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Simulation: Bored and Unhappy October 17, 2008

Filed under: Specific games — haounomiko @ 8:46 am
Tags: ,

Hotel Dusk is the closest thing to an old point-and-click adventure game that I’ve seen on a console. It’s certainly atmospheric, but the atmosphere doesn’t work well for a slow-moving game like this one.

When the gameplay isn’t fast-moving or exciting, such as a point-and-click where one has to take time to investigate everything, there has to be something engaging about it to keep the player interested anyway. It could engage the player emotionally, or by being very unusual, or by being stunningly beautiful, or via humour and delight, or any number of other ways; but it does vitally need something to keep the player from wandering off, to incite them to pick the game back up later on, to wade through slow-scrolling dialogue boxes or accidental repeated messages, and to keep playing even when they’re stuck because they want badly enough to succeed. And Hotel Dusk fails at this.

In keeping with the crime game genre that’s been so popular lately, it’s got a film noir atmosphere and involves a lot of searching for clues. The problem is that the film noir atmosphere may be romantic, but it’s laid-back and slow-paced, which can be problematic for a game that already plays slowly. Film noir also tends to be emotionally detached, with protagonists who ignore or dislike their own emotions, and a supporting cast that we only get to see from the outside, usually in an off-putting and harsh light that tends to focus on their flaws. The world is rarely beautiful; instead it focuses on unpleasant realities and the ordinariness of even the most dramatic events. Translate this into a game, and you get a boring world full of unsympathetic people, in which your ultimate goal is to solve a mystery that no one wants you to care about. Film noir detectives aren’t fun to roleplay because it isn’t actually fun to be one.

Now, I like point-and-click adventures, I like exploring game worlds in detail, and slow-moving gameplay usually isn’t a problem for me. But when the game isn’t a place that’s fun to putter around in, I just don’t have enough incentive to keep sinking more time into the game, or to persist when I’m stuck. The sum of all this is that Hotel Dusk is an impressive simulation of being bored in a hotel, and that is not something I want to experience in a game.

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