This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).
Time played: 74 minutes.
Now, I should preface this by noting that I played both BEEP and Bad Hotel on impulse, simply because I had a) been thinking about the whole Steam Challenge thing for a while and it was pretty much on my mind every time I looked at my Steam library, and b) they were the games that I happened to have my cursor resting on when I felt that impulse become overwhelming enough to translate into action. I didn’t know much about them other than BEEP was a platformer, and Bad Hotel was a music-driven tower defence game ported from mobile. I’d picked them both up in bundles, and so I had no real expectations of them being super exciting.
It’s just as well, because while BEEP just bored me by not standing out in any way, Bad Hotel actively drove me away.
Let’s start with what I did like. I found the cashflow mechanic to be an interesting change from previous tower defence games I’ve played. The convention I’ve seen is that you gain the money you use to place defences, by destroying the waves of enemies that are trying steal your stuff or get past you. The longer you take to destroy those enemies, the slower you accumulate cash, which can hamper your effectiveness in the long term. You also cannot lose your towers once you’ve placed them (though you can usually manually dismantle them to free up space or get around unit limits). Plants vs Zombies used resource-generating towers to fuel your defence, which quite frankly just meant that you really needed to spam those towers at the beginning to ramp up into a good economy, and if they died it was tough to recover. Bad Hotel goes in a slightly different direction by having your core building (which is your win/loss condition: if it is destroyed you fail the level) pulse every second or two, which generates cash from each room attached to it. The rooms that provide your actual defence (guns, minelayers, etc) give you very little cash per pulse, so you need to buy the “sunflower” rooms to be able to replace the rooms you will lose to enemies, in a timely manner. Add in the fact that those rooms also double as the walls protecting your core, and things get rather interesting.
The art style was fine, at times it kind of reminded me of early South Park animation – Mecha Streisand would not be out of place at all as a boss. Some of the enemies were pretty cute, like angry clouds shooting lighting bolts at you.
Unfortunately I struggled to overcome my gripes with it, and in the end I couldn’t. I got to the stage where I had healing rooms, which restored some of the health of other rooms at regular intervals, and that is where my frustration came to a head. Over the course of several attempts at several levels I tried figuring out how those damn healing rooms worked, but it seemed too random to plan around. Sometimes I thought the heal pulsed through all damaged rooms, other times I thought maybe they were limited by range, or number of rooms healed per pulse, or or or…I gave up trying to work out how they operated. There was no immediately obvious help explaining how they worked, so I decided it was too much effort for too little reward to keep going when I don’t understand what I’m doing.
I say that that was where my frustration came to a head, and that’s because it had been rising steadily as I got further into the game. There was a distinct and surprising jump in difficulty at one point, where I’d been casually dominating my way through the levels with little effort. Suddenly there was a lot more to deal with. Sadly though, the prime “strategy” that seemed to work was just chucking rooms out willy-nilly as fast as cashflow would allow. There seemed to be little chance to plan an optimal configuration at all, other than repeating the level over and over. Other frustrations included rooms “falling off” when a nearby room was destroyed. At first I thought it was just rooms built of top of the destroyed one that fell off, but nooooo, sometimes they were fine while rooms below fell off instead. There were problems with mines, where enemies would move straight through them without setting them off, yet other times they’d blow up as soon as an enemy got into proximity.
All this I might have powered through and persevered for a few more hours, possibly until the end. However, that damn core pulse. It was horrible. This was the “music-driven” part of the game that I’d been interested in exploring, and it was a huge letdown when I realised what it amounted to. The core pulses, with a certain tone. That pulse spreads throughout your hotel, and each room produces it’s own tone depending on it’s type. Maybe it’s distance from the core as well? I couldn’t tell. I guess the idea behind it is that different hotel configurations will give you different tonal progressions which add up to unique “tunes” every time you play. That sounds good in theory, but in practice it just drove me mad. I could not deal with the repetitiveness of it. It was the final nail in the coffin for me and this game.
So, sadly I cannot recommend Bad Hotel. Many people seem to like it, though, so perhaps I was just doing it wrong. C’est la vie.