First posted on 07 November 2010. Last updated on 07 November 2010.
Hotel: Collector's Edition
The Collector's Edition of Hotel contains bonus materials not found in the Standard Edition, including characters biographies, bonus music and artworks, and an integrated strategy guide.
Certain games play like déjà vù—it may be the first time you play through them, but somehow you feel as if you already know of their stories, characters, and settings. The overall experience, hence, turns out to be a rather predictable exercise: you know what is going to happen before it happens. Hotel, from Croatian indie developer Cateia Games, easily falls under this definition. Still, because its short length and easy puzzles, the game makes for a decent tryout for novice gamers who are approaching the adventure genre for the first time.
The game starts off at a sunny beach, where Bridget (or Biggi, as she calls herself) Brightstone, a detective from the New York Police Department, is trying to enjoy her holidays and time off duties. Suddenly, her boss calls her to assign her a last minute theft case. Orders are orders, alas, so Bridget unwillingly packs her bags and heads to France—to a medieval castle in the countryside that is now operated as a luxury hotel.
Once Bridget arrives at the hotel, she learns the details of her case: a rare necklace has gone missing, and its owner, Veronica, has been found in a coma without an explanation. On the case also are the local France police, including detective Jean Matisse, who apparently does not take a liking to Bridget and is trying every way possible to thwart her investigation. Naturally, Bridget grows suspicious of the detective's secondary intentions about the case.
Little does Bridget know that she will be facing some obscure powers beyond her imagination. When the local police hastily close the case as simply an accident, Bridget immediately voices her dissatisfaction about how the case has been handled and starts to suspect that they may be hiding the truth of the investigation from her.
The investigation takes on an even stranger turn when Bridget is approached by Theresa, Veronica's sister. She reveals that both of them are sorcerers and are members of a secret society called the Appotekari that dates back to the Roman Empire. For millennia, the Appotekari has been fighting the evil forces of Ak-Ash, an ancient Egyptian priest who has since risen to become a demigod and then a full god. Supposedly, a practitioner of Dark Arts named Atia Greenleaf has recently stolen his mummified body from the London History museum in attempt to summon him to gain his power to rule the world. As Veronica is now dead, Bridget must fulfill Veronica's destiny to fight against Atia. To do so, Bridget must first complete a trio of trials to prove herself by summoning famous figures in history, including King Arthur, Mark Antony, and Cleopatra, as well as members of the Appotekari. Only then will Bridget gain the abilities needed for a final showdown against Atia and Ak-Ash.
The graphics are probably the strongest element of this game. The game is played from a third person perspective. The environment models are well recreated and vividly rendered in a near photorealistic way. The character models are generally well detailed and designed, even though they are overly rigid and look somewhat unnatural.
With the exception of some outdoor sounds, the sound effects in this game are essentially limited to the sounds of footsteps and doors opening or closing. The game is devoid of any audio speech, aside from the opening scenes. All the dialogs, some of which are poorly written, are simply flashed on screen whenever each character speaks. The background music is a monotonous, eerie melody that is purely ornamental and adds little to the ambiance of the game.
Even as a point-and-click adventure, the control in this game is oversimplified. You control Bridget using the mouse. The left mouse button is used for every action. The cursor changes its form when there is a task that can be performed, a person with whom you can converse, an object that can be picked up, and so on. Whatever the action that is needed, you just need to click the mouse button to execute it. The freedom to choose how you interact with the game world is, hence, very limited. This is even truer for the dialogs: there is no question that you can choose to ask or answer that you can choose to give. The dialogs are meant to be read mostly uninterrupted, wherein you only need to click once a while to continue the conversation.
To enter or exit a screen, you click on the edge of the screen to move Bridget. It is possible, in some screens, to make double click on the edge of the screen to speed up Bridget. This practice is highly recommended, as Bridget's movement is excessively slow otherwise.
Interactions with other characters in this game are very limited. Most of the characters are merely information givers. As such, they seem to be accidental passersby rather than meaningful participants. Moreover, these characters do not have any shades of personality, and their motives (either good or bad) are entirely predictable from the first moment you encounter them. Their actions also feel rather random and rarely impact on the story. Even the appearance of historic or legendary figures makes little sense. King Arthur? It may just as well be a Greek god or some other mythical character. It is not that the magic and supernatural elements of the story feel out of place but rather how poorly they are integrated. Too often, they are used as trivial explanations to every question that arises in the game.
Perhaps the weakest element of this game is its puzzles. Almost all of the puzzles are pretty much the same, where you must find the correct paths or sequences to bypass some artificial obstacles. For some other puzzles, you need to combine the correct objects with the environment to proceed. These objects are always found in the vicinity of the spot where they need to be used. How do you break into an old sewer beneath a bridge? You cut off the bars blocking the opening, thanks to a saw conveniently placed next to it. How do you open a secret passage behind a bookshelf? You merely have to touch the bookshelf to make it open, and you do not even need to find the right book to pull out to trigger the switch.
The game has a built-in hint system which shows you all the actions that are needed to be performed at any given moment. The Collector's Edition of the game also has a strategy guide (essentially a walkthrough), in case you still have trouble advancing in the game.
In conclusion, Hotel is best described as a tutorial for gamers who are approaching adventure games for the first time. The graphics are appealing, and the puzzles are easy. The game is very short, lasting only 3 to 5 hours. Still, as a budget title, it offers fair gameplay value. Like a B-movie, the game endeavors to look more professional than it is, which in itself sometimes can lend an awkward and unintentional funny tone to the gameplay. Experienced adventure fans may choose to safely ignore this game; neophytes can consider this game as a frustration free first contact with the adventure genre.