The Room: A Puzzle in a Mystery in a Box in an App
The British Academy considered Fireproof Studios' The Room worthy of a BAFTA for Best British Game and further nominations in the categories of Artistic Achievement, Debut Game and Mobile & Handheld.
This piqued my interest in a game whose misleadingly bland title does a disservice to what transpires to be a Victorian-themed puzzle game of supreme polish.
It may be that I have enjoyed my experience thus far because I knew so little about The Room. In any case, its web of gentle intrigue and fiendish torment has slowly drawn me in. If what I have written so far is enough to convince you to try it out, then read no further. Let The Room tell its own tale.
If you need further convincing, then read on.
The first thing that struck me about The Room was the sumptuous solid quality to everything. Unlike most puzzle games, The Room's environment and every inventory object is a fully-rendered 3D model. And for good reason; there are puzzles within puzzles, objects within objects and many things are not as they first seem.
The second impressive thing was the tactility of the user interface. I have never experienced touch screen technology used as effectively in a game as it is in The Room – switches flick, drawers slide, keys turn, and doors swing in a very satisfying and connected way. This does much to draw the user into the confined, yet absorbing world.
Once the basic interaction techniques are grappled, The Room elegantly unfurls its complex array of puzzles to gently twist the grey matter in a pleasingly challenging manner. Unlike most puzzle game worlds, rather than providing a series of environments to wander, The Room only has one... room. The clue was in the title I guess.
But this is not in any way restrictive – the world of The Room exists within the many unfolding faces of its objects. A single, central object – initially a safe – can be rotated and examined from any angle, each facing can be zoomed in upon and its features interacted with. Visual clues and object tactility must be examined to solve problems, unlocking a myriad sliding compartments and hidden spaces, which creates a wealth of environments to easily equal or outclass more traditional puzzle games. There is much invention within these aesthetic constraints, but there is still perhaps a lack of visual variety - there is only so much that can be done with keys and boxes.
The final hook which has me intrigued is the unfolding storyline, as I feel I am retracing the steps of a rogue scientist embarking on an occult voyage of discovery. Woven into the puzzles are strands of a sinister tale that seems to sit somewhere on the Verne – Lovecraft scale of Victoriana-Steampunk-Gothic Horror. Quite where I am not sure, but as I play on, the haunting background sounds are starting to unnerve me.
The Room may lead to sleepless nights for a number of reasons.
The Room is available for iOS (iPad 2 and iPhone 4S & 5) and an Android version is planned for Summer 2013.