I want to declare my love for the Dusk. I want to shout from the rooftops. I want to show it off and parade it.
I completed Hotel Dusk last week, clocking in at 30 hours, which I put in over the space of four days. I was gripped. It was the first time in ages that a game had compelled me to stay up until 5 A.M. playing it, unable to quit, desperate to progress. I was, quite frankly, consumed.
On the surface it’s a fairly quirky little adventure game, where you use the touch screen to walk around a strange hotel, seeking out Bradley, the partner you lost three years ago. One screen presents a 3D first person view of the hotel, while the touch screen presents a birds-eye 2D view, where you can walk around and interact with objects and people.
The first thing people notice are the fantastically stylised graphics. People are presented as black and white sketches, with faint washes of colour occasionally flowing over them. But dig deeper and you’ll see even more neat, symbolic effects. As you unravel the adventure, the hotel begins to literally fade away. It’s hugely atmospheric. If you snapped the cartridge it would bleed noir.
The puzzles themselves are easy, and the gameplay is nothing more than walking into random rooms, hoping you bump into the right person. But I don’t care. This isn’t a game, this a novel with the occasional puzzle, and as such the story is what makes or breaks it. Luckily Hotel Dusk has one of the most fantastic scripts of any game ever made. The dialogue is spot on and each character feels completely real and believable. It just shows that better graphics aren’t making games more realistic, it’s the characterisation that’s present in Hotel Dusk that brings a game to life. I cared for all the characters, while at the same time admiring the cool, Maltese Falcon-esqe language. I wanted to unravel the secrets. I needed to know what happened. I wanted to spend time with these characters and to explore not the environment, but them. It’s genuinely touching and affecting, too. Full of subtle metaphor and the ending leaves just enough ambiguity.
And that’s the explanation behind the score. If you want a game, you’ll be hugely disappointed, but if you love Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet, and long for a noir novel every bit as good as the Big Sleep, you could do a lot worse than to read this.