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Hotel Dusk: Final Words and Thoughts

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After owning Hotel Dusk: Room 215 for nearly a year I finally got around to finishing this bizarrely entertaining game. Done in the style of adventure games of 'yore, Hotel Dusk is the second effort from Cing, makers of Trace Memory (Another Code). Fortunately, it's safe to say that in all respects Hotel Dusk is a significant improvement over Trace. Refined controls, challenging puzzles, and a more likeable cast can be considered the real steps forward for Dusk. Despite a rather lackluster showing of adventure games on the platform thus far, Dusk definitely makes it's case heard. Is this is the best game on the NDS? I can't say, but it's sure up there.

Hotel Dusk follows the story of ex-cop Kyle Hyde who now pays the bills as a traveling salesman. Pretty awesome, no? As a side job Kyle Hyde actively pursues his old partner, known simply as Bradley, who betrayed him years ago and is the main reason he left the force. So now Hyde has shown up at Hotel Dusk on a job from his employer. The plot thickens significantly and soon we find out that everyone in this hotel is connected and has ulterior motives behind their stay at Dusk. The story is one of the game's highest points. The writing is right on the mark and the dialogue definitely gives each character an unmistakeably human quality. Despite what I felt to be a strange ending I can't fault the storytelling in any other way.

Dusk is modeled after the old point and click formula and uses this concept very well. The NDS hardware is perfect for this kind of gameplay and Cing takes full advantage of this. On the top screen is a picture of the area you're in and on the bottom is a bare-bones map of the hotel. Using the stylus you can move around the hotel rather quickly and solving puzzles is fun and interactive. While the usability of the microphone is questionable all the puzzles retain a unique feel.

Hotel Dusk is shamelessly noir. Featuring an almost entirely jazzy soundtrack the music is repetitive but enjoyable enough. The real draw for many will be the interesting art style incorporated into Dusk. While the environments and items are styled realistically the characters are drawm and animated in a style most reminiscent of that cheesy, old a-ha video. Despite this strange reference I found the art work very functional and visually appealing. The characters always appear to moving and the style makes Hyde look almost humourously scruffy and noir.

All is good in the world of Hotel Dusk and I recommend this adventure highly. The charmingly adventure tone is great, but the likeable cast is what really makes this game. Despite a few shortcomings in the pacing department there are very few faults to be found in Hotel Dusk.

Insecticide: Final Words and Thoughts

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The game I ended up choosing was the little heard of Insecticide (NDS). Not a remarkable game by any standard but a unique one with a good team, Crackpot Entertainment, behind it. With the co-director of Curse of Monkey Island and many other Lucasarts alum on this title there was certainly some interest in it for me. But before we get too far into expectations what is Insecticide? Insecticide is a strange mix of adventure, shooter, and platformer. What comes out is generally decent looking but with enough odd quirks to warrant a WTF IS THIS. Each section of the game is conveniently divided into chapters that either focus on adventure gameplay or on a mix of platforming and shooting. Does it work? Erm.....sort of.

Set in a distant future were humans have devolved into shadows of their former selves and what is left of the world is run by insects, Insecticide certainly does put forth an interesting setting. The story follows Chrys Liszt and Roachy Caruthers, two detectives with the Insecticide department of the 17th Precinct. One day they're called in to investigate a murder at the Nectorola Company. Nectorola is the corporate giant of Troi, the insects biggest city, and as such controls most of the city's interests. The death of one of the supervisors to the CEO had occurred under strange circumstances, or rather an animatronic bee bludgeoned the bug to death, so Chrys and Roachy were called in to investigate. They make a connection to a low level arms dealer and procede to corner the suspect in a small diner. Unfortunately the suspect goes ballistic and is suddenly kidnapped by a squad of what appears to be robobugs. This leads to betrayal, surprising revelations and a thoroughly decent story. It's totally weird and ridiculous. But it works so I've got no guff against the writing.

The art $tyle is also strangely reminiscent of Psychonauts. While only one character, albeit the main one, resembles the character designs the whole world happens to scream Tim Schafer. This isn't a bad thing at face value but it certainly makes life a lot tougher for Insecticide. When your game reminds people of Psychonauts, especially in a way that many people would call copycat, you've suddenly got sky high standards to fulfill and Insecticide falls far short. Despite this unfortunate issue of lookalike Insecticide thrives in atmosphere. The noir theme works well in the dark alleys of Troi and the mix of green and black works as a good contrast. The voice acting is equally well done but unfortunately is only used in cutscenes. Overall Insecticide isn't reinventing the wheel but what they've done with the NDS hardware is fairly spectacular.

The adventure sections of the game work well. Unfortunately they are short, relatively easy, and they're not very many of them. To add to the pain the other sections just...don't work. The platforming often times resorts to a dreaded "leap of faith". The other mechanics that are introduced fail to be incorporated into the gameplay enough and really fail to add to the experience. The shooting becomes difficult and the game tends to scream for a cover mechanic that's nowhere to be found. The lock-on system is useful but when locked on all you can do is straddle which makes it far to easy to fall of the path to certain peril.

What Insecticide tries to do is admirable. The idea of a fully functional adventure/shooter is a heartening idea but unfortunately the team succeeded in only one aspect of gameplay. Maybe it's not the developer to blame but the hardware. Maybe the NDS just can't handle a third person shooter. I don't yet believe this. While it may be difficult I refuse to believe that it is impossible to execute the third person shooter genre well on the DS. In the end Insecticide is a forgettable game only made more disappointing by the glimpses of genuine fun shown throughout the game.

Writer's Note: This is definitely an intimidating block of text. Unfortunately I don't want to battle with GameSpot's terrible blog interface so it will probably remain as is. I'm currently over at Giant Bomb as well. Most of my blogging will take place over there for a variety of reasons. I'll still be here though and will definitely take the time to comment on blogs, but if otherwise my base of activities has moved.