Dead Mountaineer's Hotel

Posted by Martin Mulrooney.
First posted on 21 April 2013. Last updated on 21 April 2013.
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Dead Mountaineer's Hotel
The snowy exterior of the hotel lends a sense of undeserved tranquility.
Dead Mountaineer's Hotel
Peter investigates the strange happenings inside the hotel.
Dead Mountaineer's Hotel
The hotel is vast and includes a huge library.
Dead Mountaineer's Hotel
The hotel's décor is surprisingly bare.
Dead Mountaineer's Hotel
The hotel's guests are an odd bunch.

The game is available at Steam.

Dead Mountaineer's Hotel is a point-and-click adventure game developed by Ukrainian based Electronic Paradise and published by Russian based Akella. Released originally in Russian in 2007 and later in German in 2009, the game has finally been translated into English and released in 2011. The game is based upon the sci-fi detective novel of the same name (known as Inspector Glebsky's Puzzle in the English translation), first published in 1970 and written by Russian sci-fi authors and brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.

For both the book and the game, the main protagonist is Peter Glebsky, a police detective holidaying at the Dead Mountaineer's Hotel that is located at a secluded location tucked within a snowy valley in the Alps. In the book, the premise of the story has Peter investigating a murder whilst being snowed in at the hotel. In the video game adaptation, by contrast, the murder—the inciting event in the book—does not occur until near the very end of the story.

This bizarre creative decision causes some major problems with the game's plot from the outset. Peter's arrival at the hotel is heralded with an oddly spoken monologue delivered by the owner, Alec Snevar. The player is then dragged from scene to scene without any real context given—only much later does it transpire that an early hotel room shown to Peter is actually a "museum" and the untouched room of the "dead mountaineer" himself. Building on this somewhat promising idea, there seem to be several unexplained phenomena occurring at the hotel—wet boot prints, showers turning themselves on, doors locking themselves—that initially pique the interest of the player and offer an opportunity for investigation.

Sadly, these mysteries are delivered with such tameness that neither the player, nor seemingly Peter himself, feels particularly inclined to solve what is going on. Further confounding this lack of focus or concrete goals, the game gives the player free run of the sprawling Alpine hotel with little in the way of direction or objectives. When not talking to the other hotel guests, Peter is simply running brain numbingly dull errands, such as fetching a drink of whiskey or fixing the hotel room calling system.

As if the dull and unfocused gameplay is not bad enough, the actual gameplay mechanics themselves are also faulty. Peter walks at an excruciatingly and unnecessarily slow pace. As well, it seems entirely random whether double clicking at the edge of a location will allow the player to quickly move onto the next screen. Furthermore, when interacting with the environment, there is hardly any feedback given to the player. Items are often obtained and placed in the inventory without the player even being made aware. Incorrectly clicking on an object frequently does not give a response at all. Even worse, the mouse does not respond to indicate that an object can be interacted with until after a few seconds, making the exploration of the hotel a bit of a nightmare despite the relatively low number of hotspots.

The puzzles themselves are few and far between and are of an extremely easy difficulty (excluding the highly illogical use of a match on a door in a particular puzzle). Yet, the wealth of locations, the slow pace of character movement, and the poor interface make progression a real chore. There is a diary that saves notes, which prove both vague and useless, and that also shows a map of the hotel, which infuriatingly cannot be used to speed up travel and can actually be easily missed by the player. Even the included mini-games, such as skiing, billiards, and cards, are primitive and ultimately serve only to pad out an already severely padded out experience.

The only redeeming quality of the game is the graphics, which are actually quite attractive, especially the pre-rendered backgrounds, despite a lack of widescreen support. The 3D character models are nowhere near as detailed, of course. Still, the overall visual impression is fairly strong. Sadly, the soundtrack is extremely limited and seems to jump randomly between traditional background music and highly annoying soft rock music that plays on a loop. Perhaps the worst offender is the English voice acting, which ranges from stilted and devoid of emotion (Peter) to masculine yet squeaky (a supposedly female character named Bruen) to almost robotically comical (Alec). The other hotel guests, such as the illusionist du Barnstocre, are an oddball bunch, whose characters are hardly developed at all: speaking to any of them feels much the same. The awkward English translation only further emphasizes the shockingly bad voice work.

In all, adventure game fans committing themselves to completing Dead Mountaineer's Hotel are best to leave behind their expectations. Even then, this 5-hour (not 15-hour as advertised) game drags on tremendously. It truly seems that the plot of the book has simply been crammed into the final minutes of the game, and it makes a supposedly interesting premise seem instead totally unbelievable and crazy. In fact, the entire game is nonsensical. There are multiple endings to uncover, but none of them finish on a satisfying note. As a game that will test even the staunchest adventure gamer to the limit, there is simply little to recommend and even less to remember about with Dead Mountaineer's Hotel.

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