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Tristan Kalogeropoulos
18 Mar, 2007

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 Review

DS Review | Checking in or checking out, sir?
The set - a run-down hotel in middle of nowhere Mid-Western America which isn't about to win any awards for hospitality. The cast - a set of characters, all with variously suspect pasts. Sounds like the ideal setting for your classic mystery story. Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is an adventure game with a heavy sprinkling of neo-noir crime drama, in which you play as Kyle Hyde, a former hard-boiled New York cop-turned-salesman, who comes complete with a bit of a history.

As the game begins, you'll learn that, three years prior to arriving at Hotel Dusk for the night's stay that the game will take place in, Kyle left the force, disgraced, after shooting his partner. A scene during the opening shows that after receiving a mysterious call one night Kyle rushes off in search of Brian Bradley, his partner, only to find him at the docks. The meeting ends in Bradley being shot by Kyle - for reasons that you'll discover as you play through the game - and falling into the water, his body to remain unfound. This lack of finality bothers Kyle greatly, so much so that he feels as though Bradley is still alive. Now Kyle works for a reasonably shady company that not only sells goods, but also locates items for people that would prefer the powers that be not to know about them. One thing consumes Kyle's mind however, the whereabouts of Bradley. So what does a sleepy motel in the middle of nowhere have to do with this?

CING, the developers of Hotel Dusk, are also known for their work on 2005's Another Code - titled Trace Memory in some parts of the world - which too, was an adventure game on the DS. Another Code only managed to garner a slightly above average reception. The main criticism of the game was its length. It does however provide the company with a solid base on which to build. So, have they improved on their formula for producing this titles in this genre?

CING use the DS with amazing proficiency to tell the story of Kyle Hyde.

CING use the DS with amazing proficiency to tell the story of Kyle Hyde.
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As a platform the DS' touch screen interface offers developers many opportunities for innovation and deviation from gaming's norm. And as a result we've seen many new ideas blossom on the platform. The game's interface is extremely well-implemented. Turning the adventure genre on its head and adapting it to take full advantage of the DS' controls, Hotel Dusk innovates where many have not. From the beginning everything just works. The DS is held on its side, similar to the orientation of Brain Training, the touchscreen is used for interacting with the game. Whether you're right-handed or one of those 'sinister' lefties, you can change the orientation to match your dominant hemisphere, which is incredibly handy (if you'll excuse the pun).

A map on the touch screen is used to guide Kyle around the hotel by using the stylus on the floor plan, pointing where you'd like him to go. The other screen shows a first-person view of where you're taking him. As you approach things that can be interacted with, a small magnifying glass icon is illuminated at the bottom of the screen which can then be tapped to zoom in. Here items can be manipulated or conversations undertaken and the view can also be changed using a small slide-bar in order to suss out what's behind or on the side of of furniture, etc. Simple yet effective, all of these design choices make navigating the hotel a breeze.

Graphically, the direction of Hotel Dusk is as unique as the way it is controlled. Rather than go for a realistic look or an overly cartoony style, the art direction takes a sketch-based rotoscope-esque approach to the representation of characters - one which many have compared to that of a-ha's famous 'Take on Me' video clip. This works beautifully. During conversation, moods are expressed not only via well-drawn facial expressions, but also by using certain visual techniques, such as flushes of red running down the characters' bodies to indicate anger or annoyance. Rooms are rendered as 3D environments, fairly detailed but not overly so, which allows for the player to focus on what is required of them. Alongside this is the simple map design which is used to move around the hotel's sections. All of the art here comes together fantastically.

