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February 5, 2007

Filed under: gaming»impressions»ds

Reading Miscomprehension

A defining feature of reviews for Hotel Dusk on the DS has been that it requires the player to read a lot. "...it's very wordy, forcing you to read long passages between short bursts of walking around," says Gamespy. You'll have to excuse me if I seem a little annoyed. It's just... well, have you seen Final Fantasy games lately? The ones that are trumpeted by most gamers as one of the consistent high points of the medium?

I hadn't played a Final Fantasy in years, and a few months ago I felt like maybe I'd been missing something. So I started a new save on Belle's copy of FFX. It took ten minutes before I could press a button--I think it was to go right a few feet--at which point the game took control again for another movie sequence.

Now, I like movie sequences as much as the next person, maybe more. But five hours into the game, it had pretty much maintained the same dynamic:

  1. Finish watching a movie.
  2. Walk the character a few feet, and possibly press a button.
  3. OPTIONAL: fight a battle.
  4. Trigger a new movie sequence.
  5. GOTO 1.
Is that a video game? Or a way to stretch a mediocre two-hour film out over 10-20 hours of gameplay?

So now Hotel Dusk does much the same thing, with stronger characterization and a fun little noir storyline, but it's text-based so reviewers are having trouble. My only problem with it is that the text moves a bit slowly for my tastes, but there are worse crimes: I can only play Sonic Rush in Japanese, a language I don't understand, the dialog is so very, very bad.

This is why gaming needs new reviewers: not because they're on the take or obsessed with sex and violence, but because so many of them are frightened by the written word.

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