In the text-based adventure game, Hotel Dusk: Room 215, you play as Kyle Hyde, an ex-cop from New York who's still looking for answers about his partner who disappeared three years ago. Kyle, now living in LA, works as a salesman, and is sent to Hotel Dusk on a mysterious sales job.
From the moment you check in, eerie reminders of your old partner start to pop up, and you must unravel each of the guests' secrets to solve the mystery of his disappearance. You only have ten hours to solve the mystery, and each hour is divided into a different chapter in the game.
Above: Kyle shot his partner, Bradley, three years ago, but the body was never found
Being a text-based adventure, the main bulk of the game is dialogue. This may sound like a snooze, and you may envision yourself tapping the stylus through long chunks of text, but Hotel Dusk keeps you on your toes at all times. Ask the maid too many suspicious questions and she'll think you're a reporter, toss you out on the street, and it's Game Over for you and your mysterious search. If a conversation with the rich kid goes the wrong way, he'll freak out so badly that'll you'll be forced to give up, and it's Game Over again.
This may sound annoying, but once you get to know each of the characters' personalities, you'll begin to form intuitions about how to speak to them. You'll know which questions or responses might make them more liable to talk, which will make them clam up, or even set them into a rage. The game is so well-written, and the dialogue is so natural, that it feels more like interacting with real people at times than following prompts in a game.
Each character in the game plays an important role, and none of the people you meet at Hotel Dusk are one-dimensional or boring. From the bellhop to the washed-up writer, each person will reel you in with intricate stories and personalities. Although the plot of Hotel Dusk relies on extreme coincidences to work (all these people with connections to each other staying on the same night?), none of the links between characters seems reaching or forced.
Above: You'll need to do more than merely fit the pieces together to solve this puzzle
The majority of the gameplay revolves around dialogue, but the story is frequently punctuated with puzzles and time spent exploring the hotel. Most of the puzzles are simple devices to keep the plot moving, like finding an item to use to pick the lock on your complicated suitcase or peeling the label off a wine bottle. Some are more involved, making innovative use of the DS, like putting together a child's puzzle or finding an engraving on a ballpoint pen.
Usually these puzzles are fairly obvious, but a few times we found ourselves wandering around the hotel aimlessly, trying to get the story to progress. Still, these exceptions were few and far between, and most of the time the story progressed smoothly and naturally.
To top it all off, the art style is flat-out amazing. The sepia tones and hand-drawn characters perfectly complement the game's mood and 1970's setting. The film noir themes that occur throughout the game are perfect, never over-the-top or cheesy. If you like the Phoenix Wright games for the DS, but feel the stories and puzzles are a bit too pedestrian, you'll find Hotel Dusk much more satisfying.