Hotel Dusk Has Quantum RoadblocksMay 25, 2007
I finished Hotel Dusk: Room 215 last night, after about 19 hours of play over the last 8 days. It was one of the more charming and memorable games I’ve played, but I have a couple of gripes about it:
First: At the beginning, the game felt nice and challenging. I was solving puzzles, wandering around, trying to figure people out. But partway through, the script started holding my hand on every little thing. I’d pick something up and the dude would say (I’m making this up), “I got a key; what could it possibly be for!? And for that matter, how in the world can I get into room 319!?”
Second: Especially toward the end, the game makes heavy use of quantum roadblocks. That’s a term I just made up to mean where, in order to proceed past a certain situation, you have to do something completely unrelated to the situation itself. Say you’re trapped in a jail cell. If you find the crack in the wall and eavesdrop through it to hear the evil king’s secret plans, then someone comes to rescue you and the game continues. If not, you run out of time and get a Game Over screen.
Or say you’ve walked past a certain torch holder a dozen times. You, the player, have long suspected that it can be pulled to open a secret door, but when you try to get your character to interact with it, they won’t find it interesting at all. Then, in some other part of the castle, you outwit a manticore and get the magic goblet. Now when you walk past the torch holder, your character is all, “Oh, hey, that’s a suspicious-looking torch holder, there!”, and pulls it. The thing you did has nothing to do with how you got past the situation. This takes away the satisfaction of using your wits to get through the game. Instead of being rewarded for figuring out what’s what and acting on it, you get rewarded for finding the arbitrary action the game’s creators require you to perform.
Some amount of this may be required in order for the story to unfold properly; maybe the clock won’t strike 8:00 until you have found the three clues that are necessary in the next hour of the game. But if it’s a situation where you can die by not finding the right action to take, or where you are able and willing to solve a certain puzzle but the game won’t let you until you do the unrelated prerequisite actions, that’s just plain frustrating.