Many of us often think that the future will be radically different from our time. Not necessarily better, just different. However, as Ed Arnold, the star of Brain Hotel is about to find out, certain things never change. Making deliveries is still not a terribly exciting job, people still get their hearts broken by their significant others, and things are never as simple as they seem. Especially when there are super villains involved. As our hero is about to find out, things get even worse when you are supposed to make a delivery to the hotel where a super villain convention is taking place.
Brain Hotel is the second game created by Pinhead Games. Just like the first game, A Case of the Crabs, the game can be played online or downloaded. Since it was created with Macromedia's Flash technology, Brain Hotel is easily playable on most PC's without any fear of compatibility issues.
Unlike A Case of the Crabs, which was based on Pinhead Games' original material, Brain Hotel is based on the online comic "Tales of the Odd", by Ron "Aalgar" Watts. You can read the comic at www.talesoftheodd.com. Loosely based would be a more correct term however, since Brain Hotel is not a retelling of an existing storyline. The game merely takes place in the same world as the comic. This world is not unlike many others seen in futuristic novels, movies, or comics. It is dreary and gloomy, and our protagonist is a disenchanted loner.
However, the world in Brain Hotel is a lot wackier and funnier than the average bleak vision of the future, which makes perfect sense given that this is a comedy adventure, influenced by games such as Maniac Mansion. This is reflected in the game's dialogs, which are full of jokes, puns, and more references to real-life comic books and movies than the average gamer could ever possibly recognize. I mean, I struggled with more than a few of them and I take pride in being a huge comic book nerd. Not all the jokes are equally funny however, in fact some of the jokes and characters are more annoying than comical, and you are probably going to be lost in the sheer number of references before too long. Despite this, there are still a lot of amusing jokes in the game and they outweigh the not-so-funny ones, ensuring that Brain Hotel remains entertaining from start to finish.
As far as independently developed adventure games go, Brain Hotel is solid in the graphics and sound departments. Character models are well-designed and animated quite nicely. The backgrounds are decent, even if they are not terribly detailed. The voice-overs, provided by professional actors, are what stand out the most, since lines are very well delivered in a believable manner. A couple of the voices may not be to everyone's taste, but they do reflect the characters' personalities quite well, so it is not a delivery issue. There are also a couple of music tracks available in the game, but sadly we do not get to hear them often enough, and for that reason the game's sound may seem a bit barren at times.
Brain Hotel is a fairly short game, roughly about sixty to ninety minutes long on your first playthrough, which is the usual length of a quality independent adventure. Sadly, the gameplay is not consistent during the game as some of its puzzles are somewhat lacking. They are not terribly difficult, or original for that matter, as they do not stray far from the 'find item A and bring it to place B' mentality. The problem lies with the fact that it is not always clear what you have to do. Thankfully, the game's site has a hints section which should help you if you get stuck in a specific part of the game, but it would have been nice if the game itself were clearer. Still, the puzzles themselves combined with the humor found in the game make up for this problem, so all in all, Brain Hotel's gameplay remains enjoyable.
The user-interface will be familiar to most fans of adventure games, since it is based entirely on the early LucasArts SCUMM system, which is hardly surprising given the fact that Brain Hotel is heavily influenced by those games. At any rate, the interface works fine, and using every single available verb on any given hotspot provides some funny reactions from Ed himself.
Brain Hotel is an entertaining, if not terribly spectacular entry in the independent adventure scene that should keep you amused while it lasts. It has its flaws, but they are not game-breaking. If you keep in mind that it is a freeware game, and perhaps also keep your expectations a bit low, you are bound to have fun while playing. Brain Hotel can be found at www.OtterArchives.com/BrainHotel where you can either play it on your browser or download it. Narrowband users should be wary of the fact that it is slightly over 30MB so it may take a while to download.