Anti-Role Model

I might be a mess, but at least I'm not as bad as Kyle Hyde

Anti-Role Model

I love a burned-out detective. They are top-tier video game protagonists. While Harry Du Bois has earned a space close to my heart, he wasn't the first. Before him, there was the emotionally scarred and reckless Cole Phelps of L.A Noire fame. But before him, there was Kyle Hyde.

Another Code and Hotel Dusk: Room 215 are two of my favourite DS games of all time. Another Code was perfect for the DS; playing it felt like a celebration of the medium, like it just wouldn't work on any other platform. (I haven't played Another Code: Recollection on the Switch yet, but I've heard good things, so I might change my mind about that.)

Hotel Dusk feels very different in tone. Set in 1979, you play as Kyle, a detective-turned-salesman on a mission to find his ex-partner Brian Bradley. It's an intriguing visual novel (you have to hold the DS sideways like a book, so it takes the genre about as literally as it can get), and I was drawn in so strongly that I stayed up late playing it more than once. I was eighteen at the time and sleep meant nothing to me, but you see what I'm saying.

One of the most common complaints about Hotel Dusk is that it's very linear. You literally can't stray from the story beats, because Kyle won't let you: if you try to leave a room at the wrong time, he'll just refuse to leave, because you have to do things in the right order. He'll think about a character, and they'll suddenly walk towards you, summoned as if by magic. Everything is handed to you on a plate.

I do get that. But despite that, Hotel Dusk has some genuinely tense moments. You do fear for Kyle's life at least once, because over the course of many (many) lines of dialogue, you can't help but warm to him.

I've been playing the follow-up game, Last Window: The Secret of Cape West. I missed it at the time; in 2010, I was a newlywed, and we had made the grown-up purchase of an Xbox 360 with some of our wedding money. I had no idea Kyle had another adventure to play. I was too busy exploring the grimy streets of 1940's L.A with Cole Phelps.

Last Window was Cing's last game. They filed for bankruptcy that same year. Hyde's last outing. And probably for good reason, because my God, this man is fucking useless.

The game opens with Hyde having just been fired, a year after the events of Hotel Dusk. Miserable, he returns back to his apartment building, only to be confronted by his neighbour, Tony. Tony is a chronic gambler. He's chaotic. He often can't pay his rent, and he doesn't have a job or any plans to get one. But even Tony knows something that Kyle doesn't: the apartment building is about to be demolished, and they're all being evicted.

That's right. Kyle is on the cusp of homelessness and he had absolutely no idea. This is the man who is meant to solve decades-old mysteries. Every other character relies on Kyle to sort things out and he is just not coping. In the first couple of hours, Kyle:

  • Sneaks up to the fourth floor of the hotel to snoop around, only to set all the fire alarms off
  • Scrabbles around in his apartment looking for cash to pay his rent, only to remember that he has hidden most of his money in an absurdly thick glass bottle with no real idea of how to get it out again
  • Attempts to dust a framed jigsaw puzzle in a neighbour's apartment, only to knock it to the ground and break it

Honestly, he's a trainwreck of a man, constantly bumbling into situations and making them worse, and to top it all off, he's agonisingly slow to reach any kind of conclusion. You, as the player, often arrive at the answer about twenty minutes before he does.

This is exactly what you don't want. And I know that Last Window isn't technically a puzzle game in terms of genre, but we're still having to work things out, right? And if you figure it out about fifty lines of dialogue early, it's painful.

But it's also kind of funny to me. It's thematically right. Because Kyle is behaving like a bit of an idiot. He's going through a rough time and he's barely able to put his shoes on without forgetting something important. It makes sense that this would impact his work. He's got a lot going on, you see. It's hard being a grown-up.

It's dawned on me recently that I probably make myself look sort of helpless and stupid on the internet sometimes. It's in the name of vulnerability, because it's just the way that I write, and I think people seem to like it. And the self-deprecation thing is a defence mechanism, obviously, borne from years of having the piss taken out of me and wanting to get in there first.

But sometimes I think that maybe I should make myself sound a bit more competent, rather than just talking about all the ways in which I behave like a pillock. I'm not actually helpless. I actually juggle a lot of things. I parent my children with patience and kindness and respect while not being a total pushover; finding that balance sucks up a lot of my emotional energy. I chase new freelancing opportunities and I work hard for my clients, and I'm two-thirds of the way through a degree, and I try to care for my loved ones. I've got a lot going on, is what I'm saying. I do a lot of it through immense pain, and I handle it well.

Having said that, I am a pillock sometimes. I forget to message my friends back. I put off the most stupid little admin jobs that would take one five-minute phone call. I put it off for months, and then it becomes a big mental block in my brain, a scary task that has become monumentally worse for leaving it to fester. I mix dates up, all the time. More than once, I've put my house keys in my kids' bookbags and sent them off to school, locking myself out in the process. Sometimes I'll have a huge hormone swing and spend the evening crying about something that hasn't even happened yet.

I guess we're all idiots at heart, but I've been particularly stupid recently. So I'm finding Kyle's ineptitude weirdly soothing.

Last Window introduces a new 'ignore' mechanic, in which a little yellow triangle will pop up from time to time. You have a few seconds to decide whether to jump onto a thread of a conversation, or to let it pass you by. I didn't realise there was an advantage to not pressing the triangle, so I went for it. Which is how Kyle ended up handing his rent money to Tony, who promptly ran away to gamble with it.

I guess that one's on me.

The arriving-at-the-answer-early situation in Last Window will probably wear thin soon, so I'm hoping the difficulty ramps up a bit, or that Kyle pulls his head out of his arse and starts paying attention. Because despite him being very stupid sometimes, I do really like Kyle. He has good intentions. And who doesn't find being an adult hard, sometimes? I'll be 36 next month, just like him. It dawned on me that when I played Hotel Dusk back in 2007, I actually saw Kyle as a bit of an old man.

And now that's me.


We had my daughter's friend to sleep over last night (controversial according to Twitter) and it occurred to me as I was chucking a pizza in the oven for them, that, to her, I am Someone Else's Mum, the one that exists only really to provide snacks and phone chargers and extra pillows. When I was a kid, my friends mothers were just a friendly, benign presence, a kind of 2D background person.

Obviously, it never occurred to me that they might be stressed or harrassed or feeling completely incompetent. That they might have had to run the hoover round and empty the bins before I turned up, that my visit might have necessitated an extra trip to Sainsbury's for tooth-rotting goodies, and that the mother in question might also be having a long-burning existential crisis, a family argument, a plethora of insecurities, and stomach cramps rumbling away in the background while she looked after us.

I find that thought sort of comforting. That everybody finds it hard to be a grown-up, at least sometimes. Whether those people are friendly mums in stripy t-shirts with kind, tired eyes, or frazzled, bearded, daft detectives.

Having said that, I do sometimes have to be a grown-up and accept that I can't do everything. I'm taking the next two weeks off from Side Quest, because I have a 3000 word essay due in and a lot of freelance work, and frankly, I might lose my mind trying to keep on top of it all. See you in a couple of weeks when I'll be buzzing with freedom!