Hotel Dusk: All Adventures Must Come to an End

In a previous post, I gave my thoughts on Hotel Dusk: Room 215, so I've already discussed the creative art style of the characters and what looked like the beginning of a great story. Now that I've finished it, after about 16 hours, I can say that the story only gets better as the mysteries begin to unravel. Based on the story alone I would recommend this game, although there are several serious problems with it.

While the dialogue and plot are top-notch, the game play itself is very slow and somewhat boring. Neither your character nor the scrolling text is capable of moving very quickly. Luckily, this is somewhat balanced by the structure of the game, which is broken up into 10 chapters. (The chapter formula contributes to Hotel Dusk's graphic novel-feel, as well as holding the DS sideways like a book.) I found myself trying to play a whole chapter in one sitting in order to remain aware of relevant information. This was a good pace for the narrative as each chapter took a little over an hour to complete, and the slow pace of the game kept me from playing for longer stretches of time.

The DS functionally is used moderately well, but it seems like there was a lot of untapped potential. By interacting with the screen you pick up and move around objects, open doors (a lot), solve jigsaw puzzles, draw pictures, and even decorate a Christmas tree. There are also a couple instances of closing and opening the DS itself to accomplish a task.

A topic central to both The Brainy Gamer and Man Bytes Blog is how game play and narrative intersect. In Hotel Dusk, I would argue that there is very little game play. The dialogue to game play ratio is about 4:1. The little game play that's available is closely integrated with your perspective as Kyle Hyde, but most of the time you just walk from room to room, repeatedly questioning people for information. When you can find people, that is. If you see a person standing somewhere, they're relevant to that chapter. If you can't find someone, you don't need to talk to them. This game is extremely linear.

The story is quite good, but the dialogue "choices" are flimsy and shallow at best. The correct choice is usually either blatantly obvious or of no consequence. Your brain will rarely get stressed. This is a game where you as the player are mainly along for the ride. There's little to do on the way, but the journey is thought-provoking and entertaining.

Despite its flaws and general lack of interaction, I found myself very involved in the story. I really wanted to help Hyde solve the mystery behind his missing partner. I think Hotel Dusk proves that adventure games aren't dead yet, but perhaps just in a light coma. If you like adventure games, give this one a shot. The story is simple but intriguing, and went in some unexpected directions. All your wishes just may come true, if you stay in room 215.

(Spoiler that's not a spoiler: Although the presentation in Hotel Dusk is somewhat ephemeral, this is not a ghost story of any kind.)

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