Hotel Dusk: Room 215 was a mystery to many. The game came out of nowhere, with few previews and even fewer screenshots and news announcements. What little we knew was this –
1. It was a mystery title
2. It had brilliant art stylings, a mix of pencil drawings, animation and colors
3. It was meant to be a sort of interactive fiction, to the point where you even held the DS like a book
4. There were going to be lots of challenging puzzles that took advantage of the DS’ unique features
On the first three accounts, Nintendo really knocked it out of the park. It’s hard to argue with the graphical stylings, which are on par with the fantastic Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel. Even though there’s a ton of monochrome pencil drawings in the game, they’re done using squiggle-vision (think of the TV series Dr. Katz and also Home Movies), which gives you a constant feeling of motion and life. The slides, wipes and fades during scenes also help create a sense of motion. So, score one for Nintendo on the animation/production values front.
The storyline is solid, with lots of spooky characters, chance encounters and strange conversations. Score point number 2 for Nintendo.
The concept of holding the DS like a paperback book lends a great feel to the game, especially when combined with the visuals. You use the DS stylus to move around rooms, and when you decide to investigate objects, the game zooms in on the section of the room you in, as if you’re looking at a portrait of that area. Score point number 3.
Now then, we come to number 4, the “challenging” puzzles. To be honest, you’d have to be puzzle-challenged to not be able to solve the handful of lackluster puzzles in the game. They’re simply too easy to give the player any sense of accomplishment. The other adventure elements to the game – the “gather and use” aspects, are also duller than dirt. You’ll spend 20 minutes picking up one item, trying to use it, finding out that for this particular task, it may seem like it would work, but doesn’t, and so you’ve got to try again. Using the stylus to turn doorknobs, un-bend paperclips and other such inane tasks doesn’t help any.
Then comes the truly awful part of this game – the conversations between characters. Every encounter with a character feels like it’s going on forever, as you’re fed one line of dialog at a time, and have to keep tapping to continue the conversation. There’s no way to accelerate the speed that the text appears (seems a 30 Word-per-minute typist worked on this game), and so you can tell this is how they artificially added length to the game. Minus about a million points for this annoyance.
I understand that Nintendo’s trying to reach out to a broader audience with their consoles, but by abusing the player’s patience, they’re not going to gain any converts. Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is like the hot cheerleader in the movies – sexy and sweet outside, but vapid and soulless inside.
- Overall: 5.5
- It starts out well enough, with great graphic stylings and some cool gameplay features, but turns into a gimmicky stylus-tapping festival of boredom within an hour.