There’s something about Hotel Dusk: Room 215 that just comes off as mysterious and heart-warming at the same time. Whether it be Nintendo’s very low key advertising of the game or the fact that this game was hard to find is unknown, but Hotel Dusk is just one of those games that stand out from the rest and offers a unique and fresh experience for the DS, much like Shadow of the Colossus did for the Playstation 2. As I sit here typing out this playtest, I cannot help but be reminded of the many instances in the game that made me enter a cycle of continuity with the game, never wanting to put the DS down and just play away. The game, in a sense, entranced me with its very unique character models (something very, VERY similar to the 80s A-ha music video "Take On Me"), rich dialogue, and overall unique experience.
The game begins with a nice introduction to the game’s main character, Kyle Hyde, who we learn was once a cop but retired the badge after a painful incident involving his partner Bradley. Kyle became a salesman, or a treasure hunter of sorts, who searches for what some would call obscure items and takes them to his employer; but once Kyle is asked to go to Hotel Dusk to search for two item in particular, strange things begin to happen upon arrival. For starters, Kyle learns from the hotel’s owner that someone with his same exact name stayed in Hotel Dusk a few months back. Furthermore, strange connections to his past begin showing up in unexpected ways, which lead to an mysterious weaving of events all tying in to the game’s main focus which, for the sake of spoilers, won’t be elaborated any further. To put it simply: the game really does a great job of reeling you in to its intricately woven narrative.
By all means, Hotel Dusk is not a game for everyone, and this attribute alone somewhat contributes to the game’s niche status here in the U.S. Since the game is an interactive adventure point and click game, Hotel Dusk is played in a fashion similar to that of reading a book, meaning there will be a lot of reading involved in the game; and playing the game while holding the DS vertically adds to this novelesque feel of Hotel Dusk. Players will make heavy use of the stylus to solve various puzzles, which range from easy to a bit challenging, move around (though you could use the d-pad for that, but using the stylus is much better), and search areas a bit more carefully.
It’s no surprise, though, that the game’s main focus is the story itself; and the way the game unfolds is very dependent on the choices you make in the game. See, when Kyle enters the hotel and begins familiarizing himself with the hotel’s many residents and few employees, the real fun begins. The concept of interrogation plays a vital role in whether you’ll continue to proceed in the game or a game over suits you best, and the way to go about interrogating the hotel’s many people varies from person to person. Each person has a personality, and the two questions you have to select for Kyle to ask each person each hint at what you should be asking and what you shouldn’t be asking. This aspect alone makes it very hard to determine whether or not you really did choose the right thing to ask; and since the hotel itself has a history behind it, some of your answers, depending on the person you’re conversing with/interrogating, may bring back bad memories and lead you to getting kicked out of the hotel which immediately results in a game over. The good thing about this, perhaps one of the few good things about it, is that you’re able to restart from the point prior to you asking [insert name here] about anything related to the hotel, its residents/staff, history, anything so you can choose the right answer.
I found myself coming close a few times to getting kicked out, times where I’ve literally asked myself, "Exactly what the %#$$@% did I just choose to say?". The game does a nice job of hinting whether or not you’re making people mysterious of you or they’re getting pissed at you by showing the person flashing in red. The further you say the wrong things, the more red you’ll see; and when that happens, the hotel manager will be waiting for you to give you the boot. That aspect aside, the puzzles themselves, as noted above, do range from simple to a bit complex. One easy puzzle is literally a jigsaw puzzle whereas a somewhat complex puzzle would be connecting the dots and deciphering what numbers you see that are needed to open up a lock. You even get to do simple things like unfolding a paper clip or using a crow bar to lift a filing cabinet! Convenient.
Even if the game is overshadowed by other DS titles out there, Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is just one of those games that wreaks of originality and deserves the attention of one who isn’t easily turned off by heavy reading and solving puzzles. Perhaps not originality in the sense that it hasn’t been done before since it has, but originality in the sense that it provides something new to the handheld experience and, if anything, the gaming experience. With this game being hard to find, its no wonder that a lot of people know about Hotel Dusk: Room 215. Perhaps Nintendo will ship out more copies when they’ve realized just how awesome of a sleeper/obscure hit this game has been. If you manage to find a copy of this game and enjoy an occasionally mystery adventure with heavy dialogue that varies from humorous to serious, give this game a whirl.
It’ll be worth every penny.