There’s something that I love about a good mystery story. The intrigue, the twists and turns, the characters who become suspects, finding clues in every bit of fiber. Something about this combination really catches my attention. It’s because of my love of mysteries that shows like Castle and Monk and books like the Alex Cross series are among my favorite things to watch/read. And it’s because of the mystery (and partially the high recommendation from friends) that I picked up the video game Hotel Dusk.
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a video game released for the Nintendo DS a few years ago. The game revolves around Kyle Hyde, a police officer turned traveling salesman who is looking for his ex-partner who suddenly vanished 3 years ago. The year in this game is 1979 and Kyle has been told to go to Hotel Dusk to wait for a package. And every person in this hotel has a secret. It’s up to Kyle to put the pieces of this mystery together and try to find a trail to his missing friend before the night is over.
I’m going to break this review into sections, starting with what was most important/impressive to me and working my way to the annoyances of the game, in my opinion. Let’s start with what intrigued me the most about the game in the first place: The story.
Story: The main bulk of this story revolves around finding out secrets. As Kyle, you need to talk to the people staying at the hotel and the owners as well to find out what’s going on. What I love about the story is how each character’s mystery connects to the others of the hotel. The mysteries all connect in believable and surprising ways. There was not one twist in this story that I was able to predict before hand and, in a mystery, that’s not only a good thing. That is a GREAT thing. I know I’m being a little cryptic here, but it’s really hard to talk about the story without giving away what’s going on. For the story alone, this game is highly recommended.
Characters: The characters in this game are some of my favorite characters in any games. They all have fully developed and fleshed out personalities. Most of the characters, the first time you meet them, are rude and surly. What I like most about this game is the way they change your mind about their characters. For example, one of the first you meet is a little girl named Melissa. She starts off as a little brat who you just want to smack. Once you learn her backstory, though, you see why she’s so angry and it makes you like her a bit more. That sort of thing happens a lot in this game. And while their personalities don’t really change too much, you still appreciate every character’s story and why they are the way they are.
Kyle: I felt Kyle deserved his own section just because I love this character so much. He is the biggest asshole main character I have ever seen and I mean that in the best possible way. He is constantly rude, selfish, pushy, and a jerk to everyone he meets (with only a few exceptions). When he’s trying to figure out someone’s secret, it’s not because he cares about them. It’s because this character has an insatiable NEED to know secrets, to investigate the truth, to understand the story. He’s a really compelling character. Also, and this is just my theory on the subject, he is absolutely, head over heals, in love with his ex-partner Bradley. He constantly talks about Bradley, almost to the point of obsession, and it all just screams “secret love” to me. I know that it’s not true in the game, but it’s true in my personal interpretation of it.
Gameplay: This game plays as part interactive book and part point and click mystery game. Most of the game is experienced through text conversations with the characters. If you’re not a fan of text based game play, this game isn’t going to change your mind. But the story and characters were good enough to carry my attention. There were also various puzzles to solve and this is a big hit and miss for me. Miss because there isn’t a huge variety with the puzzles, even if they all did make me think. Hit because this game utilizes multiple aspects of DS tech. For example, there are at least 2 puzzles where you’re supposed to close the DS and open it again in order to solve it. I had never seen that before and thought it was a very good and intuitive use of the technology.
Graphics: This is where the game falls flat. To get around in the game, you must move a dot across a flat map that looks almost like a blueprint of the hotel. While you move, on the other screen, you see the hotel through the eyes of the character and everything looks very flat and lifeless. It looked out of date even by Playstation standards. What I DID like were the character designs. Each character looks like a sketched out doodle. This makes the game feel very atmospheric and the animators really gave the characters great expressions and presence in the game. The animation just fit the mood so well. So, while the destination wasn’t really good, the people in it really added a lot to the experience.
That’s about all I have to say about Hotel Dusk. I really enjoyed it and felt it was a very good video game mystery. Just about the only complaint I have about it is the name. Room 215, while it is the room the main character stays in, has nothing to do with the plot of the game. So that part of the title doesn’t really make sense to me. Still, if you like text based games or if you even just like a good mystery, I highly recommend this game. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to pack up my fedora and move along. I hear there’s another mystery in the sequel to this game, The Last Window. And my curiosity is screaming for me to get solving it…