Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on May 20th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under Point and Click, adventure, nintendo ds, dual screen, visual novel

The Nintendo DS was a landmark handheld console. In hindsight Nintendo looks prophetic with its adoption of a touchscreen in the years just before the idea of the smartphone takes hold in the public consciousness. This touchscreen allowed many gameplay ideas that were once slow and clunky to become much smoother. Point and click adventure games are mostly known from the PC market, but there have been some ports and original point and clicks on older consoles and handhelds. The DS with its touchscreen allowed point and click adventure games to be played in the palm of everybody's hand, and there was an explosion of them. One of the early prominent developers of DS point and click adventures was the Japanese developer Cing. In 2005 they released Another Code: Two Memories, which was renamed Trace Memory for North America. In 2007 the company released Hotel Dusk: Room 215, both of these titles did quite well for the small developer. However, Cing was not able to keep this momentum rolling and went defunct in 2010.

Hotel Dusk was the first of a two part series, with its sequel being Last Window: The Secret of Cape West. Both games released on the DS, and Last Window was also Cing's final game before going bankrupt. Nintendo published all these DS titles, but part of Cing's problems may have been the seemingly random release regions of their games. Trace Memory and Hotel Dusk released in Japan, North America, and Europe and achieved some success. Last Window and Trace Memory's sequel, Another Code: R - A Journey into Lost Memories for the Wii, only released in Japan and Europe. Last Window released too late in Cing's life to likely come to North America, they were already dying when the game was releasing. What was strange about Hotel Dusk was that its first release region was in North America. So what made Hotel Dusk so special that many adventure game fans had to have it and play it? What gave it the crossover appeal to give it that little extra push?

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 has a unique style of presentation. While playing the game the DS must be held at a 90 degree angle, which forces the player to hold the console like a book. On top of that it has a rotoscoped sketchbook visual design for its characters. The visual style fits with the background of the main character, as this style is similar to the idea of a police sketchbook. Kyle Hyde is the main character that players will take control of, and he's a former NYPD detective who has since retired and now works as a salesman for Red Crown. He feels as if his partner Bradley had betrayed him, so he left the force so he could hunt down the ghost of his old partner. His boss at Red Crown has helped Kyle on this task when there is free time. Kyle has been sent to Hotel Dusk for business, but until the meeting with the client he has free reign to investigate the grounds and people to see if there is any connection to Bradley.

In terms of story and characters, Hotel Dusk is most easily described as the most convenient series of coincidences. Everything is connected to something in some way. Even Kyle Hyde runs into an old criminal he used to arrest in New York, even though Hotel Dusk is all the way across the country in California. Louis DeNonno is an old New York pickpocket who was taken in by Hyde a few times, but moved across the country to start fresh, and of course he happens to work at the hotel that Hyde is sent to for the game. This is the most direct connection to Hyde, but most of the other characters end up having connections between each other that are unknown at the start of the game. The entire experience that Hyde goes through is solving the mysteries of the people staying at Hotel Dusk at the same time as him, and finding out how they relate to his own search for Bradley.

One aspect of the story that feels quite well done is the overall setting. Hotel Dusk: Room 215 takes place in the twilight days of the 1970's. The game starts at 5:00 PM on December 28, 1979 and continues into the early hours of December 29. In terms of visual design and technology, nothing stands out as feeling out of place. The game's soundtrack is also quite strong and fits with the time period of the game's setting. There are no supernatural powers or time traveling entities pulling the strings in Hotel Dusk. Everything feels real and fits the standards of the period. The only real power in the game is Kyle Hyde's uncanny ability to unlock a person's inner secrets through repeated and concentrated questioning and with his discovery of evidence. Most of the pieces needed for the game and its puzzles are in easy to find locations, but a couple of them are more well hidden. There's just enough cryptic clues to keep the player thinking and on their toes while playing through the game.

In terms of gameplay Hotel Dusk is quite simple. Like most point and click adventures the game features puzzles, but none of them have any sort of difficulty. Most of the evidence gathered is incredibly simple to find as well. Progression is also literally locked behind doors. Many doors in the hotel are for staff only, as a result of this Hyde must earn the trust of staff members in order to pass these locked staff doors. The other guests also have their own rooms in the hotel, and they will not let Hyde in without a compelling reason. Like most adventures this progression is entirely linear, so players must only find what they need and learn where the next move is. Its a simple formula but it works through most of the game. The end of each chapter also has a quiz where Hyde spends some time thinking over what happened and what he's learned, and players will have to select the correct answer to questions he asks. The chapters are all quite short so these quizzes never pose a problem, and the question is simply asked again if the player fails to get the correct answer.

While Hotel Dusk enjoyed some praise in its time it is really quite the simple game. Its graphical aesthetic is the most interesting part of the game's design. The simplistic gameplay is likely a result of it being one of those games that only really allows touchscreen use. Outside of movement all controls must done through touching. The characters are quite interesting and varied overall. The game also has a few problems with its resolution, while Kyle has many questions to answer over the course of the game, only a couple ones are truly answered in the end. There are plenty of adventures on the DS, and Hotel Dusk is still worth playing, but it may not be among the top of the line in terms of point and click style games for the handheld. Its still quite good and competent, but its simplistic gameplay weakens the experience. The good news for collectors is that the game is still quite affordable, with complete copies ranging between $10-20. Its also quite short, so can be played quickly. Its not much of a loss if the game is not enjoyed, but there's enough good there to keep the attention of certain players. It seems like the game's success just came from a mixture of Nintendo's strong marketing mixed with the game's unique visual presentation, which made screenshots stand out from the crowd.

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A few years ago, I really got into this style of game. I played through 999, Hotel Dusk, and Trace Memory (DNF) back-to-back-to-back.  This game was certainly one of my favorites.  Great review!
@singlebanana: Its definitely a good game, I just felt the story was not as good as I remembered it being back when I played it first in 2007 or 2008.
Hmm, this might be one to look out for, if I see it available on the cheap. Good write-up!
I played this way back in 2007 and enjoyed it despite not really being a fan of point and click adventure games. I remember virtually nothing about it though, so it might be a good one to revisit sometime whenever I'm in the mood for this sort of game.
@Disposed Hero: Remembering nothing about the game is basically the same reason I decided to replay it.

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