Hotel Dusk manages to effectively bring themes of depth and maturity rarely seen on a handheld system - or any platform for that matter. Issues such as betrayal and real-world relationship difficulties along with narrative involving crime and drama fill the tiny DS cartridge. Conversation is central to Hotel Dusk, both in its progression and its gameplay. All of the dialogue is well-crafted and, while not the best we've ever seen, is definitely on the more desired end of the spectrum. A lot of slang and idioms are used in the game along with Kyle's often sarcastic one-liners. Much of the text could very easily have turned into a terribly forced feeling travesty if written by the wrong set of hands. However, every piece of the written dialogue feels natural. While the text is great, handheld gaming is at its best when it involves short bursts of play. However, in Hotel Dusk dialogue can go on for what seems like forever. The game would have benefited from being broken up a little in order to allow the player to take time out to either explore or to simply save the game and return to the discussion later.

Interactive spatial montaging at its finest.

Interactive spatial montaging at its finest.
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With dialogue and verbal exchange being central to the game it is a shame that the developers have not focused more intently on providing a more involving experience within this particular element of gameplay. Too often is interaction reduced to simply tapping on the touchscreen to view the next screen of a characters dialogue. You often have choices in what you say however these merely revolve around which order to ask questions in. Occasionally there is a point when you can click on the 'wrong' option and experience a game over screen. Unfortunately this does little to make the player feel a part of the story - although the story is great. It would have been great to see your choices in this area leading to different outcomes and pathways through the narrative.

In Another Code, other characters were sparsely scattered throughout the game, but there were many locations to explore. However in Hotel Dusk, characters are a dime a dozen but the only place you'll be exploring is the two storey building that lends its name to the title. This has positive and negative ramifications. You'll quickly learn where to find things and people that may be required to progress through the game. Which cupboards hold items and which guests stay in which rooms for example. However if you're expecting multiple environments and extravagantly designed set pieces you won't find them here.

Puzzles in Hotel Dusk are few-and-far-between however, for the most part, these are quite innovative in the way that they have you interacting with the DS. From simply tapping the screen to rotating, and even closing the system, CING definitely have a firm grasp of the possibilities in gameplay that Ninendo's handheld can offer. Thankfully too, the oft ridiculed puzzles of yesteryear are not to be found here, so there's no spring that you'll have to attach to a rabbit using shoelaces in order to get a golden carrot just out of your reach. Exploration is also important in Hotel Dusk, and being able to look at objects from different angles using the analogue style slidebar rather than static screens is a fantastic addition as the player does feel more involved in their environment. It's a shame that there were not more of them, given the well crafted problem solving sections in the game.

Sometimes a couch is just a couch.

Sometimes a couch is just a couch.
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Last but perhaps not least, sound in the game is mainly limited to an array of jazzy tunes that will convey the mood of what is occurring in-game. These can sometimes become a little repetitive. While the tracks are not terrible, they are constant and often recycled, meaning that you'll hear the same tunes over and over again which does become a little tiresome.

Even though at times Hotel Dusk can feel like more of an interactive story than a game, it appears that this was the developer's intention. Whether this works on the DS is up to the audience, and will undoubtedly divide many opinions. Puzzle play and true interaction is scarce, despite being great when it is there. What makes a game is a whole other article, however what makes for an enjoyable experience is reasonably clear, and Hotel Dusk falls down in several areas when dealing with this. The constantly crawling progression makes what is a great story a little tedious. That said, the game's unique approach to storytelling, better than average use of the DS' quirks and its excellent dialogue mean that Hotel Dusk should be investigated by anyone with even a passing interest in what non-mainstream games can do on a handheld system. However, if it's action or traditional style gameplay you're after, then you're looking in the wrong place.
The Score
Hotel Dusk hangs somewhere between a game and an interactive story. While we would have liked to see a little more interactivity thrown into the mix, its storytelling elements are nevertheless fantastic. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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12 Comments
7 years ago
I've always loved Noir themed anything. I'd get a DS for this.
7 years ago
Sucks... 7 = no buy from me, at least not until I see it stupid cheap. Shame really, I heard it was gonna rival Justice for All.
7 years ago
Well, I wouldn't discount this game because of a 7. Clearly this game appeals to a certain gamer. I mean, to me, this game is a 8.5-9, because I love this game and the type of genre. But as a reviewer you have to take the consideration of the masses into a final score.

