Review by Bkstunt_31
Kyle Hyde, the king of small talk...
Visual Novels aren't very prevalent in gaming today, but the hand-held world seems to get the majority of them. Hotel Dusk is exactly that: an interactive visual novel. Sure, you have to make the protagonist walk from area to area and you get to choose how you interact with people, but at it's core Hotel Dusk is a mystery story. Is it any good? Here's my take on it:
The story is set in 1979. Kyle Hyde is an ex-NYPD detective who works as a door-to-door salesman now after leaving the force after a fall-out with his partner Brian. He has spent the last 10 years of his life chasing his partner, who betrayed the NYPD and stole a valuable painting, but not before Kyle found out and put a bullet in his back as Brian fell into the Hudson River. However, after the police found no body, he quit the force and became a salesman.
Hyde's salesman job lets him live while searching for Brian on the side. He also does various "item collecting" jobs (read: illegal) for his boss from time to time as well, and one of these jobs takes him to the dreary Hotel Dusk, where he is to look for a small red box and acquire it for his client, but upon checking in he sees that a Kyle Hyde stayed there six months ago...
Suspecting that his partner is using his name, Kyle finds himself swept up into a mystery in the storied hotel, leaving you to unravel it and find out what is truly going on...
Well, I can write up a summary pretty good, but is the story really GOOD? Well, it shouldn't need to be said, but first let me tell you that the game is FULL of text. You're going to be reading a LOT as you play, and there really isn't ANY action whatsoever, so if that bothers you this game is flat out not for you. The mystery itself is actually pretty good, with quite a few players and plot twists that you wouldn't see coming.
However, the process of HEARING this story can only be described as "work". Hyde himself has to be the RUDEST person I've ever seen! He (you) will poke his nose into ANYONE'S business, seemingly without reason. However, this kind of rudeness and nosiness is ESSENTIAL to progress the story. This leads to an AWFUL lot of small talk throughout the game (and why I picked my review title) and really doesn't let the story flow very well until the final few chapters. And trust me when I say there is a LOT to text in this game. Thankfully you get to ask a lot of questions and you even get to choose which responses to give at times. Unfortunately the responses are pretty darn black and white: be inquisitive or be a jerk. The only other thing that bothered me about the story is how EVERYONE you run into is involved in this incredibly complex mystery story... and you all happen to be in this out-of-the-way hotel. It's all so completely unbelievable and leaves you stuck in the same rather boring locale for the entirety of the game!
The "game play" pretty much comes down to, like I said earlier, talking to people over and over. Eventually you'll wear down their "I don't like strangers" defenses and force them to spill whatever secrets they may have (because that's what Kyle does...). As you play you'll often get to reply with various choices, and while most of the time these choices don't matter sometimes they DO, and picking the wrong choice can straight up lead to a GAME OVER. You'll also find several instances where you'll have to solve "puzzles" to continue. Now, these "puzzles" are pretty much a farce for the most part... you'll find yourself putting together a kid's puzzle (twice!) and doing such inane tasks like rubbing paint off of something (rubbing your stylus across the screen) or connecting the dots. Not all is bad though, there ARE some decent puzzles to be found (mostly near the end of the game) and the game does an exceptional job of keeping track of what you need to do next, and what questions to ask to progress the story.
The graphics in Hotel Dusk are definitely unique, and you'll remember them long after playing the game. I may be giving away my age here, but do you remember the music video to "Take on me" by A-ha!? The graphics in the game are exactly like that: they look like they're done in a pencil-sketch that is continuously moving, giving it a very unique look while adding some visual charm. The quality is good of course, but this style is only used for the characters. Another thing you should definitely know is that you play this game while holding your DS like a book (similar to Brain Age or Ninja Gaiden DS). Then you'll have your map on the left-hand side (which is where Kyle's portrait or buff is at too) and the standard 2D background on the right-hand side (which you can move around in, in a first-person view). The game will have tabs below the background that tell you if you can interact with your environment, such as a talking tab that will light up when you're around people, or an "investigate" tab that will light up when you're by a desk or other area you can investigate. Pretty average stuff. It did kinda bug me that you had to investigate a door, then use its door handle to get through a door (bringing back some annoying Shadowgate/Deja Vu memories), but it feels more natural in this game since the ever-nosy Kyle will be knocking on everyone's hotel doors to pester them...
The sound track is definitely a mixture of easy-listening and jazz... y'know, the kinda music that you can hear at any classy mall. It actually fits the game really well, so I enjoyed it, but it's nothing that you'll remember fondly a decade from now (although "Amber Sunset" is a pretty darn good song). It's more of an accompaniment noise than anything else. Sound effects are standard fare, and there's little else to say about the audio other than "average and forgettable".
Surprisingly enough, the game actually has a HIDDEN SCENE at the end that you can only get if you either do things in a certain order or don't see the game over screen (really not sure which, I just ended up you-tubing the ending), so that's a LITTLE re-playability for you. Honestly, there isn't much to do after you beat the game. The game itself is a lengthy experience though, and should last you 3-4 good afternoons at least.
In short, Hotel Dusk will give you a decent story with some very slow and non-engaging game play. There are a lot of "unbelievable coincidences" throughout the game, and Hyde himself can be a very un-likeable character at times (I hate people who are that darn nosy, to keep it PG), but it's a decent game. I'd have to recommend the Ace Attorney series (Phoenix Wright) before it though, if you were looking for a DS game with a good STORY. Or have you given 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors a look? Heck, I even prefer Time Hollow's story to Hotel Dusk's. In other words, unless you've played through the DS's other "Story-heavy" games, maybe try them out before picking up Hotel Dusk. Have fun and keep playing!
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (US, 01/22/07)
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