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The Nintendo DS has had some sleeper hits during its time as a mainstream gadget for the masses. It has been the base of the revival of the adventure genre, due to ease of control. One of the biggest surprises was the rather interesting Hotel Dusk: Room 215. It combined decent storytelling with new unthinkable ways to use the DS hardware, such as the part that involves you putting the DS on standby mode to flip the puzzle. A sequel looked almost certain due to the sheer genius of the package. Last Window: The Secret of Cape West is the rather oddly titled effort that serves its purpose as the sequel we’ve been looking for. Does it live to the potential or is it a big disappointment?

Things haven’t been going too well for Kyle Hyde. First he gets fired from his job as a door to door salesman; then he returns home only to find that Cape West is to be sold off and all the tenants, which include himself, are evicted when the building changes hands. To make matters worse for Kyle, he receives a mysterious order sheet directly, a practice that wasn’t common when he was employed. It simply reads: Solve the murder in Cape West that took place 25 years ago. Some of these things are resolved fairly quickly, such as Mr Hyde’s employment issue; but others are not so simple and turn into rather intriguing plot elements. The things that are lacking slightly are characterisation issues when combined with the sense of mystery. We have the character who will be some form of comic relief in the form of an out of work musician. It is fairly safe to establish at that point that he has very little impact on the overall plot. Then we have the slightly large man who snoops around too much and always wants the latest gossip from Kyle. This sort of character will arose suspicion and that is the problem. We are persuaded into pigeonholing the entire cast upon second meeting, then being proved exactly right. There is one genuine twist, but at the first signs of this it begins to fall into place very quickly. My main problem seems to be that Kyle has given up pursuing the man he was partnered with in the NYPD. It makes no sense to suddenly have him lose his job and then track down a killer from 25 years ago. But overall it isn’t a particularly badly written story as the dialogue is good. The overall story is just dull.

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The structure of the game is essentially like a point and click adventure, but with one necessary twist. You use Kyle’s detective skills to to extract information from people. Sure some items are used in the same generic style, but having the emphasis on conversation rather than puzzle solving this time around is a bit of a mixed bag. It is good because it keeps you on your toes a little more due to conversation branches. It is bad though because that is the sole device used for doing anything for half the game, and this problem far outweighs the merits. What happened to Cing and their puzzle creations that use the DS hardware to its fullest? Sure there are two puzzles which respectively involve dragging two switches on using the touch screen or fiddle around for an option that stopped a music box, but most of them will be uninspired and predictable.

The visual style is identical to the first game in this series; Hotel Dusk: Room 215, but there is more in the way of colour this time around. The jazz overtones of the soundtrack are used in a similar fashion to that game as well, since certain encounters with the denizens of Cape West. This all seems a little too safe though, as it is essentially using the same template. Even minor changes would have been a good touch, like for example making puzzle elements less blocky and more realistic.

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My main gripe with the last game is back with a vengeance though. There is a lot of walking around. If a morbidly obese man did this amount of walking, he’d either be significantly lighter, or be suffering a cardiac arrest. The game even teases you with an elevator later on, but the amount of buttons one has to press makes this take even longer! And where are you heading to when walking? 90% of the time you will be speaking to someone, while the rest is a mix of heading up to the fourth floor or to a random puzzle. This is a squandered opportunity, especially since your hand is mostly held tightly throughout. The puzzles that are here are few and far between, and what interesting ideas do appear are so short that it seems hard to justify it being a puzzle game. Then there are the recap sections at the end of each chapter. The game provides the chapters in book form, which is a nice touch providing you are not expecting the works of the great wordsmiths; so why do we need a test at the end of a chapter to go over what happened? Is the plot really that gripping that you need to understand it? It’s not like One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest or the Millenium series!

For a game with a rather large pedigree to live up to, it seems that Last Window: The Secret of Cape West has not only messed the opportunity, but made it almost impossible to care about what might happen afterwards. The fact that apart from the story and puzzles themselves, absolutely nothing has changed, is a bit depressing to see. It’s like watching someone go off the wagon and then wondering just how this could have been allowed to happen. That’s not to say it isn’t a well written game, or that the visual style is unappealing. It is just an unfortunate fall from grace.

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