion, and never falters along the way either. It starts pretty simple actually, you play an ex NYPD officer, Kyle Hyde. Kyle is a pretty tough, no nonsense guy, that’s down on his luck after having had a fallen out with his old partner and friend, Brian Bradley. The fallen out actually translates into Bradley double crossing the NYPD, and Kyle putting a bullet into his back.
This leads Kyle into the business of a traveling salesman, who does the odd job of finding missing belongings for folks on the side. He keeps the secret agenda of searching for Bradley all the while, never giving up the idea that’s he’s still somehow alive somewhere. Almost in a state of apathy, he finds himself at Dusk, a fairly large, and slightly ran down old hotel. Here he meets a lot of interesting folks, and learns that there are many mysteries hidden within the old building, as well as the clues to catching the ghost of Bradley.
As mentioned in the very beginning of this review, the art style in this game is beyond amazing to me, as well as unique. Considering that most of your time in this game will be spent staring at text and portraits of the characters it matches too, this is a high point. The environment and surroundings are pretty nicely detailed for a DS game as well, and all look realistic and fairly detailed. Another plus for the game.
Now the sound, the music herein is always fitting of the situation, and is often pretty catchy to boot. Sound effects sound pretty well, and stress their point nicely too. The overall sound package is nothing entirely impressive, but it certainly does it’s job, and is always in good taste and perspective. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to frown about either.
Surprisingly lengthy the first time playing through the game, a pleasant surprise none the less. Once I’d finished the game I never once felt like the game was too short, or too long, but about just right. Don’t get me wrong, some questions are left unanswered, but the length of the game was pretty well perfect in my eyes.
Replayability can really be left up to the player. I say this because once you know the result of the game’s various mysteries some gamers may not want to play through the game more than once, and understandably so. HOWEVER, the game has a slew of multiple endings, and plenty of little details possible to miss the first time through. This can, and probably would add replay to the game. Never the less, this is again really up to the player themselves, but this isn’t a sore spot on the game, because it has the potential to feature a fair amount of replay value, if it’s just taken.
This game could be quite hit and miss, and it will probably only cater to a select group of gamers, but those who could find themselves playing something like this are most likely sure to enjoy it, if not flat out love it, such as I have. If you can stomach a lot of text reading, and a complete lack of action, then that’s the first step. If you want to immerse yourself entirely into a good, enthralling story, then that would be the second.
To those who qualify for both of the above, this game should be a MUST HAVE. I consider it a true masterpiece, and will personally go so far as to say it’s the absolute best, and most endearing game I’ve yet played on the DS. I really have almost nothing at all to say in a negative light about this game, nothing.
I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again. The art style and direction in this game is just flat out amazing, and stands as one of the best highlights of the entire experience to me.
Score: 10 out of 10