The Nintendo DS helps game developers make breakthrough games that are either new genres or re-inventions of past genres. We’ve already seen this at work with Brain Age or even with games like Feel the Magic where the stylus gameplay and microphone really made it feel different despite being nothing more than simple yet addictive collections of minigames. In the same way, the Nintendo DS can reinvigorate old genres and give them new life. Some gamers might remember Myst; a really, really popular point and click adventure game. There were also many other point and click adventure games on the market, mostly on the PC, but that genre died, replaced by more fleshed out games like the ones we have today. Well, developer Cing decided it was time for point and click games to shine again and produced Hotel Dusk, which delivers a compelling and more mature story than what we are used to on the DS.
Hotel Dusk starts out very slowly by putting players into the role of Kyle Hyde and having him meet with his new surroundings. You enter Hotel Dusk and immediately you will have this very big conversation with one of the characters, immediately followed by another one, then another one and so on and so forth. Your character, and ex-detective, starts to find some things in common with what people tell him and his past partner who has disappeared. This starts a series of mysteries that you will need to resolve with almost all of the characters you meet in the hotel, all of which will bring you closer to finding the shocking truth about what really happened to your partner.
The best way to explain Hotel Dusk is to call it an interactive book. You’ll spend most of your time reading and have conversations with all of the game’s interesting characters, ranging from a mysterious but pretty mute girl, to an old buddy of Kyle, a writer, and even an old lady with a pirate patch on her eye! And with the game spanning several chapters, you get to focus pretty much on all of those characters, learning about their pasts and solving “cases”, just as you would as a detective, which is what the game is; a clever detective story.
Now, one of the problems of this game being just like an interactive book is that it follows a linear path, making it impossible for you to go around an explore on your own.. For example, at some point in the game, you learn that there is another set of stairs in the back of the hotel to go to the second floor, but the door that you use to get to those stairs is “locked” on purpose until someone tells you that you can go. What I dislike about this is that this forces players into certain areas of the game to solve the puzzle and so this point and click adventure isn’t that much of an adventure anymore since you don’t even have to think much about what to do next. To make it even easier, the important words in the text are red just like in Zelda games just so you exactly know where to go or who to talk to. This doesn’t mean that this game isn’t fun, but when I say it is like an interactive book, I really mean it as the story elements will always happen in the same order and there is nothing you can really change about it.
The game’s puzzles usually appear on the bottom screen, with you having to move something or shake stuff to find clues that will help you progress further. You also have to make choices in dialog trees to ask different questions and sometimes solve cases like that, and by asking or saying the wrong thing, you might have to restart parts of a chapter. You have no health or points in this game, but you can still “die” if you select the wrong path or get caught doing something wrong, but since the game always stay the same, you just need to do the same this again, but instead select the second option to succeed, making progress seem completely unrewarding.
One of the reasons this game got some hype on the Internet, especially on message boards, is because it has an interesting art style. All of the characters are hand drawn in black and white and look like the raw animation drawings that you see when you look at the special features of your favorite Disney DVD. Characters have some bits of animations although they are very few and repetitive, and the characters will also turn red when they are shocked or mad about something. This art style makes the game very unique and portrays all of the character’s emotions in a manner that everyone will understand.
Even though this game is pretty short and doesn’t really offer anything for the harcore gamer, it is really fun if you are into detective stories or like point and click games. The music will definitely annoy you at some point or another unless you like elevator music but at least you can turn off the sound of the DS. So while this game isn’t the next big thing, it does reinvigorate the point and click genre and offers a stimulating story for both teenagers as well as adults. The writing could use a little work but is definitely acceptable, and with some tuning and reworking, Cing could do something really interesting things with a genre that we all thought was dead. Hotel Dusk could really help expand Nintendo’s market, all the while entertaining current users who are looking for something fresh to add to their now growing collection.