Hotel Dusk 215 is a mystery visual novel point and click game for the DS and was developed by CING before they went bankrupt. This is also another obscure Nintendo game from the 2000s and just like Trace Memory and Fire Emblem, and I only heard about this through the Super Smash Games. The most notable aspect of the game is that you have to hold your 3DS/DS sideways like you are reading a book. If you are left handed or right handed, there is an option to switch the interface to accommodate your own personal playing style.
The game is a neo noir mystery and it is darker then Trace Memory and is grounded in reality. The game takes place in 1979 in Nevada. It has a dark and brooding atmosphere and striking lighting effects per the neo noir stylization of the story. It focuses on an ex NYPD cop Kyle Hyde, who is looking for his missing partner Bradley who went rogue on the NYPD. Hyde is suspected of killing Bradley after the rogue cop passed information to a criminal organization known as Nile.
Hyde became a Red Crown Salesman after the incident and besides working door to door, he finds missing objects and does private investigations. He takes on a job that is related to Bradley’s disappearance and he ends up at a run down hotel known as Dusk where he stays there for the night. He finds out there is something strange connected to his own past and Bradley’s disappearance and he decides to investigate the place once cop’s instincts are aroused. Hyde stays in room 215, named “wish” and all of the other rooms are given names that have positive connotations despite the seedy appearance.
The main character Kyle Hyde is not someone who you want to sympathize with and many of the characters are heavily flawed and are in deep trouble. He is self destructive and is easily brash with others. He is close minded and dismissive to the everyone’s feelings. He appears to carry some guilt about something and has a soft spot to those in really dire situations. His main goal is to find out why Bradley betrayed the NYPD and how is the Hotel connected to his past. His perspectives change after he spends time at the Hotel and he adopts a kinder persona.
The patrons of the hotel can either be a help or hindrance and they all are somehow connected to the main mystery of the game. They had unique character designs and personalities to them. Louie Denonno is an ex-pickpocket who was previously arrested by Hyde and now works as a bellhop for the hotel. He is down to earth and an affable man with a keen sense of humor. Louie serves as a close partner to you in the game as he is very useful in finding out stuff. He holds no ill will towards Kyle Hyde and despite their differences in personalities, they compliment each other well and develop a close friendship. Louie is the main source of comedy and likes to crack jokes.
Like Trace Memory, this game is very linear from point a to point b. As you progress through the game, you find more places of the hotel to explore and it is a little larger than the Edward family manor in Trace Memory. You can pick up objects as they are required to show to the patrons of the hotel to see if they know what it is used for and it can also be used to solve puzzles.
At the end of each chapter you are given a mini quiz to help you recall certain puzzles or events during the story. Solving them allows you to progress to the next chapter of the game. Each chapter represents certain period of time that has passed. You can call your boss to ask for clues in case you are stuck. You can also write in a journal to help you remember certain stuff and its pretty simple to use and you can write up to 3 pages. You can also read the summaries of what happened during the chapters in the game.
The musical score is somber and lowkey and it suits the the neo noir style story. The audio quality for an early DS game is very good as well while the user interface was pretty easy to use. The dialogue is one of the best I have heard for a video game. Its use of slang and the way each character speaks makes the games story a lot more immersive and enjoyable. The graphics in the game are generally good. the background designs are purposely half finished and 3D objects appear from place to place.
Because the console is held sideways, one screen represents movement and the gameplay interactions and the interface, while the other shows the first person view of the hotel and the cutouts of the characters. The cutouts looked blurry during the 3D graphic background of the game. It runs a bit on the slow side in terms of the text speaking and even by holding the “A” button or touch screen it still moves slowly. During conversations you occasionally get the chance to ask questions by interrupting the character.
Sometimes, depending on the choices you make during the dialogue, you are able to ask additional questions in order to get more clues to solve puzzles. Depending on how much pressure you put on a character, you will gain info on the characters past. You are also able to take key items from characters depending on the circumstances to solve puzzles.
The animation in the game is roto-scoped, this is a rarity in video games and it is not first game employ this animation method. The character expressions are a lot more lifelike and detailed and move realistically. As a side note, Kyle Hyde’s trophy in Super Smash Bros is the only animated trophy in the game.
Stealth is another aspect of the game. If you venture into places where you are not allowed, you will get a warning if you are caught. If you get caught enough times, you will be kicked out making it game over. Unlike Trace Memory where there is no game over, you can be killed by falling into traps if you are not careful.
You can also get kicked out if you keep making false assumptions or act like a jerk to the other patrons of the hotel. Showing the wrong objects as well is another case for being kicked out.
You can tell if the character you are interacting with is irritated as the person’s color becomes darker. In more lenient cases early in the game, this will make Kyle retreat back into his room. This game is a bit more challenge than Trace Memory where it was oriented towards younger audiences, especially teenagers.
The game is short and there were some parts that needed clarification like what is the criminal organization Nile, what are their true goals, and what really happened to Bradley. In addition, some characters were not as fully fleshed out as they should have been.
The game’s pace seemed to be a bit off as Kyle often gets sidetracked running errands for the patrons and this causes the game to drag. If you use the D-pad, you won’t be able to walk properly as it feels clumsy, so its recommended that you use the touchscreen.
The puzzle solving is fairly simple but now there is more than just mini games. It can get monotonous solving puzzles as sometimes are either obvious or require you to perform frustrating trial and error to solve. You also have to select the right dialogue choices too and you need to be careful what you say. Each of the dialogue in the game, depending on what you ask, allows you to find out more solutions to the puzzles and the overall history and lore of the game in order to solve the disappearance of Bradley.
You are given infinite amount of tries for puzzles and they are pretty easy to solve once you figure it out and just like in Trace Memory, the clues are not obvious so you need to think before attempting to solve them.
The control system for the DS/3DS is utilized in a very unique and interesting manner to solving puzzles. One puzzle required you to find a certain knife in order to discover a hidden painting. There are subtle Easter eggs for you to discover from other Nintendo related games and also other cartoons as well like Scooby Doo.
This is the second CING visual novel I have played and I had brief but great time with it. This game was thoroughly enjoyable.
It gets about 4 stars out of 5.
If you enjoy mystery games, then you will have a ton of fun with this series. There is a sequel, Last Window, also for the DS but it never got released in the west due to the bankruptcy of CING and its only available for the PAL and JP regions.
Nintendo has filed a copyright license for the Trace Memory series. Many of the former developers of CING now works under Arc System Works and they created a game similar to Hotel Dusk Room 215 called, Chase Unsolved Cases Investigation Divison-Distant Memories. So only time will tell if Nintendo plans on doing more engagement with the CING IPs and remastering them for the Switch instead of being just Easter EGGs in the Super Smash series where obscure Nintendo games are now being used as trophies or stickers.