Hotel Dusk: Room 215
| Hotel Dusk: Room 215

When it comes to holiday accommodation, the Marriots, Hiltons and Holiday Inns of the world might be boring, but we prefer them to the sort of downmarket motels where the owner keeps a loaded shotgun under the counter, and at night, dresses up in his dead mom's frocks.

Out in middle of the Californian desert, Hotel Dusk is one such place. Its owner, Dunning Smith, might not be a cross-dresser but he's definitely hiding some secrets in those low-rent rooms. Kyle Hyde has seen better days, too. A disgraced New York cop turned cynical door-to-door salesman, he's been sent to Hotel Dusk to collect a package for a mysterious client. Maybe he'll get the chance to flog some shoddy portable sewing machines while he's there?

Of course, it doesn't take long before Kyle's rusty detective skills tell him not everything is as it seems. But as he investigates, why do so many of the clues point back to a 30 year-old murder mystery, and what's it got to do with the disappearance of his friend, Bradley – the very reason he left the police force?

Not everything about Hotel Dusk is rundown. There's nothing shabby about its presentation, for example – this is one stylish DS game. The visuals are particularly grown-up, with characters having a pencil-sketched look that makes them seem like they're in a moving graphic novel. This also helps you understand the motivation of the characters as you can more easily see the subtle changes of expression during your conversations.

Another interesting feature is the way Hotel Dusk changes the way you use the DS. At least half of the game demands that you read long conversations with other characters, so it's fitting you have to hold the DS vertically like a book. (It's also why we've split the screenshots into single screens in our viewer). During conversations, Kyle's face is shown on the left screen while the character he's chatting to is on the right.

For the most part, the scripted dialogue is absorbing – typically revealing something the other person might not have wanted to divulge, or hinting at what you should do next.

Sometimes it can drag on a bit, especially when you just want to move onto the next puzzle, and it does get repetitive. This is most frustrating when you have to repeat large sections of the game because you chose the wrong response to a question. And, in the name of realism, sometimes you don't find out you've messed up until you venture into the lobby and find cop-shy hotel owner Dunning livid because a guest has grassed you up for snooping. Then you have to go back and have the conversation over again and try different responses.

In general though, Hotel Dusk is expertly paced, and this gets you through the tedious bits.

Aside from reading, the rest of the game involves exploration and solving puzzles. To move around the hotel, you drag the cursor that represents Kyle with your stylus (or move it with the D-pad) around a 2D map shown on the right-hand screen, while the left gives you a first-person view. When you reach an item or area that can be examined, a magnifying glass icon appears and you're given a 3D interactive view.

The puzzles are brilliant, too – although we wish there were more of them. Some aren't immediately logical, but the hotel is compact enough that you're not left aimlessly wandering for hours looking for the solution. And all use the DS imaginatively. You'll be blowing dust with the microphone, tapping boxes with the stylus and even closing and then opening the console to tip things up. You can also keep track of clues and hints by writing reminders with the stylus in your notebook.

As for the action, it takes place over just one night, with each of the ten chapters covering different time slots. You'll get the chance to snoop around the office at 8pm when you know Dunning will leave it unmanned to watch some hockey. Then there's the promise of a date in the hotel bar at 10pm with the foxy lady from room 216.

Most players will find themselves having a very pleasant stay at Hotel Dusk. Action freaks may find the subtle, slow-paced, text-heavy nature of the game makes them check out early. But those with enough patience to deal with the sometimes repetitive conversations will be more than rewarded, as the plot builds to a climatic finish, and there are corridors-full of top-notch detective work and puzzles to enjoy. Make your reservation now.

Hotel Dusk: Room 215

A stylish, noir-inspired adventure with a sophisticated plot and deep characters, Hotel Dusk is the place to stay for smart DS gamers