January 19, 2008

Wishes Do Come True... At Hotel Dusk

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a sort of point and click adventure for the Nintendo DS. It can be accurately described as an interactive mystery novel. Hell, you even have to hold the DS on its side as if it were a book. It's a linear design, meaning there is a set path of actions you must follow to complete it. You manually control the main character through his adventure, interacting with key areas within the setting in search of clues and items that you can use to progress. You also spend a good amount of time talking to the many colorful characters that populate the game. If you already played another DS game called Trace Memory, you will already have an idea on how this one will play out. Indeed, they were both made by Cing, a Japanese developer that was also responsible for a mobile phone game conversion of Harvest Moon, as well as some bizarre "virtual girlfriend" program for phones in Japan. While Hotel Dusk came after Trace Memory, this game contains more text and fewer puzzles than its predecessor.
If you're like me, you're the kind of person who will want to examine every single friggin' object in the game, and EVERYTHING is can be examined. But to the credit of the writers, even items that are identical to each other, such as boxes and lamps, have different descriptions. I mean, there are more than a dozen toilets in the hotel, and looking at each one will yield different commentaries from your character. He is a very witty person, as clicking on one particular roll of toilet paper will have him call it "man's best friend". And who am I to argue with that?

Rated Teen for the following:
Mild Language- No sugarcoating in this game. Crap, hell, ass. Now this blog entry is rated "T". Fuck. DAMN, now it's "AO"! That means this won't be viewable on a Nintendo console!
Mild Violence- Flashbacks to gun play, as well as some manually induced headaches.
Use of Alcohol- Hotel's got a bar, and the main character has a long night. He needs a pick-me-up or two.

Story

December 28th, 1979, Nevada. A former New York cop named Kyle Hyde checks into a rundown joint called Hotel Dusk. Posing as a traveling salesman, he is secretly on the hunt for his ex-partner Brian Bradley, searching for answers on why he betrayed him three years ago. The hotel manager puts him up in Room 215, also called "The Wish Room". Word is that people who stay in that room have their greatest wish come true before they check out. Kyle has a feeling that this ramshackle hotel will help him find out what happened to Bradley, so he snoops around the premises and interrogates all the guests and employees.

Characters
Kyle Hyde- New York cop who turned in his badge after supposedly killing his trechorous partner Bradley. Now posing as a salesman, he wants to find out what happened to his former friend.
Brian Bradley- Your ex-partner that you shot and saw fall into the Hudson River when he tried to escape after being confronted about his defection to the enemy's side. You believe he's still alive, and want to track him down to discover the reason for his betrayal.
Ed Vincent- Your boss. Using his sales business as a front to his real business of "finding things that don't want to be found". The only one who knows of Kyle's relentless search for his missing partner.
Rachel- Ed's secretary and your main contact. Helps Kyle out by doing research for him.
Dunning Smith- Hotel Dusk's owner. Doesn't tolerate suspicious characters at his establishment.
Louis "Louie" DeNonno- Hotel employee who was a pickpocket that crossed paths with Kyle on more than one occasion during his cop days. He claims to be reformed.
Mila- A mysterious young girl who can't speak. She is wearing a bracelet that Kyle last saw around the wrist of Bradley.
Rosa Fox- Hotel maid who handles most of the work. Has a big heart within her big frame and knowledgeable of Hotel Dusk's shady history.
Jeff Angel- Rich kid who seeks excitement in all the wrong ways.
Helen Parker- One-eyed elderly woman who can hold her own against anyone at the bar. Tried to get booked into the Wish Room, but Kyle got it first.
Martin Summer- Novelist who tends to engage in long-winded conversations with anyone unfortunate enough to be nearby. Wrote many books, but only his first achieved best-seller status.
Iris- Movie star who has her posh reality shattered when she doesn't get the princess treatment she feels she is entitled to. Doesn't take kindly to your gruff personality.
Melissa Woodward- Child that acts in typical brat fashion until you listen to her problems. Claims to hate her father.
Kevin Woodward- Melissa's negligent father. A doctor with an estranged wife.

