Hotel Dusk: Room 215
It seems like we gamers have two choices these days: either take the video game equivalent of a hammer to the head or a kick to the balls.
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Call me a crotchety-crusty gamer, but I prefer a little subtlety these days. And while I'll gladly take an in-your-face title like Gears of War out for a spin, I'd much rather exercise my brain than my fingers.
So it was with a sense of hope that I plunged headlong into the dark and gritty world of the neo-noir DS game Hotel Dusk: Room 215. For the most part, I enjoyed my stay, as it brought back fond memories of a bygone era when compelling storylines, brain-teasing puzzles, and methodical gameplay ruled the roost.
Unfortunately, playing Hotel Dusk was also a bitter reminder of the reasons why the point-and-click adventure genre is currently languishing in digital purgatory, gathering dust like an overlooked museum exhibit.
Room With A View
The first thing you'll most likely notice about Hotel Dusk, and with good reason, is its unique visual style. Reminiscent of the video for A-Ha's hit song, Take On Me--check Youtube if you've never seen it--the characters who populate Hotel Dusk are rendered in a shaded pencil-line style, which creates a graphic novel feel. This fits the deep and engaging story line, which is admittedly a little hackneyed--a down in the dumps former-cop finds mystery, and a part of his past, at a strange hotel filled with suspicious characters. But the dialogue is well written and the puzzles are, for the most part, intelligently laid out.
The controls are also a little quirky. You hold the DS sideways and use the stylus to navigate around, interact with the environment and make dialogue choices--but the thoughtful pacing of the game's story ensures that your fingers are never left fumbling.
However, much like classic adventure games of yore, Hotel Dusk suffers from some flaws that are inherent to the genre. First, there is a lot of fluff and meaningless exchanges to sift through. Also, be prepared to wander around for long stretches as you try to figure out what to do next. Then there's the problem of item relevancy. Although you're able to interact with a wide variety of objects, only a small percentage of them will actually be useful to you. And yet, you feel compelled to interact with every object you come across, out of fear that you'll overlook something.
Hotel Dusk probably won't appeal to every DS gamer, as it requires a degree of patience and thoughtfulness that only the aged (and insane) are capable of. But anyone looking for a cerebral and deliberate challenge should definitely check out this cool and unique title; just be patient with it, and don't let its minor faults discourage you from plumbing its depths.