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Review #356

Hotel: Collector’s Edition (PC)
Publisher: Cateia Games
Developer: Cateia Games
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 06/08/2010
Buy it Here: The Official Website

It’s been a rather lackluster year for PC Exclusive adventure games. The best titles have also been available for consoles, such as Sam and Max: Season 3 while Sony’s systems have been hitting it out of the ballpark with titles like Disgaea Infinite, Heavy Rain. and Blue Toad Murder Files. This is quite the turnabout from say, three decades of gaming.

So with 2010 more than halfway over and your intrepid reviewer still in search of a quality PC point and click title, I run across a little game called Hotel. Hmm. Egyptian Cults, possibly haunted hotel, and a mystery story tying the puzzles together. I can’t deny I was intrigued. A little over a year ago our own Guy Desmarais reviewed The Legend of Crystal Valley, another game by this Croatian development/publishing house and deemed it to be a good game, so that was all the encouragement I needed to give this title a try.

So, do we finally have a PC exclusive point and click title in 2010. Cateia certainly hopes so as it already has a sequel in development starring a relative of the main character, but is this a case of counting chickens before they’ve hatched?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Hotel is the story of Bridget Brightstone, a NYPD detective on vacation on the beaches of France. She is called in by her supervisor to investigate a possible homicide at a rural hotel in France. Of course, this is more than a little outside her jurisdiction, but it turns out the owner of the hotel is friends with your boss and asked for help as the local detective…is a bit of a putz. Bridget reluctantly agrees and ends up finding herself dealing with a case involving ghosts, an evil cult, a mummy with powers and a desire for revenge beyond the grave, and a secret society bent on stopping it.

I’ll admit, I was really into the plot until the last two-fifths of the game. It was intriguing, well written (although not well localized), and it was a very subtle supernatural tale. Then you enter a graveyard of famous people throughout history and their ghosts end up helping you. Let’s just say I was less than enthused about getting to wield Excalibur, use the ghost of Cleopatra to psychically drown a bad guy and help Death play a game of marble madness. This just really threw me out of my previous enjoyment of the game as it was both over the top and silly compared to the earlier parts of the game. The ending cinematic is a bit vague and nonsensical too as it leaves you without any character resolution and there are a lot of loose ends left.

Still, even with the endgame being a letdown for me, the puzzles were still highly original and fun, and a gamer who is more accepting of high fantasy merging with a low key detective story will enjoy the overall story. I just wish the game had stayed a more subtle noir adventure rather than what it became.

Story Rating: 5.5/10

2. Graphics

The background graphics in the game are quite nice, especially for an indie studio on a low budget. The castle/hotel is very impressive and there is quite of lot of detail with objects, locations and static backdrops. Characters on the other hand have some issues. Atia for example appears to be wearing pants and a skirt at the same time and the animation around that is wonky. Some characters also have a dramatic lack of detail to them when compared to the backgrounds, such as Ak-Ash, the two sisters and Death. It’s almost as if two different teams did the graphics.

Although there aren’t a lot of cinematics, the bits you do get are easily the best visuals in the game. In contrast to that, some of the animation in the game is a bit…awkward. For example, when Bridget is using an object, she will often animate with the action of using the object, but the object will not be in her hands, making it come off like she is an expert in pantomime. This will no doubt annoy people who primarily game via a console, but I think long time adventure gamers are used to it. Still, it’s odd that objects are used but not seen.

As long as you can get past the character designs and their animation, you’ll be impressed with the level of detail to be found in Hotel

Graphics Rating: 6.5/10

3. Sound

There is only voice acting at the very beginning and the very end of the game, but both actors so a great job as Bridget and Sam. It really made me wish there was more of it, but I guess Cateia couldn’t afford it. It’s okay though, as the score for Hotel is excellent and it really sets the tone for a sinister, mysterious experience. This is one area where Hotel really excelled.

