Great review. can't wait for the game!
Back at the start of 2010, some terribly sad news befell the world; developer CiNG was in the throes of insolvency, with the company declaring itself bankrupt. After churning out hit after critical hit for Nintendo, starting with Another Code: Two Memories on the DS, followed by the highly praised and commercially successful Hotel Dusk: Room 215, it looked like no wrong could be done by the Japanese firm. However, following lower than expected sales of its Wii debut, Another Code: R - A Journey into Lost Memories upon its domestic release, the game never appearing in the US and only mustering up a moderately strong showing in Europe, matters appeared to become slightly more shaky for CiNG. In Japan, even signing a deal with Tecmo for the detective mystery AGAIN did not improve things, with that game struggling to even hit four figure sales there, and receiving a subsequently limited distribution for its US launch; the European release still hangs in the balance to this day. Now, though, with what appears to be its final roll of the die, CiNG’s second adventure for Hotel Dusk’s Kyle Hyde is about to land in Europe after a tepid reception in Japan back in January 2010. Cubed3 takes an early look at Last Window: The Secret of Cape West in this in-depth - but spoiler-free - review.
Any plot points mentioned in this review can also be found on the game's official website.
A year has passed since the events surrounding Hotel Dusk: Room 215, with Kyle Hyde returning once more, this time in Last Window: The Secret of Cape West. Set in 1980s Los Angeles, the story commences with Hyde‘s sheer idleness leading to him being kicked out from his current employ, no longer a salesman for the Red Crown agency (the place he worked after quitting the police force four years ago), where more often than not he was actually asked to work on ‘off-the-books’ jobs to locate ‘things that do not want to be found’. Residing at Cape West Apartments, looking as shaggy and dishevelled as ever before, despondent Hyde is in a terrible state. In fact, the poor guy has just learned that he is about to be evicted from his current abode, since Margaret Patrice, the stony-faced landlady of the establishment, is set to close the dilapidated building, albeit under mysterious circumstances. Then there is the matter of why and how his father died, and how that is tied in with Cape West; the unresolved issue of his former police force partner who was on the take four years prior; questions about Cape West’s 25 year old past; an unusual event that took place 13 years before Kyle Hyde’s present day; plus something called the ‘Scarlet Star’ that Hyde has been asked to investigate by an unknown source. Thus begins an intriguing tale with numerous twists and turns along the way that will keep any DS owner gripped to the system until the very end.
The trademark art approach of Hotel Dusk: Room 215 that received such critical acclaim is back, looking as stylish as it ever did, with full colour environments inhabited by characters that have been given the ‘a-ha’s Take On Me video’ treatment; black and white pencil sketches overlaid onto natural body movements (with colour seeping into the equation when a new character is introduced into the main story, during cut-scenes, and when emotion runs strong within someone during the plentiful exchanges Hyde has). Human gestures were used in the Tecmo-published AGAIN, but people overlooked, and even criticised, the technique because the majority did not favour the way CiNG had used the human likenesses as well in that particular adventure. Therefore, those who did not like AGAIN’s visuals will be happy to see that Last Window continues to fly the flag that Hotel Dusk so proudly erected. The 3D engine used for the exploration aspect has also been tweaked, allowing for smoother, slightly quicker movement, and everything manages to feel fresh-but-recognisable.
With the DS being held in a side-on, book-like fashion, a plan-view map of whatever area you are currently in can be found on the touch-screen (for right-handed players, that is, with the DS having to be turned around for left-handed gamers), whilst a first-person viewpoint is on the other screen so players can clearly see the unruly sleuth moving through numerous locations within Cape West as you move the stylus around. Right from the very start there are references to the Another Code series of games, with ‘Lake Juliet’ from Another Code R: A Journey into Lost Memories on Wii being portrayed in one of the paintings around the main lobby area of the soon-to-be-demolished apartment block, thus fanning the flames for those hoping to eventually see the Another Code world clash with Hyde’s captivating journeys. CiNG has also added little touches to ensure navigation throughout is extremely simple, especially for newcomers, with rooms on the plan-view being labelled appropriately, and icons even having their purpose highlighted with a clear message, as well as showing where and how to use particular items at the beginning of the game.
