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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Game Play: More On Hotel Dusk

(spoilers - although I'll try to be vague)

Last night I got into the conversation with Jeff Angel. This is - or should be - kinda like the IF equivalent of a boss fight. It's the end of a chapter and I've just gone wandering around the hotel figuring out what Jeff has been up to.

The first hitch is that I'm stilling missing a vital object. There's no way I could have known this before talking to Jeff and ... honestly ... I didn't realize while talking to Jeff. All of his questions go on and on in circles. The reader/player is only left with the choice of giving up. Which feels mighty odd.

Worse, though, is that after running down and getting this evidence, you are still missing another object. There's no indication you need this object but Angel magically knows if you have it or not because he won't let you in without it.

The reason why you need this object (and others) is that the story has Hyde leaving them in Angel's hotel room when he's done talking to him. Again, there's no way you can know this is what the story is going to have Hyde do - but it's required. All of this is compounded by the fact that Angel won't talk to you about an object, no mattter how many times you've shown it to him previously, unless you shove it in his face and then ask him specifically about it.

In other words - where most games would have a boss fight, Hotel Dusk had a confusing combination of requirements it needs you to guess around before you can clumsily continue on to the next chapter.

Part of this is indicative of an inherent problem with IF ... how do you funnel the reader into the ending you require? There's certainly sound plot reasons for Hyde leaving the objects in the room - even if they aren't apparent at the time.

To me, it seems the game fails at correctly broadcasting it's wishes to the reader. In trying to be an opaque puzzle, it becomes a frustration. It's a hoop to jump through disguised as a puzzle. Kinda like Bilbo asking Gollum what's in his pocket. It's not a true riddle because Gollum has no means of figuring out the question.

Hotel Dusk begs a simple question, I think. Does simple participation merit a kind of interaction? I mean, if an interaction isn't being formulated as a proper puzzle ... how bad is it to merely instruct or hint the player on what to do and wait for them to do it? Dusk actually does this in places as well, using Hyde's inner monologue or nudges from characters.

So why shouldn't it do more of it?


Thomas said...

That was frustrating. But not nearly as bad as a couple of points in the game where the scripted events are too picky--walk down a hallway on the wrong side, for example, and the next plot point won't happen. I had to resort to an FAQ at least once.

I still liked the game, very much. But I'm perverse that way.

Josh said...

I like that this kind of game is on the DS ... but I'm quickly not liking this game. Another episode like last night and I might kick it back to the 'Fly.