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Hotel Dusk: Room 215 Package Art

Hotel Dusk: Room 215

Adventure games are sometimes thought to be a dying breed. Or is that a resurgent one? Nintendo DS has proven to be a haven for the genre, from Trace Memory and Lost in Blue to more recent titles like Touch Detective and now Hotel Dusk: Room 215. Reviews for these tend to be mixed, which is as much a review of the genre as it is the game. Face it, some gamers just don't want to read a story.

Hotel Dusk is all story. A near graphic novel, players follow a day in the life of Kyle Hyde, a former detective who now works as a door-to-door salesman. On the side, he runs side jobs for his boss, using his detective skills for whatever is needed. But Kyle's main purpose is to find his former partner Bradley. It's a life Kyle left behind years ago, but his past is still full of questions that linger in his mind. It just so happens that the mysteries surrounding Hotel Dusk and its odd mix of visitors holds the answers.


Hotel Dusk presents a stylish and attractive setting. The characters are generally drawn in pencil, meaning the game is a slick mix of watercolor backgrounds and black and white people. Each character is well animated and presents a wide range of emotions through their expressive faces. The three dimensional game world is surprisingly crisp. At times the magnified close-ups of particular areas are pixilated, but not to the point of distraction. Kyle never leaves the hotel, yet the look never tires. Everything is as it should be, and it does great to set the story.


Hotel Dusk is as much about the overall experience as it is about actual gameplay. It's no surprise then that great care was given to the various background tunes present in the 1970s setting. Much of it falls somewhere between bad lounge singing and elevator jazz, but it suits the world of Hotel Dusk perfectly. Even the knocks of doors are precisely realized lending more credibility to the environment.


Really, Hotel Dusk is all about the environment, be it sight, sound or play. The game is more of an interactive narrative than traditional video game even when compared to other point and click adventures. It starts as soon as the game is powered on, as the DS is turned on its side a la Brain Training to immediately sell the idea of a story-driven mystery.

Most of the game is spent in conversations with other hotel guests and employees. Kyle takes mental notes of comments of interest, which are stored as questions for future use. Kyle can ask these questions later in the talk and sometimes ask the questions of other people. For example, when Kyle learns from the hotel manager that another guest by the name of Kyle Hyde stayed at the hotel, he can use that information to ask Louie the bellhop. Also, Kyle can press the people he speaks with for more details on a particular subject, usually with a few options in how to proceed. Different options produce different results and occasionally affect Kyle's conversations with other guests as well.

None of this is the substandard dialogue that is often the norm. These lines are expertly crafted and well designed. Characters have depth and much of the point is to understand those depths. Truly outstanding work.

Without the strong story, Hotel Dusk would fall extremely flat. Like most point and clicks, the game interjects puzzles into the game to add more thought provoking elements to the game. It takes some time before the puzzles demand much thought, however, they're mainly diversions to remind players they are in fact playing a video game. What makes the puzzles work, however, is what makes the entire game work-- interaction. Throughout play, Hotel Dusk makes great use of the touch screen. The left side screen (or right side for lefties) displays a first person, three dimensional viewpoint. The right side touch screen displays a map with an overhead marker of Kyle. Kyle walks toward a touched point. When he nears something of interest, the view can be zoomed and switched to the touch screen so objects can be examined.

Perhaps it's the use of a stylus or holding the system in your hands, but it feels more involving than most adventures. Kyle knocks on a door by tapping on a door; he can instead try to open it by directly touching the knob. Sometimes players can blow on the screen to solve a puzzle. One even requires that the DS be closed. What's best is that there is no indication that it needs to be done. Adventures too often hold players' hands from start to finish; Hotel Dusk forces players to keep an open mind when solving problems, and it makes successes feel like success.

Emphasis is placed on interviewing and investigating, fitting well with Kyle's detective background. The ability to take notes directly on Kyle's "notepad" by writing on the DS touch screen is both useful and rewarding. As is standard for the genre, the main trick is talking to people at the right time. By trial and error players can make their way through, but learning the ending of a fun, clever and sometimes gritty story is the real reward.




Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is not just a fun play, it's a good read. It's a classic PC-styled adventure with an emphasis on story and realized in a great way on DS hardware. A little more difficulty in the puzzles would have been preferred, but the interesting and well-developed story combined with a graphic noir style demands continued play and a place in any adventure fan's library.

final score 8.9/10

Staff Avatar Dave Magliano
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"Tiger uppercut!!"

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