mikpick's Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (Nintendo DS) review

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Once you enter Hotel Dusk, you're not going to want to check out.

Hotel Dusk: Room 215. From the guys who brought us Trace Memory, one of the older DS titles, Cing pulls off a simply superb DS adventure. Hotel Dusk can be described as an interactive novel, and what an amazing interactive novel it is. From start to finish, Hotel Dusk (Which will now go by HD) is a story of mystery, lies, and betrayal.

In HD you play a guy named Kyle Hyde, a former NYPD officer in his 30s who now works as a traveling salesman for a company called the Red Crown. Kyle isn't a generic hero, he seems real, filled with emotion. He's not afraid to speak his mind, and even though he can be a real pain sometimes to get along with, Kyle becomes a likeable character. Besides going around selling junk people don't want, Kyle also works in a side business ran by his boss Ed, finding things their clients can't. This brings Kyle to Hotel Dusk in December of 1979.

However, there's more then this. In the introduction we find out about a guy named Brian Bradley (who goes by Bradley in game), Bradley is Kyle's former partner from the NYPD, however he has been missing for the past three years, Kyle has memories of shooting Bradley into the water, however, he sill believes he is alive. Throughout Hotel Dusk you will wonder why Kyle made that shot, and why he must find Bradley.

Upon entering Hotel Dusk, Kyle will meet quite a couple of very interesting characters. At first they'll all look rather dull, but it doesn't take long to realize that not everyone is what they first appear to be. HD balances out the timelines for character development very well. It won't be as if you know every secret about everyone ten minutes after talking to them for the first time. The game will only allow you to learn a bit about them at first, but over time they are tied into the story, this not only boosts the character department, but aids the story very well.

As a detective, naturally you ask questions, and search for clues. That is basically what HD is all about. You will search every little corner of the nicely sized hotel for information and items you need. Then you ask people questions about these clues and items to progress the story. This all sounds rather simple, but it is actually rather difficult.

Searching is set out nicely, a little button on the bottom of your touch screen will flash when you're near an area you can check out, simply tap it. Then by using either a little scroll bar or the control pad, you can look around the area. Find something you want to check out, and double tap it. You will either then receive the item, or get a description on it. If you want, you can use Kyle’s notebook, a useful tool where you use the stylus to write down any notes you may need to take. The notebook will help if you need to remember things, but there's a lot of items you still have to search search. It's not just a couple of items through out the hotel. There are useually about five areas in each room you can search, with about four items in each of these numerous areas. If you don't know where you need to go, this can prove annoying and frustrating.

Asking, and finding new questions isn't too difficult. When talking to characters, Kyle may think of a question from the things they say, you will then have to choose one of useually multiple questions available to ask, then after hearing the persons answer, you may have to of ask follow up questions that have developed, adding to the web of results you can recieve. Depending on whether you say the right or wrong thing, you may get a game over. Items in your inventory can also be used, these can help progress the conversation or bring out some secrets of the person you're talking to.

Puzzles are nice in the game. Some are difficult, but after you complete them you'll figure out it's easier then you thought, you just have to think for a minute and you'll usually be able to get it. These puzzles range from lots of things. From trying to open your suitcase, to restoring electricity to a room, to the insanely difficult one at the end of the game. Puzzles often use items found in the game, though sometimes you just need your trusty stylus. You will even use other functions on the DS sometimes, like closing and opening it like a book!

The entire game of HD takes place over a single night. The game is divided into chapters. The game uses a clock to tell how far you've gotten through the story. However, it won't move until certain events are done. You can be at 8:20 ingame for over an hour, and the hands on the clock won't budge. While this can proove to be a bit confusing, it's a nice feature. The time adds to the feeling of the game, and it allows certain events to only occur during certain times.

When playing HD, you hold the DS sideways, like a book. This is also done in Brain Age. From there you see the two screens side by side. When walking around, the touch screen on the right (Or left if you chose a different hand preference) will be an overhead map, while the main screen is a 3D view of what Kyle sees. When taking to people, Kyle will normally appear on the main screen, while the other person is on the touch screen. There's always some buttons in the bottom corner of the Touch Screen. These are: A door, person, notebook, and magnifying glass. They'll flash when you can use them.

On the overhead map, you control Kyle with the touchscreen. Simply drag the stylus along the map and Kyle will move there, it works very well, I haven't really found a problem with this at all. As said earlier, when investigating. The same works for the door, you can either double tap the doorknob to open the door, or double tap the door itself to knock on it.

The graphics of HD can be divided into two parts. Conversation graphics, and well, non conversation graphics. When talking to people the graphics are simply beautiful. The characters are drawn out in black and white, although they still move, it looks brilliant. They also feature a large amounts of expressions, so they're not always in the same position. Along with this, a background image of the room is featured, which is a nice addition.

Outside of conversation, the graphics are still pretty nice. The touch screen map is done well, with clearly marked characters, doors, and other items. The 3D map is where the problems come though. For the most part it looks great, however there are two little things that could be better. When you walk up really close to a wall, it just looks all blurry and messed up. It's like taking a small picture off of the internet, and zooming up on it with MS Paint. It doesn't look right. Also, the characters are bad looking. They suffer the same way as the close up walls, and they don't look good on the 3D background.

The music on HD is great. A lot of it is some jazzy sounding stuff, it all sounds pretty nice. The piano music especially is beautiful. There's a pretty large soundtrack too, which can be listened to during certain chapters thanks to a music player. Sound effects are generally nice too. One thing HD is missing though is voice acting, although this is expected due to the mountains of text, so no real problem there.

This game can be hard, to put it simple. Unless you use a guide you will often find yourself wandering the halls and knocking on doors. HD does not give you a list of things you have to do in the chapter, so there's going to be trial and error at times, especially when figuring out what to use for puzzles. Later in the game, it's easier to get game over too. Being seen by a wrong person can cause this, and even asking just one wrong question. However I personally don't mind this, and I feel it adds to the challenge, in a good way.

Replay value is actually quite nice. HD offers a New Game Plus sort of thing, where you just continue your file after finishing the game. You'll go back to the start of the game, only it will be slightly different. Some rooms you couldn't reach before will be accessible in this time through. And the dialogue and items can change a bit. Also, HD has multiple endings, so if you want to get them all you'll have to play again.

Overall, Hotel Dusk is a simply excellent game, and I highly recommend everyone to buy this. It will take you about 15-18 hours your first time through, however as I said, the replay value will want you to keep playing this excellent mystery adventure. Once you enter Hotel Dusk, you're not going to want to check out.

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