Yesterday, I kept telling my colleagues about Bad Hotel. You need to play this game, I told them. It's cooler than all of us combined. (Maybe that's not so hard?)
They were confused, because it doesn't even sound like the name of a video game, let alone a good one.
And then I dropped this official description on them, which, because they are men and women of taste got them excited.
Bad Hotel is an insane hybrid of a tower defense game and a procedural music toy, with beautiful art and tons of bullets. You are a budding entrepreneur, whose hotel is rather unfortunately located within the territory of Tarnation Tadstock, the Texas Tyrant. Your only defense against Tadstock's army of seagulls, rats, yetis, and more is to build your hotel as quickly and intelligently as possible, using an array of increasingly sophisticated weapons. The beautiful artwork, quirky storyline, and frantic gameplay all work seamlessly together with a generative music system, which creates original music depending on the player's actions and decisions. The player becomes a composer, creating complex musical structures to defend their hotel. A vast variety of music can be generated, from delicate beach chillout to country banjo techno. Bad Hotel will release on 14 August, at a one-week launch sale price of $.99/£.69.
Let's look at that first line again: "Bad Hotel is an insane hybrid of a tower defense game and a procedural music toy, with beautiful art and tons of bullets."
I wish the official promo video for the game showed how well that nutty combination works. Does it help?
Does it help if I show you this screenshot, which shows just how cool this game looks?
Except... to understand how excellent Bad Hotel is, you need to play it. And you need to hear it.
This is a tower defense game, chopped up into levels. In each level you are trying to keep a hotel from being destroyed before a timer runs out. The hotel earns money over time, which you can spend on new rooms that can be appended to the hotel (above it, below it, next to it, whatever). Some of the rooms will earn you money; some will shoot the enemies flying at the hotel.
But! As you make the hotel, you are also making music. See, the hotel pulses with aural tones. Its rooms make notes. The notes the rooms make depend on the placement of the rooms. How about we let the game's sound guy Yann Seznec, explain that, as he did in an e-mail to me:
"The shape of the hotel effects the sound triggering in a few different ways. The first is rhythmically - the more depth you hotel has, the longer the sequence will last. So a small hotel, with just the core hotel and one room, will be a sequence 3 beats long. If you build another room on that room, the sequence will become 4 beats long. The bigger your hotel becomes, the more complex the sequence will be…it will also result in alternately regular and irregular rhythms, since if a room is destroyed your sequence could go from being in 12 to being in 11 (which is considerably funkier). You can have several rooms on the same level too, which triggers multiple sounds at the same time - if you have three rooms clustered around the core hotel at the same distance, the rhythm will be in 3 and all three voices will play at the same time.
"Otherwise, as the rooms are played in the sequence they also play at a certain pitch. Each room, depending on the position where it is placed, is given a room ID. This is used (along with a few other parameters) to choose which pitch will be played. This will change as things explode, in order to raise tension when things go wrong."
Did you get all that? No? It doesn't matter. The game is 99 cents, packed with levels, gets challenging and lets you replay its levels with new settings to make it tougher than before. I like Bad Hotel so much I'd buy it for you. Get it. It's for iPhone and iPad. It's wonderful. (The touch controls can be a little wonky, yes, but... it doesn't matter. It works perfectly 95% of the time.)
Did I mention that it's a sharply written satire of the economic crisis? It's got that going for it too.
Bad Hotel [iTunes, 99 cents]