Hotel Dusk (Nintendo DS)

I wonder why it is that the developers of commercial adventure games still hold on to outdated (even lazy) design decisions? I’m really enjoying Hotel Dusk (I’m only a ways into the 3rd chapter so far), but I’m already finding a few things that bug me about it.

Here’s one. A delivery guy (who’s important to the story, as it progresses) brings a box to Kyle (the PC). It’s supposed to have products and stuff in it. When the delivery guy finds out that Kyle, an ex cop he used to know, is now a salesman, he comments something to the effect that the box must be full of cleaning supplies and other stuff like that. Nothing’s wrong here until he leaves and Kyle opens the box. It’s empty, except for a small notebook.

So, the delivery guy couldn’t tell that the box he brought weighs almost nothing before making the assumption that it must be the supplies that Kyle was expecting? Really? I think if I was carrying a really light box, I wouldn’t assume it was full of cleaning supplies.

Then, the doors. When you knock on room doors, nobody is ever there unless it’s “time” in the story to interact with them. And when they close the door after you’re done, you can knock again only to see Kyle’s suspicion that “nobody is in right now.” Yeah right. I never took my eyes off the door. How could the person I just talked to not be in?

And the puzzles. I like them, but the game has a bad habit of giving you tasks that you can’t actually begin on until you’ve completed other tasks. This is a problem, because the tasks are unrelated. For example, in the chapter I’m in, there is writing on a pen you’re supposed to read, a doll you’re supposed to return to a girl, and a bookmark you’re supposed to locate for the guy who owns the previously-mentioned notebook. Now, I went to the box where the bookmark was supposed to be hidden, and couldn’t figure out how to search. I knocked on the girl’s door, but nobody was home. I had forgotten about the pen, and ultimately figured it out by blindly trying things. After I did, I was able to return the doll. And after I returned the doll, Kyle’s inner monologue suggested I go find the bookmark which then gave me a box-rotating mini-game kind of puzzle that hadn’t shown up before. All these things were separate tasks I had already been set to work on, but they had to be taken in order.

So, why do I like the game? The story is interesting, and I have high hopes for some interesting twists and mysteries as it unfolds. For all the work that went into the interface and the story, I just wish the designers had looked to the future when it comes to abandoned old school design elements.