Hotel Dusk: Room 215

posted in Games on Apr 13, 2007

If you’re an Oldy McOlderson, you may look at video games as something that stupid kids do. I’ve always been a big proponent of the fact that some video games are essentially story books with visuals, with RPGs heading the pack on this idea. You run around, talk to people, and delve deep into a story thick with text that can be just as fulfilling as reading a great novel. Going on with this idea, but not a RPG, Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a great detective game that gives a very full, rewarding story throughout.

The core gameply you’re going to run into with this game revolves around questioning different characters in the game. You play as Kyle Hyde, a former detective who, after an altercation with his partner three years ago in 1976, ends up at Hotel Dusk looking for clues on his partner. To do your detectiving, you hold the DS sideways like a book, and you traverse the hotel by simply pointing your stylus on a map to make the character move while the other screen displays a 3D version of what Hyde is seeing in the first person. The DS can’t push polygons like other machines, but the hotel is rendered well enough that you don’t care; it’s not the point anyway, so get over it. The characters themselves are two dimensional pencil sketches, and the effect works brilliantly. They all have a set number of expressions that they give as you talk to them, but they all look so natural that the line between what you see on the screen and what your imagination fills in becomes blurred, and you end up just seeing each character’s distinct personality. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the 2D, drawn characters in this game have more expression, emotion, and personality than the super polygonal guys in console and PC games. The sound is generally top notch throughout as well, with nice jazzy, detective tunes. You feel like a gumshoe as this classic detective music plays in the background.

There’s little to do in the way of action in the game. There’s really no time when you have to pull your piece and lay waste to folks. Instead, like a good detective should, you find clues and figure out the solution to the mysteries you come across. Getting clues is accomplished through talking to the various characters in the hotel, and you have to manually write interesting leads in your notebook. If you forgoe writing stuff down, you may forget to do something that will impede your progress, so keeping up with your notetaking is a good thing, and helps to make you feel more of the part.

The game may not be for everyone. It’s slow compared to your average video game, but what it lacks in explosions it makes up for in great writing. Like I mentioned in the opener, games with great storylines can feel like you’re reading a great novel, and the dialogue in Dusk never feels like it was canned for a video game. Coupled with the great visuals coming from each character, the story grabs you and doesn’t let go until you’re done. As I write this I really wish there was more game to play. It’s not short, mind you, but I’m pretty invested in the characters to make me want more. Not every story element feels fantastic, and you can see how they made concessions here and there for things, but you definitely won’t dwell on those facts.

I did a disservice to myself by picking up this game two months ago and only finishing it now. I had put it down for whatever reason and I wish I hadn’t. If you want a great detective story that keeps you guessing through and through (which all good detective stories should), then this game should be way up on the list.