This is the one hundred fiftieth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. This particular entry is also part of the Keeping Score series about games and their soundtracks. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Our one hundred fiftieth random selection from the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality is offering us respite… I think. It’s Hotel Paradise, by KaiClavier, and its tagline in the bundle reads:

Come and stay awhile!

I will come and stay awhile, for you, reader.

Playing Hotel Paradise made me anxious, because I was certain there would be some horrible surprise waiting to leap out at me. Players begin in a hotel hallway, navigated in traditional first-person fashion (as is sadly becoming expected, there is no in-game option to invert the mouse, but I used a third-party tool for that as described in my post about HATCH). Look down, and I see the player character is holding a room key with a room number written on it. I guess I’m supposed to find this room. It’s clearly not in this corridor, the room numbers aren’t even close. I wander down the hall, and it branches, but these numbers don’t make sense. The last corridor had numbers in the 300s, now I’m in the 700s? I’ll try this way. Huh, now the rooms are in the double digits. And haven’t I already made four right turns? Where even am I?

It’s a surreal maze of never-ending hotel corridors, each with another random range of room numbers. I could knock on doors, but no one ever answered. I just kept wandering, the jaunty muzak piping out of speakers in the ceiling as I ran past the identical-looking doors and stock photos in frames on the walls. Sometimes, I noticed that these photos (sometimes they’re paintings!) were crooked. I was able to straighten them. This did not appear to accomplish anything. All the while, I expected this strange reality to dissolve, some sinister force to emerge, some revelation that these endless corridors were merely an illusion masking some great horror. But it never came. Just endless hallways, none of them every containing my room.

Bemused, I quit out of the game, but when glancing over the page I saw a patch note saying that it was no longer possible to never find one’s room. The player’s room was guaranteed to appear… eventually. This inspired me to dive back into Hotel Paradise and find my room, for you, reader. Starting again I noticed my key had a different number on it this time. I guess each attempt is procedurally generated? I set off, ignoring crooked photos and making a beeline for the next branching corridor with room number signs on it. Naturally, they didn’t include my room number, so I’d pick a direction at random and keep going. It took longer than I would have liked, but just when I was about to give up again, I finally found my room. In disbelief, I knocked on the door, and for a horrible second it seemed nothing was going to happen. Thankfully, I was actually able to enter my room, but I will not spoil what was inside.

I will say that I did not find Hotel Paradise engaging enough to bother actually finding the right room. Once I’d realized that the hotel was just an endless series of T-intersection corridors, it lost any menace it may have held. It didn’t help that there was a clear stutter when approaching a new junction, as the game loaded in the next set of corridors. This just made the artifice even more transparent. I soldiered on so I could be sure I wasn’t missing some huge reveal, and I could be confident in my assessment of the game in this post. The payoff was kind of cool, but not enough to justify the endless corridor wandering needed to get there.

Still, Hotel Paradise is kind of a weird thing to wander through for a little while. I doubt most players will stick around long enough to find their room, but they might enjoy a few minutes of the surreal hotel corridors. I liked all the different framed photos and paintings, some of which are public domain and some of which are KaiClavier’s own snaps. And the music is a perfect emulation of the kind of background music one hears in hotels like this. If you fancy traipsing through some strange hotel corridors, Hotel Paradise is available for any price you wish to pay, including free. Purchases of $4 or more come with the original soundtrack, which is also included in the bundle. Which brings me to…

The Score:

The soundtrack to Hotel Paradise includes twelve tracks, clocking in at just over a half hour in total. Most of them are credited to KaiClavier, the creator of the game, but two (actually, two different versions of the same track) are credited to Zenuel. Most mix programmed beats with instruments like piano (both acoustic and electric), vibraphone, electric guitar, and synthesized saxophone. They tend to feature simple, pleasant melodies that will be instantly recobnizable to anyone who has listened to elevator music or its ilk when visiting a hotel or other public place. A few tracks lean a little more into electronica, with some cool delay and reverb effects that almost make them sound like dub.

Four of the tracks are “filtered” versions of other tracks, which lightens the bass and makes them sound more lo-fi and “tinny”. I think these are the versions that actually play in the hotel corridors while playing, because they sound like they are coming through a crappy speaker. If this is correct, then I appreciate their inclusion alongside the higher fidelity originals, since it offers insight into the sound design process for the game. The filtering process manages to nail the way background music often sounds, piped in through cheap speakers.

There are also two demo tracks included, showing early versions of the track “Accidents Happen” as KaiClavier worked out the arrangement. The first demo (dated “early 2011”) is short, with a very basic percussion track, the main piano line, and a barebones synthesized trumpet. The next demo (“mid 2011”) fleshes out the track, bringing in some high hat and cymbals, and a more complex (synthesized?) flute melody that replaces the trumpet. These demos offer an interesting glimpse into the process behind creating the full track.

None of the music is particularly memorable, but it’s not meant to be. This is background music, after all. It’s spot on in its depiction of the kind of tunes that get played in hotel lobbies, elevators, or even softly in the corridors, and as such is a great accompaniment during play. I doubt I’ll want to listen through the soundtrack very often, but I also won’t mind when one of these tracks pops up when I’ve got my music library playing on shuffle. They’re pleasant but forgettable, exactly as they should be.

That’s 150 down, and only 1591 to go!