The point-and-click adventure has long been a dead genre in the gaming world. On the PC, it saw a healthy life with titles such as “Myst,” captivating players’ inner puzzle solvers.
But as consoles gained more ground and PC gaming was delegated to the extreme first-person shooter and real time strategy gamer – and those with $5,000 to drop on an Alienware computer – the strong narratives and clever puzzles of the point-and-click adventure seemed to be all but gone forever.
Thankfully, developers such as CiNG refuse to let it die. And what better system for a revival than a handheld with a touch screen?
“Hotel Dusk: Room 215” marks the first solid point-and-click adventure in years and one of the most clever uses of the Nintendo DS’s hardware to date. Set in a noir-esque 1979, the player becomes Kyle Hyde, an ex-NYPD detective who quit the force after shooting his backstabbing partner and friend, Bradley.
Three years later, Hyde works as a traveling salesman while chasing Bradley and leaving his demons at the bottom of empty bottles of bourbon each night. Hyde’s job leads him to the rustic Hotel Dusk, where coincidences run amok and his gut tells him it could lead him closer to Bradley.
The detective-novel setup may seem typical, but plot twists are bountiful and more intriguing than anything M. Night Shyamalan has produced in the past decade. Characters are deep and the story makes this game feel more like reading a book you just can’t put down. In fact, since the DS is held sideways like a book when playing, it could be called the most book-like video game ever made.
The player, as Kyle Hyde, ventures through the hotel using the touch screen to navigate. The top screen shows a first-person 3D perspective, but the characters are semi-animated hand-drawn illustrations resembling the video for “Take On Me” by A-Ha (If you don’t know that video, you clearly haven’t watched enough “I Love the ’80s”). This choice in art style allows the characters to be extremely expressive and really helps when drilling them with questions to get them to crack.
And that’s where “Hotel Dusk” really shines. The written dialogue between characters is so articulate and deep it’s hard to believe this is a localization of a Japanese game. Players choose between different questions and answers when talking to non-player characters, and if they offend someone too terribly, they see a “game over” screen. At times, “Hotel Dusk” feels much like a choose-your-own-adventure book that can actually be seen. It draws you into the intricate plot and doesn’t let go.
There are plenty of puzzles woven into the story, and nearly all of them use the touch screen brilliantly. Some represent the most innovative gameplay mechanics for the DS to date. One can only hope that this game signals a revival of a genre long forgotten by consoles.
“Hotel Dusk” isn’t for everybody, though. The game is text-heavy, and anyone who can’t sit through lines of slow-moving dialogue will get frustrated quickly.
But for those who enjoy an engaging plot, head-scratching puzzles and a creative form of storytelling, “Hotel Dusk: Room 215” is worth checking out.