Review: Hotel Dusk


You’re Kyle Hyde, an ex-cop who never managed to let go of that one final case. Now working as a door-to-door salesman for a small company, your job has you staying in a small crappy hotel in the middle of nowhere in a room that’s rumored to grant the wish of whoever stays there. It looks like it’s going to be a long night at Hotel Dusk: Room 215.

The Nintendo DS has had many unique titles come and go during its lifetime, but not many of them reach the level of characterization that Hotel Dusk managed to get down. Just one look at the game’s unique art style, and you know that you’re in for something different, even in comparison to the other graphic adventure titles in the DS library. Though it’s a little rough around the edges, the style is enough to warm the heart of a gamer with an eye for those special games out there.

The way that conversations work in this game just feels natural, and the characters come across as more than just video game characters. Often enough, I found myself caring for them, or wondering when I’d get to speak to them again. Just so I could learn more about their situations and what drove them to Hotel Dusk in the first place.

This goes for the protagonist as well. To me, Kyle Hyde felt like one of the few cases where a video game is very clear about the main character being a jerk, and because of the honest portrayal, there’s a charm to it. There are never any excuses for his behavior, in fact, most of the other guests in the hotel don’t like his presence all that much and the game over situation is quite literally being kicked out because people complained to the hotel’s owner about his behavior.

Following a faux-noir style, Hotel Dusk quickly establishes many conventions, while at the same time playing them intentionally crooked. You can just tell a lot of attention went into the details, even if a lot of times the game overlooks major elements in favor of the subtle things. For instance, Kyle Hyde is an ex-cop turned salesmen, and almost every time you see him he’s wearing his company’s coat like a trench coat, as if he’s still in the force. Instead of taking place in the ’40s, Hotel Dusk takes place in the ’70s. And while everything seems to be connected, it doesn’t mean that it’s all intentionally so.

Still, despite all these charming effects, there’s a lot that keeps Hotel Dusk from being a great game. First of, it hasn’t aged that well, and even when it was initially released, it wasn’t graphically impressive from a technical point of view. The 3D backgrounds are almost painful to look at, and the menus aren’t as smooth as they could have been. Hotel Dusk is one of those games where your stance on graphics versus style can make or break the game, considering the artistic style absolutely saves the game, graphically speaking.

One of my biggest problems with the game is that it’s often vague on what you’re supposed to be doing. Often enough you’ll be left behind with the knowledge that at some point in the future you’ll have to talk to person A or person B, so you’ll go around the entire hotel knocking on random doors hoping you’ll randomly run into that person somewhere along the way. More often than not, this is a dead end, and you’re supposed to be snooping around random rooms to uncover certain items in obscure places without as much as a single indication that this is what you’re supposed to be doing. More than half of my time playing was spent randomly knocking on doors.

These problems don’t make Hotel Dusk a bad game though. Hotel Dusk might certainly not be for everyone, but for those it’s aimed at, playing it is one of the most memorable experiences the DS has to offer, even if it is an incredibly short one.

PROS

  • Kyle Hyde is that lovable jerk you’ve secretly always wanted to be
  • Art style
  • Extremely well written

CONS

  • Controls aren’t as good as they could have been
  • Graphically speaking, walking around the hotel can hurt your eyes
  • Very short

This review was originally posted on Guerrilla Geek.

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