While all nine of the hotel's occupants seem to be normal upon meeting them, a little prying will reveal that they're tied to Kyle's investigation in startling ways. You'll also investigate practically every room in the hotel, even those limited to staff members. You'll discover evidence that Bradley stayed at the hotel six months earlier using your name. There's also an angel motif that runs throughout the game, such as the last name of a character, a design on a lost pen, the decoration on a bookmark, the name of a room, and most important, a stolen painting called Angel Opening a Door.
As for the ending... this isn't a spoiler, but you know how Super Mario 64 ended with the hero getting cake? Well, this game ends with the hero getting "pie". You'll have to play through the game yourself to get what I mean.

Graphics
The environment you transverse is 3D, and in full color. You have the ability to swing the camera around in close-up mode in order to search the scenery from different sides. The character and cut-scene graphics, however, are shown in black and white 2D (with few instances of color) that have a highly detailed, hand drawn appearance. It sort of resembles "Squigglevision", as seen on TV shows like Dr. Katz and Home Movies, except here the lines stay straight. There isn't much animation for the characters, but they have cycles that display different emotions, such as happiness, surprise, anger, and sadness.

Gameplay
When navigating the hotel, you get a bird's eye view of the section you're in. Dragging the stylus across the floor moves your character, and touching certain areas allows you to get a close-up view in order for you to investigate. You'll open doors by touching the handle (if it's open) or tapping the door itself to "knock", which may get a response from whoever's inside. Utilizing the unique features of the Nintendo DS to solve puzzles, you'll rub and tap the screen, close the DS itself, blow the microphone, and other touch-screen interactions. You'll scrape away paint, blow dust, and flip objects over. One such puzzle involves finding a pair of pliers to cut a thick wire hanger off a wall rack to help jimmy open your suitcase after your key broke inside the lock. You'll get a close-up view of the lock and will manually navigate the wire inside of it to push all the interior levers aside.
Kyle is equipped with a memo pad to hold information pertaining to your investigation, such as character info, a hotel map, your inventory, summaries of past chapters, and even a few blank pieces of paper you can use to write down your own notes. I personally only needed to take notes on three occassions, but you might find more uses for this convenience.
You'll close out each chapter with a tough interrogation on one of the hotel's occupants, this game's equivelant of a boss battle. Here, you'll ask the hard questions that'll get people to spill their deepest hidden secrets that will give you valuable info on your mission. Be on your toes, because saying the wrong thing will screw up your interrogation and the game will end for you.
Speaking of game overs, aside from incorrectly interrogating someone, there are other ways. When having normal conversations with people, you are usually given a couple of choices of what to say. Some phrases are civil, others snappy. If you say too many wrong things that get whomever you're talking to angry, they might go complain to Dunning and he'll throw you out on your ass. Another way is if you're caught carrying something that you "borrowed" from someone else. To prevent this, you'll either have to stash the items in your suitcase or return them to where you found them.
As for how long this game will last you, my first play through was 20 hours, many of which were grouped into multi-hour sessions. I completed it inside of a month.

Tips
Here's a few things you should keep in mind when you begin playing that I wish I knew before I did.
-Save often, especially if you're unsure of what's in store for you. If you get a game over, you'll restart at the beginning of the last time increment that passed. Each chapter is measured in an hour of time and divided into twenty-minute parts. It will be a buzz-killer to have to repeat a lot of the dialog you just got done reading if you have to start over. And there's a lot of dialog.
-Apparently, if you beat the game without getting a game over, there's an extra scene at the end. So always save at a point where it's "do or die" and reset the game if you accidentally get a game over so the game won't record it.
-I also read that there's a point at the beginning of Chapter 4 where you get coins for a vending machine which enables you to obtain something. If you miss it, it won't ruin your game as I can attest to, but I'd like to know what happens if you get it.

In Closing
Don't buy this if you play video games because they're not literature. If you enjoy reading, point and click adventures, and a good mystery, then by all means track this one down. As a writer, I would love to create a game like this based on my own properties. I would even chip in with static illustrations.

Maybe if I get involved with the video game industry somehow, someway...

And that's just the way it is.
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