Sound effects are less common than you might think, but when they are there, they are realistic and well done. Whether it’s the snapping of wooden planks or the scraping of ladder against bricks, everything sounds like it is live-action rather than computer rendering. It’s just odd that that the game lacks any sort of sound effects during various actions while other more mundane acts do. At the end of the day though, Cateia does a fine job with limited resources and it’s often times hard to believe this collector’s edition is only $19.99.

Sound Rating: 7/10

4. Control and Gameplay

I have to admit, Hotel has everything I am looking for in a point and click title when it comes to gameplay. You can speed up your character’s walking pace by holding the space bar. God knows enough of these games don’t have that option. You can highlight everything you can interact with by using the enter button. You can quick walk to a location you’ve already been to by double tapping the mouse and loading times, aside from moving into a new chapter, are almost non-existent. Even better, the collector’s edition of the game comes with a virtual strategy guide that you can pull up at any time if you’re having trouble (which you won’t). This is a nice touch compared to other games that make you alt+tab or close out of the game entirely to access it. I can’t believe such a wonderful detail hasn’t been included in any other games I’ve played. Simple but elegant, this little addition makes Hotel accessible to gamers of all skill levels.

The only two complaints I can make are very minor ones. The first is that the game crashed when I tried to click on my inventory right as a cut scenes was about to happen, forcing me to replay the entire chapter around the village and graveyard. So don’t click on anything when your character moves/talks on her own accord. The other issue was when I solved a routine puzzle of putting together a torn up piece of paper to form an astronomy chart. I put the chart together perfectly but the game wouldn’t register that I had done so. On the third time of correctly completing it I realize I must have done it upside down. I turn every piece 180 degrees and voila! It finally took. Usually when you do a piece like this in other adventure games, it will accept your work even if it is upside down, so this was a minor annoyance.

Overall, Hotel’s engine is far superior to most point and click games and it implemented nearly everything I want (or have wanted) in a game from this genre. Awesome.

Control and Gameplay: 9/10

5. Replayability

Most adventure games are a “one and done” type of title since they are extremely linear and will always be the same exact experience each time you play it. The same is true of Hotel, but even more so than most games. The game keeps track of how long you played it and I ended up beating this game, without the strategy guide, in roughly two hours. That’s pretty short for any title. Adventure games are usually in the six to ten hours range, so even though Hotel is only $19.99, or $14.99 for the regular edition, games might be disappointed with how short their experience ends up being.

Because of the length and the weirdness with the story, you’ll have to ask yourself if twenty bucks is worth two hours of your time. Hell, you can go see a movie in the theatre for less and have a longer experience.

Replayability Rating: 2/10

6. Balance

Hotel is definitely geared for casual or younger gamers. Not only do you have constant access to the strategy guide, but the puzzle are as easy as they are innovative. None of the puzzles are all real challenge, and unlike most point and click games that involve an awful lot of backtracking, each puzzle is pretty self contained, with all the items you need being in the general vicinity of the puzzle itself. The only time you have to backtrack involves crap with the realm of the dead, which made that section all the more annoying.

There are a few “combine item” or “use item A on object B” puzzles, which are standard fare for adventure games, but Hotel primarily uses other puzzles like going through a labyrinth, putting together a torn-up map, getting water from point A to point B and more. With such a wide variety of puzzles, while also clinging to the occasional adventure item puzzle staple, Hotel comes off as a breath of fresh air. Better yet, since the puzzles are so different from each other, you’ll find the fun of doing them offsets when the plot takes a nosedive.

Although nothing in Hotel is anywhere close to difficult and gamers will breeze through this game, variety and Cateia’s bending over backwards to make sure anyone can beat their game ensures it will find an appreciative audience.

Balance Rating: 7/10

7. Originality

Regardless of my issues with Hotel’s climax, I can’t deny it’s one of the most original adventure titles I’ve played in years. The story takes a curve into left field, but at least it’s something different and didn’t follow a paint-by-numbers pattern. I also loved the puzzles as they were so different from what you normally encounter in an adventure game. Even puzzles that were shoehorned in to the game and had nothing to do with the plot were fun because they were very different from what you usually encounter in these types of games.