Conversation threads can take various turns, all dependent on the responses given, attitude shown and answers provided to certain questions. During the adventure there is indeed the possibility of hitting a dead end and receiving the ‘Game Over’ screen if you make poor choices throughout, so Last Window is quite dissimilar to the majority of adventure titles on the market where any answer can be given until the correct solution has been discovered. There is a handy notepad that can be accessed during speaking sessions, so that any pertinent points can be scrawled down and remembered at a later time, as well as being able to delve into Hyde’s hefty black bag to throw items in people’s faces whenever necessary, all with the greatest of ease. This time, though, whilst conversing with non-playable characters, there will not only be the chance to ask questions related to what they have said, but also the chance to avoid pressing them too hard for information and having the door shut in your face due to nosiness. Players can easily choose the ‘Ignore’ option at specific points when chatting away to avoid prying into personal matters too much. Tact is something that Hyde lacks in general, yet with the player’s guidance he can actually extract more details in a clever, subtle way on the whole. There are moments of frustration related to this, however, as there will be times when the player is left feeling the game’s decision to draw a close on play is rather unfair. However, thankfully in the Game Over situations, you can easily jump back in to the moment before the conversation took a turn for the worst and try to make amends with your second (or third, or fourth!) chance.
There are also numerous clever moments where the game can break off into various paths, such as when Hyde hears the phone ringing in the background, but also has the opportunity to follow a particular conversational route with a fellow resident. What to do? Answer the phone and miss talking with the person right in front of you, or keep pressing for more information and sacrifice what could have been a life-changing call? CiNG has tried to escape the confines of the traditions found in the adventure genre, whilst at the same time keeping Last Window’s feet firmly in safe territory so as to avoid alienating those hankering for the tried-and-tested approach. As with the first Kyle Hyde outing, the game is not overly reliant on in-depth puzzle experiences. Another Code: Two Memories was revered due to its clever use of the DS features, whilst its Wii sequel, A Journey into Lost Memories was masterful in its Wii Remote usage. Hotel Dusk was heavier on the text side, and Last Window follows suit, yet this does not mean the puzzles included are not well implemented. Combine items in your inventory to create new, more useful ones, use the stylus to physically twist, turn and drag objects around as necessary, gently tap and rotate items to extract contents trapped inside, and even make use of dual-touch, tapping and holding two locations on the touch-screen (something not thought to be possible on the DS!) when asked to do so.
Adding to the overall experience even more is the smooth soundtrack that picks up right from where Hotel Dusk: Room 215 left off. For anyone eager to hear the music again and again, there is a radio in Hyde’s apartment room where tracks from the first game can be ‘tuned in to’. However, there is also an in-game jukebox that allows the gamer to listen to music tracks through headphones when the DS lid is closed, meaning you can sit back and relax to the jazz beats playing constantly. This option is also available in another great new inclusion; the novel section. After the completion of each chapter in the main adventure, it opens up a corresponding part of the Last Window novel, which provides the player with an expanded explanation of previously encountered events, written out in the style of a gripping piece of published prose. Those who thought Hotel Dusk: Room 215 was extremely text heavy, and actually believed this was a positive aspect, will be over the moon about this new addition. If anything, this helps Last Window: Secret of Cape West live up the mantel of ‘interactive novel’ more so than Another Code R: A Journey into Lost Memories ever did.
The end of chapter recap feature does return, as in both Another Code titles, Hotel Dusk itself and even the so-far-unreleased-in-Europe AGAIN, whereby Hyde turns to his thoughts in order to get everything sorted in his mind. Here the player must answer questions he poses about key points during the previous chapter. However, reading through the new chapters in the actual novel, learning about the characters met along the way and the events that have unfolded from a slightly different angle is ideal for anyone wanting to see the full picture. On top of this, there is a Classified Case File that can be opened to provide tips on how to progress. However, there is an incentive not to break open this file before completing the game. Whether players can resist not taking a peek is another subject…Last Window: The Secret of Cape West is simply stunning throughout. Those who love crime thrillers will feel right at home, anyone with a hankering for smart puzzles will be pleased with the mix of brain-teasers thrown in, and those merely looking for a fresh new DS game to pass the time until Professor Layton and the Lost Future arrives at the end of October in Europe will be delighted by what is looking likely to be the last ever game from the CiNG we know and have grown to love.
