I originally went looking for Hotel Dusk after learning it was considered more of an interactive novel than a game. As I’m trying to become more familiar with that genre, it seemed like the ideal game to add to my collection.
Since I define “interactive fiction” as a story where the reader controls the story development to an extent, Hotel Dusk left me a bit cold. The most you get to pick while playing main character Kyle Hyde is select what order you get to have conversations in. The game pretty much leads you through events, leaving you to decide what objects you look at first in a room, and which questions you ask first.
Keep in mind that you probably won’t get to ask a question when it’s relevant, which leads to some bizarre conversations with the other characters. Add to that some editing snafus, and it’s actually a fairly entertaining read.
You also get to solve mini-puzzles along the way, many of them allowing you to do real-world things like pick locks, sew up dolls, bowl, and make bad electrical connections work. Some of the puzzles are fairly intuitive. Some of them make use of the DS’s innovative capabilities. The majority of them are fun to figure out. (I wasn’t a fan of the crowbar puzzle or suffocating in the basement.)
The story itself is fairly engaging. You play former New York detective Kyle Hyde, a man who quit the force after shooting his partner Bradley at the Hudson. The body never turned up, and Kyle is convinced his partner is still alive. His search for Bradley, and his new job with a courier company, lead him to the Hotel Dusk. But he’s in for more than he bargained for as he meets the other guests and the staff at the hotel. As you move around the hotel, the story that unfolds around Kyle borders on incredible, and actually leaves you with a few more questions than it resolves, making me wonder if they tried to leave an opening for a series.
I would actually recommend the game. I had a great time playing it, but it’s not a truly interactive novel.