Jane’s Hotel is a micromanagement simulation game in the same vein as Diner Dash. In fact, it essentially is Diner Dash, only set in a hotel rather than a restaurant. This PSP mini has a low price point and the simple-to-grasp mechanics that should help a title such as this succeed. However, the game’s lack of aesthetic appeal and the cumbersome controls severely undermine the potential for enjoyment.
One thing I couldn't help but notice was that the game really didn't make much sense. When you think of hotels, you think of extended visits and families traveling together. In the world of Jane’s Hotel only individuals check in and the stages take place over the course of a single day. It would make more sense if you were running a day spa. Moreover, Jane is a horrible businessperson who spends money on upgrades for the hotel rather than extra employees to help run the hotel, but I guess that would ruin the point of the game. Arguing with the logic of the game has no bearing on how enjoyable it is, but it is something to think about.
Jane’s Hotel's control scheme only utilizes a few buttons. The X button selects objects or people to interact with. The directional buttons are used to cycle through all the items the guests could possibly order. By pressing the L button, you can call in the housekeeper who then functions the same way as Jane, except she takes care of all the cleaning and caretaking orders. The controls seem simple but they really are one of the game’s biggest faults. The cursor highlights objects with a green aura and cycles to other items based on their relative position. It can be hard to highlight the specific item you want to select, especially because of the time sensitivity, and because of this, you are likely to miss orders through no fault of your own. I sometimes achieved a modicum of success by scrolling through and selecting every item out of pure frustration.
Hotel guests check in and then retreat to their rooms to order services, such as phones, newspapers, coffee, and various housekeeping services. As the player, you can order both Jane and the Housekeeper around the hotel to fill the various guests’ orders as fast as possible. You earn cash for every task you complete for a customer. The sooner you fulfill a request the larger the tip you receive and the happier your guests will be.
A bubble appears next to a guest or their room telling you exactly what it is they want. The bubble slowly fills the longer you take to respond, resulting in a smaller tip and an unsatisfied patron. After several requests, the guest pays the bill at checkout then leaves. It is then your responsibility to make sure the room is clean for the next guest.
Jane and the housekeeper perform actions in the order the player selects. The only limitation is that Jane cannot hold more than one item in her hands at a time. However, should two hotel guests place the same order, for a cup of coffee for example, then you could deliver it to both of them in sequence without having to go back to the coffee machine. Sequencing your commands in advance in a way that is most time effective is perhaps the most important skill needed to complete this game.
Using the money you earn, you can purchase new items before each new level. Mostly these are new services you can provide for your guests, such as a restaurant, a basket of fruits, and even a pianist in the lobby to play tunes at request. Then there are purely aesthetic upgrades such as plants and fancy artwork to elevate the atmosphere. You have to make purchases in a predetermined order and some have popularity requirements as well. At most, it takes one or two levels to earn enough to buy the next item. After clearing enough levels, Jane will be ready to upgrade her hotel into something larger and more luxurious. When this happens, the cycle repeats and you end up buying much of the same items to improve the new location.
Each stage has a certain amount of money and level of popularity you must earn in order to progress. Eventually the one-story hotel becomes too big for all the rooms to fit on screen at once so you have to use the directional buttons to pan right or left in order to fill orders from those areas. Even with an arrow popping up to tell you when you need to shift the camera it can be tricky to notice them against everything else happening on the screen.
The visuals are flat, 2D, and blurry. The game ignores most of the PSP’s graphical capabilities and achieves the look and feel of a GBA title. Many of the character models are re-used too frequently. The four different hotel interiors remain static except for the objects you interact with. Long load times also hamper the experience. What is worse is that the level must load all over again if you fail and have to play it again.
As for the audio, it fares just as poorly. The same tune repeats during gameplay and there is a different one for the menus. The customers say hello in a monotone voice as they come in. The rest of the sound is comprised of rudimentary sound effects such as vacuum cleaners, coffee machines, and one repeated phrase of piano music.
In total, there are 40 levels to play through. Once you complete all the stages there is nothing else to do. The price is low at only $2.99 for an experience that lasts a few hours at most. The game does keep track of high score but that is it in terms of extra content.
The game’s story tells of Jane’s quest to win a local competition to determine the best hotel in town. The story even uses the same short comic panel style as Diner Dash. And when you come right down to it, Jane’s Hotel is just a re-skinned version of Diner Dash. There is nothing wrong with that in itself except that the game is barebones and poorly executed on the PSP. At times, it can be just as addictive as other micromanagement sims, but then the frustration of the poor controls and muddy visuals ruin the fun and before you know it the game is over. If you look past the ho-hum presentation and the iffy controls, Jane’s Hotel is a decent little distraction for the price.