A welcomed mix of light-hearted puzzles with a gripping mystery story, witty and highly humorous conversations, as well as diverging paths through the adventure where every action from the player re-writes events, all help to make Last Window: The Secret of the Cape West an exemplary DS release.
The gorgeous pencil-sketch finishing touch overlaid onto impressive motion capturing for the characters returns, complete with a smoother 3D engine for the exploration sections, culminating in some of the most impressive visuals on DS.
Laid back, easy-listening tunes, with a jazz-tinge to them that fit the 1980s Los Angeles setting perfectly and thankfully can be listened to at leisure using the in-game jukebox feature.
Anyone hoping for a quick fly-through should walk away now. Between the general conversations that help Last Window’s story along, the extended novel that opens up as each chapter of the adventure reaches its conclusion and the extra side quest that Kyle Hyde can undertake along the way, there is plenty of bang for your buck here!
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 was an extremely impressive take on traditional adventure games, yet CiNG has progressed considerably since its release, taking the experience gained from the Another Code: R and AGAIN projects to help develop Last Window: The Secret of Cape West into not only one of the exemplary products in the genre, but one of the most impressive games on the DS overall. Last Window’s mix of mystery tale and light-hearted puzzles can be enjoyed all sectors of the market and is a fitting finale from the now defunct CiNG.
Great review. can't wait for the game!
Better than Hotel Dusk?? Wow, I really need to get my hands on this then! I wonder if it will be announced at the US conference in a couple of weeks. If not I'll have to import...
Wait... what ? It's out in Europe already ?? I didn't even know !
It comes out in Europe this Friday, alongside PANG: Magical Michael.
The advert for the game can be seen here: http://www.nintendo.se/ds/spel/last-window
Sounds cool, I might get it. Though I still need to get the first one first XD (Yeah, first things first ).
I have so many DS games that are old now and that I don't own yet, though I wish I did. I just ordered Suikoden which I should have bought ages ago. Shame on me.
Suikoden Tierkreis is brilliant
You should check out the reviews of the other CiNG games I linked to in the main article. They're all really worth trying out. Last Window appeals to be a LOT because of the heavy amount of text. That's part of why I loved Another Code: R on Wii so much as well
I'm eager to see if this manages to do as well as Hotel Dusk did here in the UK...
Day 1 get. Definitely! Absolutely loved the original, we played through it at least 2/3 times a piece to get the 'secret' and alternative endings. Great, great script - glad they really seem to have kept the feel and style of the original, something that made it stand out from other text-driven games.
Can't wait - was really excited when they announced this!
Top review Adam, good stuff
If this is indeed as good as Another Code R on Wii, then I'm there straight away. I love these interactive novel style adventures and really hope Last Window does well enough to convince someone to bring over 428 on Wii, just like Aksys is bringing 999 on DS to the US!
Last Window will be awesome! Hotel Dusk is still one of the best and intense games on the DS and I hope/wish that Last Window can trump even his predecessor.
That is what I always expect from cing ;p
CiNG may have shut down, but the key staff must have gone somewhere else. Considering Nintendo owns the rights for Another Code and the Kyle Hyde it would be wise to snap up key talent!
I could never get into the first Hotel Dusk, might try again though sometime. I absolutely loved Another Code though (still need to get the Wii one).
I'd like to support this new release as well, so if I could get into it, then maybe I'd buy this one.
I only just found out about CiNG going bankrupt, through this review. I'm very sad to hear it.
Cing went bankrupt???
Aww but all their games are sooo good, it's a shame good companies go bankrupt when the large companies can stay alive by churning out shovel ware.
It would be nice if Nintendo bought Cing.
Their games dont overlap either in gameplay or style with any of Nintendos other IPs, while being great for both stylus systems AND new gamers.
It sounds like they've just tweaked the formula from the original, which sounds good to me!
I'm guessing that it's not important to know the story from the original (which I've pretty much forgotten) to get what's going on in this one?
It's a nice thing to have the previous story's plot in your mind when playing through, but any essential plot points are recapped during Last Window, so no worries
I'll wait, I've just bought DQIX.
I love DQIX, and will eventually get round to reviewing it at some point. Definite 10 for me! I'm impressed how it's still doing so well in the UK - 15th best selling game of the week according to Chart Track's update today.
Last Window entered at No.33, just behind the re-stocked Art Academy. I'm sure it'll jump up next week if the TV ads are still showing.