It’s 1979, and Kyle Hyde is three years and a lot of miles from his past life as a NYC Police Detective. But when his new job sends him to an odd hotel in the middle of nowhere, he’ll find significantly more than a quiet night’s rest.
Hotel Dusk is an old favorite of mine, which I hadn’t played in years. As I seem to finally have an opportunity to get around to playing the sequel, I decided to revisit Kyle Hyde’s original adventure first. I’m surprised at how much I’d forgotten, as entire sections of the game seemed new to me.
This is a game that knows exactly what it wants to be and gives no quarter. It’s an old-fashioned hard-boiled mystery with a down-on-his-luck protagonist and a bunch of odd people and happenings his mind just can’t let go of. As such, the pace is appropriately deliberate as Hyde pokes around Hotel Dusk and pieces everything together. The journey is well worth it, but this is a story that unfolds gradually and requires some patience. The game’s self description of being an “interactive mystery novel” is spot on.
Aiding in the immersion as the player guides Hyde through a tangle of misfits with hidden secrets is a fantastic artistic style and some unique elements both in presentation and gameplay. The “hand drawn” feel to the character portraits and the way color is sparingly used on and of in them contrasts nicely with the more traditionally drawn backgrounds. This not only let’s the characters stand out, but keeps the backgrounds simple and clear so searching for things and solving puzzles isn’t unnecessarily complicated by the art. Even little touches, like requiring the DS be held sideways to resemble a book while playing or having a virtual notebook you can hand write notes in, add to the experience.
The puzzles are fine overall. They tend to be reasonably engaging and as well incorporated as can be. Some are a little shoehorned in, but nothing seems terribly out of place or breaks immersion enough to be a problem. A couple of mini-games/puzzles were particularly clever, and effort was taken to make use of the DS’s features. The mystery elements are the focus though, and a majority of the game is walking around gathering information and talking to various people to unravel all the odd things going on at the hotel.
Hyde is generally a smart protagonist, and there were only a couple times where I was ahead of him enough to get a little impatient. Not bad at all for such a long game. There’s a good mix of (semi) reasonable red herrings and interwoven backstories for the various characters. There are of course some coincidences in this kind of tale, but they are relatively minimal and blend in fairly seamlessly overall. Everything ties up fairly nicely at the end, although a few minor lingering questions remain involving some of the supporting cast. The main story threads are resolved to satisfaction while leaving room for certain things to be expanded on in the sequel, although I don’t know if they were (to my knowledge sequel is largely separate/stand alone even though it features same main character).
Perhaps most importantly at this point is that I find Hotel Dusk: Room 215 holds up well compared to when I first played it and I thoroughly enjoyed my replay. The heavy narrative focus, as well as little things like not being able to speed up the text display, will make this a slog for some players, but those with the patience to wander through a solid, old school noir-ish mystery will still find this to be a gem among the DS’s expansive library.