Hotel may be short, but this little Croatian company is showing more innovation than longtime adventure game studios like Microids or City Interactive. I’m glad to see someone trying new things instead of the same old, same old.

Originality Rating: 7/10

8. Addictiveness

It’s hard to gauge a game like Hotel in this category because it is so short. I will say that I beat the game in two settings. After the first sitting I assumed that three hours or so had passed because I was around the halfway point of the game and found myself shocked that only fifty minutes had passed. I guess this is the opposite of time flying.

Hotel was hard to put down once I booted it up and ever after I was annoyed at the game crashing on me and having to replay an entire chapter, I still did it anyway because I wanted to see how the thing ended (and it was like twenty minutes of gaming anyway…). Generally when a game crashes, my interest goes out the window, so that tells you something about the overall quality of this title.

So Hotel is short and it’s very obscure, but it still manages to be one of the better adventure games I have played this year. I’m definitely looking forward to Ghost Hunters now.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor

Being an obscure PC game, it SHOULD be the duty of video game websites to play titles like this and get the word out about them. Big publishers have ads they place in magazines and TV shows and gamers will buy their titles regardless because they are sheep. That’s why the focus of video game journalists should be the titles gamers DON’T know about and help guide them to the worthy purchases. Alas, it doesn’t work that way since gaming journalism is actually “give me free stuff big companies and we will give you verbal fellatio.” Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now.

Hotel is short and weird, which will probably put a lot of gamers off from it from the beginning. Adventure games have increasingly become a niche genre, but this may be turning around as they have be returning to consoles (Well, Nintendo and Sony systems at least) with surprisingly regularity, so perhaps they are having a renaissance ala fighting games. With luck, gamers will see why this genre was one of the most popular in gaming. It’s hard to believe a genre that contains Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island, The 7th Guest and Grim Fandango has been relegated to the “casual” label.

Anyway, if you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll enjoy Hotel. If not, Hotel’s is akin to that of say, Vampireville, in that both games give you a weird story and some unique puzzles for an adventure game, but Vampireville is also much longer and only $6.95. I’d definitely recommend that to people looking for an innovative and weird adventure game over Hotel for those reasons, but this is still a fun game that deserves to find an audience. At the same time, that audience will be a niche one at best.

Appeal Factor: 5/10

10. Miscellaneous

On one hand we have a game that only costs $19.99 ($14.99 for the regular version) and contains some pretty nifty puzzles. On the other, you have a game that is short than most casual games you can get from Big Fish Games or PopCap for the same price (or less). The story had promise but it drops the ball at the end, while the graphics and score are pretty nice for a budget title. Finally you get extras like character bios, wallpaper and a strategy guide. That’s all pretty neat. Best of all, Cateia packages in the Mac and PC versions of Hotel together, which is something rarely done these days and the game deserves a props just for that. I’d have to say I give the overall package a tentative thumb’s up. If the game had been a little longer and a little more subdued, it’d be an end of the year award contendor. As it is, it’s “only” a fun one and done title, and you really can’t ask for more than that.

Miscellaneous Rating: 6/10

The Scores
Story: 5.5/10
Graphics: 6.5/10
Sound: 7/10
Control and Gameplay: 9/10
Replayability: 2/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 7/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 5/10
Miscellaneous: 6/10
Total Score: 62
FINAL SCORE: 6.0 (ABOVE AVERAGE GAME!)

Short Attention Span Summary
Hotel is a fun but exceptionally short point and click title, boasting highly original and diverse puzzles. At the same time, the story starts out great but quickly succumbs to drivel. It’s also very much a “one and done” title, but at least it has a nice soundtrack and one of the best engines I’ve seen in this genre for a long time. At only $19.99, you’re getting a fun game, but it’s also only two hours long, so you have to ask if it’s truly a budget title when you look at the play time to cost ratio.

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