Wednesday, March 07, 2007

VG REVIEW: Hotel Dusk and Diddy Kong Racing DS


Nintendo's ever-popular handheld console, the DS, has found favor with grownups and kids alike.

Adults enjoy the sleek design and puzzle games such as "Brain Age," while kids enjoy romping through colorful worlds such as those in "New Super Mario Bros."

Two recent titles underscore Nintendo's attempts to cater to both audiences: "Hotel Dusk: Room 215" and "Diddy Kong Racing DS." Unfortunately, neither manages to be as successful as the previously mentioned games are.

"Hotel Dusk" is a mystery adventure title in the vein of classic games such as "Myst," "The Last Express" and "Starship Titanic." As with those games, the emphasis is on exploring and solving puzzles.

In "Dusk" you play a down-on-his-luck ex-cop who checks into the seedy Hotel Dusk one night.

You're ostensibly trying to locate your former partner who betrayed you, and guess what! It turns out he might have stayed at that very hotel earlier. Not only that, but just about every guest in the hotel that night seems to have some sort of connection to him. What are the odds?

You play the game by wandering through the hotel, examining objects and interviewing hotel patrons and employees. That's about it, and it can get quite dull to walk up and down the same hall again and again. The puzzles are far too easy and lack any challenge to engage players for long periods.

"Dusk" bills itself as noir, but it's about as noir as your average episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond." It boasts an appealing art style (think of A-ha's "Take on Me" video), and the story plods along well enough, but I kept thinking so much more could have been done. Imagine a mystery in which your method of investigation determines who committed the crime and you'll see what I'm getting at.

"Diddy Kong Racing," on the other hand, aims to be nothing more than a cute little go-kart racer for the wee ones.

The game is a port of the 1997 Nintendo 64 title. The bad news is, except for some nice multiplayer content, there's little here worth a trip back to the well.

The biggest problem with the title is the interface, which, rather than offering a simple menu has you zooming around a landscape trying to figure out where to go for your next race.

There are other problems. Some add-ons, such as one that forces you to pop balloons, are more annoying than charming. The races themselves seem to vary wildly in difficulty, from mind-numbingly easy to way too difficult. And the controls handle awkwardly as well.

Given that the excellent "Mario Kart DS" is still out, there's little reason to pick "Diddy Kong" up.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2007


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