Part point-and-click adventure; part pulp fiction detective/mystery; and part choose-your-own-adventure novel (without ever actually being able to choose your own adventure) -- Hotel Dusk certainly is a lot of things. And despite a compelling narrative and frequent hints of mind-blowing DS innovation (none of which I can mention without spoilers), the one thing it is not, in the end, is a game for everyone.
You take on the role of former NYPD detective, Kyle Hyde. The guy likes to talk ... a lot. No one can escape his wrath; little girls, world-renowned authors, the bellhop -- hell, even if you're mute, Kyle will chew your ear off. He's also a nosy bugger, too -- questions abound. The simplest statement might spark what seems like a never-ending battery of questions about anything from bookmarks to personal details about your family. So if you see this Hyde character and he's looking like he might want to spark up a conversation, make sure you don't have any plans.
What this means for you, the player, is that there's going to be a lot of reading. The game is broken up into chapters that end in multiple choice, reading comprehension tests. So it's a good thing the game contains a surprising amount of clever dialog and a story that (for better or worse) raises enough questions to keep you going. By "going," I mean tapping on objects all over the environment, tapping your way through conversation trees, and every now and then solving simple puzzles.
If that sounds at all familiar, it's because at its heart, Hotel Dusk is a typical point and click adventure. You move from room to room, tapping (clicking) objects in the environment until you stumble upon key objects that advance the plot. Once these objects are found, they trigger conversations that lead to more objects that will in turn trigger other conversations. Where Hotel Dusk departs from the classics, though, is its difficulty. The game is not only incredibly linear, but it does everything short of ship with a Prima strategy guide. What to do, who to see, and what to say are almost too clearly laid out, leaving little for the player to solve on his/her own.
Argument over whether or not Hotel Dusk should be classified as a game or an interactive novel aside, it was hard for me not to enjoy my stay. The animated sketch art style looks beautiful on the DS and will instantly catch your attention. Black and white dominates, but clever uses of color as emotional indicators is brilliant. A few of the in-game puzzles use the DS in surprising ways that will throw you for a loop and the spot-on writing truly brings the characters to life.
As a game, Hotel Dusk has many faults. But as an experience, Hotel Dusk is a bright spot in the DS library, and the perfect game to play in bed at night before lights-out. Just know what you're getting into, because if you're expecting a deep gameplay experience, you might find yourself disappointed.
Final score: 8
When this game's release date finally came around, I spent a good chunk of that morning driving around searching for it. The fact that four out of the five stores I visited had never even heard of it was a little depressing, because I fear a lot of people are going to miss out on what is the most enjoyable experience I've had with my DS since that time I made out with it.
More interactive graphic novel than it is video game, Hotel Dusk is nonetheless the kind of title that pulls you deep into its story. Very early in, you can feel as though you've stepped right into the shoes of leading man Kyle Hyde as he searches for his missing partner, as well as answers to the many questions surrounding Room 215.
The game is very easy for anyone to pick up, with all controls and actions handled just they way you'd think they would be. Admittedly, Hotel Dusk might even seem too easy for the first chapter or so, with everything more or less laid out right in front of you. Walk around any rooms that are available to enter, examining each object you come across until you find a key item that will progress the story. It's after these first couple of hours that the real challenge begins, which is my only major gripe with this game.
"What the hell am I supposed to do next?"
There are several points in the game where you might be reduced to highlighting every clickable piece of the environment, scouring the entire hotel with a fine tooth comb in search of anything that might trigger an event. It goes along with the whole detective theme, but in the end it can be kind of frustrating. The other thing that might annoy some players is the quiz at the end of each chapter. Hyde will stop to collect his thoughts by reviewing important points from the piece of the story you've just finished and you'll have some simple multiple choice questions to answer. This helps keep you on top of what's happening, especially if you haven't played for a while since your last save, but it feels like tacked-on busy work.
Aside from those couple of minor annoyances, however, this is the sort of unique title that the DS is starting to become known for. You might liken it to Phoenix Wright or even Nintendogs, in that it's probably going to be unlike anything you've played before. The visuals are beautiful, the music is appropriately jazzy and the overall experience is one that I think is well worth having.
I recommend anyone with a DS and bit of patience to give this one a shot. Unique games like this need to be supported and it's great to see that someone out there is still releasing some fresh ideas.
Final socre: 8
I've been anticipating the release of Hotel Dusk for some time, so as soon as it came out, I rocketed over to my local EB to snag a copy. From the screenshots floating around the net, it looked like it could be one of the most creative releases to hit the DS this year. I always love the wacky and weird offerings for every system (viva la Katamari!), and Hotel Dusk looked like just the kind of game that gives me sexy feelings.
When it comes to setting the mood, Hotel Dusk delivers. You play Kyle Hyde, a former cop with a past he can't seem to shake. In your search for your lost partner, you encounter a variety of colorful characters who help to fill in the picture in bits and pieces. The score is great and keeps with the gritty mood; I am fondly reminded of old Namco adventure games like Deja Vu. The art style has a graphic novel feel to it, which keeps the look eye catching and memorable.
Hotel Dusk is sure to score points with RPG players, but as it is text heavy and plays more like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel than a video game. For fans of action, this game would probably be better left on the shelf. However, if you're looking for a richer gaming experience at a slower pace, I can't recommend this title enough. Games of its extraordinary quality are too few and far between.
Final score: 7
For those that are familiar with my writing on Destructoid, be prepared, because I’m about to jizz all over this game and the Nintendo DS. Since the other writers spilled the details on the game itself and what you do, I thought I’d just share with you how the experience is and why I think this is the best game on the DS right now.
First off, like some are saying, don’t expect this to be a game. It’s a book. Don’t fool yourself, you’re playing a book. Now, that’s not a bad thing, in fact, it’s a welcome departure from the usual video game offerings.
And, just like a good book, this game is damn near impossible to put down. In fact, it’s all I can think about. While it starts out slow, the game pulls you in deeper and deeper into its complicated web of stories and personalities.
The writing, cast of characters, and mystery are all brilliantly done and in fact, I really can’t complain at all about this game. Some parts are frustrating when you’re trying to figure out what to do, but I actually love that. I want a little challenge, because when you actually complete something you feel a greater sense of accomplishment.
I fully recommend to anyone with a DS that is looking for a different and engaging experience on their DS to pick up this game. It’s titles like this that we need as gamers to encourage more originality in the industry. It’s titles like Hotel Dusk that make me happy to be a dedicated gamer.
Final score: 9.5
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