Review: Last Window: The Secret of Cape West (DS)

A fitting send-off from Cing

Throughout its lifespan, the DS has been a popular medium for graphic adventure games, many of which have become very successful. 2007 saw one such example in the form of Hotel Dusk: Room 215. Developed by Cing, also well known for the Trace Memory/Another Code series and published by Nintendo, it was a hit among gamers so it's no surprise to see that three years later, Cing returns with a sequel in the form of Last Window: The Secret Of Cape West. Unfortunately, last March the company declared bankruptcy, making this its final title. So the question stands: is it a worthy sequel to Hotel Dusk? In short, yes, it is.

The story begins in Los Angeles, 1980, a year after the events of Hotel Dusk. Kyle Hyde has just been fired from his job at Red Crown and has just discovered he faces eviction from his home at the Cape West Apartments due to its demolition. On top of that, he's also become more curious than ever about the death of his father. Upon heading back to his room, he receives an anonymous letter telling him to locate an item known as the “Scarlet Star”, which disappeared 25 years ago at the site when Cape West was a Hotel and soon learns of an event from 13 years ago, which he believes to all be connected.

For those of you who haven't played the original Hotel Dusk, there's no need to worry here as the storyline is separate from Last Window's predecessor, although there are several references to the original adventure throughout the game. The game packs quite a story, with an intriguing storyline filled with mystery, some well-developed characters and an interesting gameplay structure with conversations that are sure to keep gamers stuck to their DSes.

The basic gameplay remains unchanged here from Hotel Dusk. During the game, your main task is investigation, with several ways to go about this. First off, while you wander through the levels, there will be particular areas for you to examine closely, allowing you to examine or interact with particular items as well, such as a hammer for breaking a glass bottle in one instance. This all works very well and makes good use of the DS but at times it can be irritating not to be able to find what you're looking for, though this is a common issue with similar titles.

The other side of your investigations comes mainly from conversations with characters. You can talk to them and ask them different questions, and they'll often say something to which you as the player must choose a response. Choose the right response and more questions will open up, getting you more information, but be warned as choosing the wrong response can anger characters and affect the storyline in some ways, even leading to "Game Over"s. You'll sometimes be allowed to enquire about certain details of interest mentioned by characters when talking, allowing you to make further progress in the game. However, the dialogue does tend to drag on at times when talking to other characters which gamers may find slightly irritating.

However, Cing has introduced an “Ignore” feature for Last Window, alongside the Enquiring ability, which will allow you to ignore particular lines of questioning and get on with the game if you so choose. You have to be careful with this, as using the feature too often will lead to you missing out on important story details at times, leading to a Game Over. It's a good addition to the game that feels like a natural fit.

Another notable new addition to the game is the inclusion of an interactive novel named after the game. This novel is like a diary, recording the storyline of the game but in a more dramatic and expanded style and forms a pretty nice addition to the game. A new novel chapter is unlocked whenever you finish a chapter in the game, with 10 chapters overall making for interesting, if rather long reading at times. At the back of the novel there is also a secret file which contains hints that may help you during that chapter. However, if you choose not to look at it you'll be rewarded later on, so choose carefully here.

You hold the DS on its side like a book and control the game in two different ways, either by the touchscreen or the D-Pad. You can freely explore the 3D environments, just like before, with the touchscreen containing a basic map and the top screen showing your current location in 3D. The DS controls makes very good use of the DS as you use the touchscreen for a variety of different purposes, most of which seem simple and natural, from solving jigsaw puzzles to simply knocking on a door, as well as writing down notes in a memo pad.

Graphically, Last Window is as brilliant as its predecessor. The pencil-drawn character art mixed in with colour backgrounds gave the original game a unique feel and life, and while this is still perfectly intact here every bit as good, not much has changed from before. The game's audio is also excellent, and although there's no voice acting at all for the cutscenes, the soundtrack features some nice tunes that complement the game. There's also the option to choose from a variety of music you listen to while reading the Last Window novel and the option to also tune Hyde's radio to a particular song, both nice touches.

Conclusion

Overall, Last Window won't suit everyone's style. It's a lot slower than similar games on the DS, and one that requires time and patience to get through and this isn't helped by the text-heavy nature of the game. However, for those who can appreciate graphic adventure games, it makes notable improvements over its predecessor resulting in a rewarding experience that will keep you occupied for many hours.