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SummaryA long, intricate and rewarding investigation.
The GoodHaving proven they could bring adventure games to the DS with Another Code, developers Cing stepped things up a gear with Hotel Dusk, possibly the most unique adventure game of recent times. Whereas Another Code was a fairly straightforward and short tale, Hotel Dusk is very long and very convoluted, demanding more of the player but no less satisfying for it.
From the start the game aims to be unique, by making you hold the DS on it's side like a book and almost completely ignoring the buttons in favour of the stylus and touch screen. In normal play the touch screen shows a map with which you guide your character, whilst the second screen gives his 1st view in 3D. I did find this initially quite dizzying as my stylus moves weren't always smooth, but this passed. Talking to characters (of which there are a lot) switches to head and shoulders of the interlocutors with occasional chances to interject.
On the whole the interface is relatively intuitive, though the reliance on the stylus results in a lot of screen switching so you can click on objects. As with most adventure games you have an inventory but you can't combine objects, forcing you to first put an item down before using another item on it. This can get tedious.
Just as in Another Code the story in Hotel Dusk is excellent, although a little on the long side. Taken straight from a film noir and transplanted into the late seventies you play Kyle Hyde, an ex-cop who left the force disillusioned after shooting his partner Bradley. Bradley didn't die, but disappeared leaving Kyle searching for him and answers, why did Bradley get mixed up in the Nile criminal ring? Meanwhile Kyle's new job is working for Red Crown, a travelling sales company with a sideline in finding 'lost' things. One such assignment leads Kyle to a fateful night in Hotel Dusk.
As Kyle you live that fateful evening in every detail, as the game takes place in a kind of real-time. This even goes to the extreme of making Kyle eat his dinner which you watch! Time only advances when certain tasks are performed so the player never has to worry about missing a vital detail. With the long and detailed story there's a lot to keep track of. For the first quarter of the game it felt like everyone had a problem that Kyle must clear up. It's a tangled web woven by the game, and fairly fascinating for it.
The BadIt certainly veers towards being a dodgy psycho-drama. All the actions happen in the drab brown motel, creating a claustrophobic air that several times made me put down the game for a breather. I've already mentioned that the game is long, it's too long really for the limited space of the motel, teasing out every location there's certainly no graphics wasted. As in Another Code all the DS's novel features are used in the various puzzles, sometime feeling as if the developers are checking them off a list.
Seemingly in an attempt at an advancement on Another Code, the first-person navigation ends up a bit more confusing. Having to identify key areas on the DS's low resolution 3D system can be problematic. I preferred Another Code's static first-person renders. Hotel Dusk's control scheme could work a lot better with some smoothing as the view reflects you jerky movements with the stylus.
Another method Cing uses to extract the most out of the hotel is to make you cross and re-cross it which becomes tiresome.
Finally without revealing too much of the plot, I did find it very, very unlikely. It's complex and convoluted to an unbelievable degree that relies heavily of happen-stance.
The Bottom LineDespite my misgivings about the interface and length, hotel Dusk is still the best adventure game I've played on the DS. Eschewing the child orientated nature of the platform it delivers a portable mature interactive mystery. Perhaps this mismatch of platform and content has not served Cing well. The game's distinctive artwork and tone could be a smash if ported to the adult friendly iPad.
Though too long, it's clear Cing spent a long time creating a rich and rewarding story that stands as a classic adventure game which deserves to be played.