Imagine that you are in a dark room, alone. A small window lets in some sunshine, but there is not enough light to make out your surroundings. In front of you is a curious safe, made visible by a single spotlight.
You make your way around the safe. It is ornate, heavy, locked. You grow suspicious that there is more to it than meets the eye. Then, you see an envelope sitting on top of it. You reach for it, slowly opening the flap and sliding out a letter — it is for you.
Welcome to The Room.
Curious and Curiouser
Have I peaked curiosity yet? If I have, then I believe you would enjoy playing The Room. Created by Guildford-based art team Fireproof Studios, this brilliant piece mixes a physical puzzler with stunning 3D graphics in a spine-tingling mystery game.
The Room starts off like an escape-the-room game where you are placed inside a dark room with only a metal safe. But instead of trying to get out, you are trying to break in.
A letter signed by a mysterious scientist tells you how he has sealed away the key to incomprehensible power in a box inside the safe. Apparently, you are the only one clever enough to retrieve it. Enclosed with the letter is an odd key.
A tutorial then introduces you to the mechanics of the game. First, you need to unlock a small trinket box next to the letter with the key you just picked up. Reveal the keyhole by aligning the lid of the box.
Upon successfully opening the box, you are presented with a curious eyepiece and a riddle. The eyepiece is essential later on in the game; I won't tell you why, but let's just say that you are "as blind as the rest" without it. The riddle, on the other hand, is your first hint to open the safe.
By now, you have probably realized the safe’s intricate nature. Secret compartments hide away keys, notes, and other objects. Dials, switches, and levers trigger complex mechanisms when correctly put into place.
The objects that you find can also hide secrets sometimes, so inspect them carefully. Keys, for example, usually have a head that can be turned to fit into different locks.
Using intuitive and tactile game controls, you must now figure out how the clues are connected together to unlock the box. Swipe the screen to look around and double tap on any part of the safe to focus on it. You can also tap, drag and even tilt the device to control the game. Most elements have to be manipulated with gestures in order to work; for example, you need to slide out latches to open them and turn keys to unlock compartments.
In addition to brain power, you need a bit of luck and a whole lot of patience to solve the puzzles. The Room is actually quite balanced in terms of difficulty but if you get stuck, there is a three-step hint system that will point you out in the right direction.
It is worth noting that the safe is merely the first layer in the game. Once you have retrieved and unlocked the box inside, it will open up to reveal another box, which in turn will lead to yet another box. As of the time of this writing, there are currently four chapters that you can explore.
It is quite difficult for me to explain the puzzles included within The Room without actually spoiling the gameplay, so to save both you and me from the trouble, here is an official trailer of The Room.
Things I Like
If you were to ask me what my first impression was of The Room, I would say that it was beautifully spooky. The crisp, stunning 3D graphics were, as the app listing puts it, unsettlingly realistic. The eerie background music sounded like it came straight out of a horror movie.
As I dug deeper into the game, I was quickly captivated by the brainteasing puzzles and the mysterious plot. I couldn’t put it down. Just like the mysterious scientist, my curiosity got the better of me and before I realized it, I had finished the game in a single seating. That is how addictive the game is.
One of the things that I really love about the game is the intuitive game controls. I previously wrote that I preferred games built from the ground up to take full advantage of their platform’s features, and The Room is a fine example of such a game.
I also appreciate how the developers poured so much attention into the game’s details. The sound effects, for example, helped create an experience so immersive, you feel like you are actually inside the room, tinkering with the box in your hands. They also did a great job spooking me out; I honestly felt chills down my spine when the voices in the background suddenly picked up in volume.
The Room has been a superb game that I enjoyed throughout. My only complaint is that it feels a bit short. That said, it is hinted at the end of the game that more chapters may be available in the future, and I am really looking forward to it.
The Room Pocket
Update: As of December, Fireproof Studios have released a new Universal app called The Room Pocket. It contains the exact same game as the original, but has support for iPhone 4s and newer, iPod touch 5th gen, iPad 3rd gen and newer, and the iPad mini. It is also free-to-try. You can play the first chapter for free, and if you like it, you can unlock the game via in-app purchase.
The Room is, simply put it, brilliant. There are no other words to describe it. It is so good that I would say it is the best game I have played this year and would recommend it to anyone I know. If you haven’t picked up this title, you really should do it right now.