Bad Hotel is a conceptual blend of common ideas brought together in a unique way. It’s a game about looping music through the creation of a hotel empire, where the sounds of commerce and architectural function ring out in waves of syncopated patterns, pulsing throughout each expanded section of the hotel. And your landlord, the aptly named Tarnation Tadstock, desperate for his slice of the pie, sends all manner of deadly creatures to demolish your empire so that he might collect on insurance. So the hotel must be protected. All of these diverse concepts are then washed over with an appealing Art Deco aesthetic, while somehow still managing to stay whole and self-complete.
The mechanics are simple. There are a series of parts to purchase and by sliding them next to another section of the hotel, they’ll connect. It’s easy to build the ugliest hotel and difficult to build any rationally shaped structure. The design’s loose and most end buildings will look somewhat crude. Expansions can lead in any direction. The thing is maintaining them, finding the balance between apartments, hospitals, and defenses, and where these parts serve the best purpose. The hotel flashes and energy passes through, with each piece producing one result and a subsequent note playing. After a while, there’s a chorus of buildings humming the story of an empire. It works beautifully as ambient noise and adds a neat layer to the way buildings are planned out.
What came as the biggest surprise with Bad Hotel is that it was a straight play through. It almost becomes an automatic series of processes and background beeps. It’s dangerously easy to fall into the compulsive loops and just keep building and making forward progress into hotel modernity.
These scenarios play out across varied terrain with unique backdrops and fresh hotel designs, starting with desert dwellings and working up through seaside shacks, nighttime cityscapes, and so on. It’s also necessary to adapt to new invaders. Usually the introduction of new enemies coincides with new construction options and it’s clear. The only frustration – and this isn’t to excuse it – is within the last chapter. It all falls apart and requires dropping weaponized boxes for defense rather than sorting out how to align them into the hotel. While sliding a piece over a still building is easy, placing them accurately near attacking targets is a pain and requires more accuracy than is afforded. It’s an awkward last minute change in direction. And after finishing, there is only replaying for scores for longevity but what’s there is enough.
Bad Hotel is the right mixture of eclectic and bold. It’s worth noting the title pays equal homage to this year’s excellent Beat Sneak Bandit for the concept and structure and Wu-Tang Clan for some other things. It’s a good indie project. Lucky Frame have proven they’re capable of finding the middle ground between the most disparate concepts and they’ve just about pulled this one off.