If the game type appeals to you, get it. It's pretty damn awesome.
7 years ago
Yeah, what leon says is very true. If you liked the style of the phoenix wright games this is worth more than a 7 (which isn't a bad score!) If anything Hotel Dusk is too long, after Another Code being too short. Having said that it was very enjoyable.
7 years ago
7 is a bad score now? 7 is a score that, in my opinion, represents that if you're a fan of the genre then you should definitely go buy it.

Nice review Tristan. Sort of confused how EGM (or was it 1up?) slipped a 10 into their review.
7 years ago
I dont really go out and buy a game because a review gave it a highscore.
I wounldnt never considering buying a game if a review gave it a low score. A review is the opinion of one person, and isnt my opinion. thats why i only try to take the facts out of reviews, for example how the game play mechanics work length graphics things like that.

Red Steel recieved horrible reviews, but i still bought it and it is my favourite Wii game. I love it. So you cant always trust reviews or there scores. Try to look past the opinion and stare at the facts. Thats what i do anyway.
7 years ago
I was always interested in this game but somehow money issues go in between and I have to sacrifice some purchases. So I will be getting this later when it is cheap.
7 years ago
Mark wrote
7 is a bad score now?
I don't think I've ever bought a game PALGN gave a 7 and I'm not gonna start now. icon_razz.gif I guess if I get enough recommendations for it I may be persuaded, but I only really pay attention to the PALGN score and IGN reader review scores for games, so... 7 = average imo, so not at all worth full RRP.
7 years ago
Mark wrote
7 is a bad score now? 7 is a score that, in my opinion, represents that if you're a fan of the genre then you should definitely go buy it.
GTPod wrote
I don't think I've ever bought a game PALGN gave a 7 and I'm not gonna start now. icon_razz.gif I guess if I get enough recommendations for it I may be persuaded, but I only really pay attention to the PALGN score and IGN reader review scores for games, so... 7 = average imo, so not at all worth full RRP.
Mark is right. 5 is at the centre of the scale not 7 therefore 7 is above average. Just a reminder for people to check our scoring info. As I said in the review, if you’re a fan of the genre it’s definitely worth checking out as it does some interesting things. That said it’s not without its flaws.

joejoe wrote
I was always interested in this game but somehow money issues go in between and I have to sacrifice some purchases. So I will be getting this later when it is cheap.
I saw the game for $50 at TRU the other day so you can get it for reasonably cheap if you shop around.

Mark wrote
Sort of confused how EGM (or was it 1up?) slipped a 10 into their review.
It was Michael Donahoe at EGM that gave it a 10. I think the other 2 reviewers there gave it an 8. The 10 does confuse me a bit, but that was his opinion which he's fully entitled to, he obviously loved the game.
7 years ago
Tristan wrote
Mark is right. 5 is at the centre of the scale not 7 therefore 7 is above average.
I am well aware of PALGN's scoring, what I'm saying is on a price-to-score ratio, a newly released game that gets anything between 7 and 8 is, for me, not worth paying full price for (below 7's certainly not worth buying at all). If I went out and bought every game above a 5 just because it's not terrible I'd have no money for the 8-10 rated games. icon_razz.gif This is just PALGN's scoring, I'll often go by the general Gamerankings score too, as well as the IGN reader average, which obviously all have different standards (e.g. Gamerankings score of ~75%+ I'd buy at RRP, IGN reader average would have to be about 8.5+). There's always careful planning before buying a game. icon_razz.gif
7 years ago
I love the look of this game and Tristan's persuasive prose has convinced me icon_wink.gif
7 years ago
The second I see this or Pheonix Wright discounted (to any extent) I'm buying them. I loved Another Code and ye olde pointe-and-clicke adventures.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Nintendo
Developer:
  Nintendo
Players:
  1

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