Gritty noir softboiled detective rubbishPublish date: 31 August 2009 by Brigitte
Sometime in the eighties a collection of personalities who wouldn''t be the least bit out of place in Identity are gathering, in a hotel equally as inviting.
Pleasingly, Hotel Dusk's grubby interior is in stark contrast to the presentation of the game as a whole. My first order of business invariably being to ignore the manual and wing it, the interface turned out to be entirely intuitive and I was soon directing my ill-humoured stylus into every offlimits nook the hotel had to offer. Additionally, Hotel Dusk makes the sort of seldom seen clever use of the DS's interface that is truly engaging and – in the case of puzzle solving – leaves one with a genuine sense of smug self-satisfaction. Without giving too much away, everything from the microphone to the hinges of the console itself will be used at some point during your stay.
Graphically, however, I'm unconvinced. In keeping with the gritty noir theme, characters are all beautifully rendered in a black and white sketchbook style and remain strangely compelling even after several hours playtime, this in spite of being about as tremulous as an A-ha music video. While theres little animation to speak of, what there is suffices to avoid another of my pet hates in dialogue driven RPGS – that of characters exclaiming "Oh my god I am so surprised / sad / angry" whilst their stock portrait beams vacuously into the distance, seemingly oblivious to events around them. Not so in Hotel Dusk, with characters reacting to each twist of the conversation in a way that both adds authenticity and allows the player a more accurate gauge of how things are going and – importantly – when it might be time to try a different conversational tack. That said, the marriage of hand-drawn art and Doom-esque 3D environments works as well now as it did in 1990 and left me focusing predominantly on the mini-map when navigating about the hotel.
The sound and music is adequate, though if someone were to tell me the themes had been lifted verbatim from Shining Force or the like, I wouldn't find it hard to believe. For the most part, theres enough happening to keep you distracted from it, but on the odd occasion that you're wandering about trying to figure out what to do next, you're likely to find yourself reaching for the volume. Fortunately, these are likely to be few and far between as both the general pacing and puzzle design is such that you're never left to wander and randomly click things in the hope of progressing through the story. My one real gripe – and its a small one – is that you aren't allowed to solve puzzles ahead of time, no matter how screamingly obvious they might be.
In the end though, its the mystery that lingers, not the answer, and Hotel Dusk is crammed full of the former. Whether thats by design or accident, however, is anybodys guess.