HOTEL

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer:  Cateia Games

Publisher:    Cateia Games and Big Fish Games

Released:  May 2010

PC Requirements:   Windows XP/Vista/7, Pentium 4 1.0 GHz or 100% compatible, CPU 256 MB RAM, 350 MB available hard disk space, 32 MB 3D video card, DirectX 9.0c 

 

 

 

by Becky

 

Hotel is an adventure game featuring a new heroine and a plot that starts as a crime investigation and advances into uncharted realms. The game contains casual elements, including dialogs without voiceovers, reasonably easy puzzles, and locations with limited exploration. As a result, the game focus would appear to be on character development and storytelling. Are the characters and the plot compelling enough for the game to succeed?

 What Does This Woman Think She's Doing?

As the game opens, we meet Bridget Brightstone, a New York City police detective. While Ms. Brightstone is vacationing in Europe, NYPD Chief Inspector McCloud telephones to ask her to investigate the theft of a necklace from a French hotel. Bridget arrives to find the hotel -- originally a medieval castle -- nearly deserted, and the local police already on the scene. Inspector Matisse (of course) resents her presence and actively opposes her assistance.

Bridget Brightstone is so unlike a NYPD detective that I half expected to learn that she is impersonating one. She insists that everyone call her by her nickname (Biggi), and responds sarcastically to the French Inspector's stonewalling. She "assists" the investigation by breaking into anything locked and swiping anything not bolted down.

Casual thievery may be appropriate behavior for an adventure game heroine, but it is wholly inappropriate for a law enforcement officer. Biggi unconcernedly removes evidence from the crime scene and vandalizes hotel property. She tries to impress by quoting poetry, but can't even do that correctly. If our heroine is supposed to be a "real life" professional policewoman, the game portrayal comes up short.

Catching a Thief is Merely the Tip of the Iceberg

Biggi's investigation of the theft and other odd occurrences at the hotel take up the first half of the game; gameplay is traditional and the pace somewhat slow. Things only become interesting when the first spooky dream/vision infiltrates the night. We learn that Biggi has an expertise with the paranormal (though I couldn't find background information to understand how or why). In retrospect, the crime investigation is a starting point for the game in the world of "the ordinary," preceding the mysterious events that move the story in an unconventional direction.

A Nice Place to Visit

The environments in Hotel are photorealistic, detailed and colorful and (especially near the end of the game) imaginative. But they are limited in scope. The crime scene, for instance, is just one screen.

The characters' voices are heard only in the opening sequence. While it is better to have no voiceovers than poor voiceovers, a good voiceover artist could have made Biggi considerably more appealing.

You can click through dialogs. You can't click through the comments (in text form) on items, though you can sometimes interrupt a comment by clicking on the "walk" icon.

Character animation is rather stiff. There is no facial animation -- still portraits during dialogs appear at the bottom of the screen. Most of the non-player characters are unremarkable, with the exception of Atia Greenleaf, who is refreshingly goal-oriented and manipulative. Also compellingly portrayed is Atia's husband, a likeable wimp who knows he's being used but can't seem to do anything about it.

The orchestral background music is another strength, as is the ambient soundscape. Particularly enjoyable -- the sprightly music in the lobby and the pensive melody in the abandoned stone village.

Go Easy on Me, Will You?

Hotel provides inventory challenges and several mini-games. Items can be combined in inventory. The mini-games are enjoyable and usually involve pattern analysis; none are timed. The game contains invisible triggers -- previously unusable items and inaccessible places suddenly become useable or accessible. But the "Hint" feature (which shows all hotspots) helpfully reveals changes in the environment. At times in the game, I was unsure of what to do next. Revisiting the locations (and searching them again) usually nudged me forward.

Hotel will not stymie the gamer with dastardly multi-stepped puzzles. Also, most of the inventory items come to hand about the time that you need them, so that if you pick something up, you usually find an immediate use for it.

Biggi employs a camera to take photographs a few times in the course of the game. Camera usage is a trifle arbitrary. Some discoveries that I thought were certainly remarkable enough to warrant a snapshot did not (apparently) seem that way to Biggi, who only uses the camera when it's necessary for completing a puzzle.

Sometimes after solving the mini-games, the insufferable Biggi congratulates herself for being so smart. Whenever she did this, I wanted to remove her from Hotel and lose her among the web of tunnels in RHEM 2 or strap her into the spider chair in Myst IV: Revelation, just to introduce a bit of badly needed perspective and humility.

Call Housekeeping

This game uses a point-and-click interface and you view the gameworld from a third person perspective. Clicking on objects brings up a magnifying glass if there's more to see and a hand if the object can be picked up or interacted with.

The inventory is easy to use, though you should be aware of a couple of annoyances. When active, the inventory bar can block hotspots, particularly navigational hotspots. So if you're stuck, right-click to eliminate the inventory bar to see if there's a hotspot hiding underneath. Also, when using an item repeatedly (to remove a series of bolts, for instance) the tool you are using goes back into inventory after each use, and must be retrieved again.

I experienced no problems with installation and no glitches. Thankfully, the game contains unlimited save slots plus an autosave feature. It has an optional opening tutorial.

Because of its accessibility and linear, noncomplex puzzle structure, Hotel is a good game for introducing a novice to the adventure game genre -- particularly the type of gamer who has already played casual games.

Is Hotel Worth the Trip?

Near the end of the game, our heroine undergoes a sort of puzzle quest, where her actions are aimed at developing new wisdom and understanding. It would have been intriguing to see character development during these tests -- can a series of themed mini-games make a brash individual like Biggi actually change? Although Biggi's courage remains undaunted, her reaction to these challenges is neither unusual nor enlightening.

The pace of the story in Hotel picks up for the second half of the game and takes some intriguing turns. However, the ultimate success of the game rests substantially upon the gamer's reaction to the heroine. Biggi's actions are so integral to the plot that her character pretty much makes or breaks the game. If you favor protagonists who are young, lovely, self-assured and fond of breaking the rules, you will probably enjoy the game. If you seek character depth and verisimilitude, you may find the heroine downright exasperating.

Hotel's ending wraps events up rather well. Biggi signs off with an act that (depending on your point of view) is either satisfyingly "in your face" or lamentably discourteous.

Quick List for Hotel

A detective mystery that branches out into the otherworldly. Meet Bridget Brightstone, a presumptuous American detective conducting a weird investigation at a hotel in France. Colorful, photorealistic graphics; somewhat limited environments. Stiff characters, no voiceovers. A fair amount of character interaction (dialogs can be clicked through, though comments can't). The story starts slowly, but the pace picks up midstream when unreality breaks into the crime investigation.

Inventory challenges and pattern analysis mini-games. A feature that reveals all hotspots. An opening tutorial. Unlimited save slots. Puzzles fall into the easy to middling category. No sliders, one rather simple maze, no sound-based puzzles, one puzzle that requires distinguishing colors. No timed puzzles. You can't die.

No problems with installation and no glitches.

Hotel is aimed at gamers who enjoy a contemporary "take" on medieval surroundings, enhanced by a mystical quest.

Final Grade: B-

What I played it on: 

Dell Studio XPS 8000

Windows 7 Home Premium

Intel Core i5-750 processor

6GB DDR3 SDRAM

1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220

Soundblaster X-Fi

Hotel can be purchased via download at the game's website here or at Big Fish Games here

 

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