Detective David Mills’ least favorite game.
The Room is a puzzle-adventure game that will instantly remind you of the old Myst games – assuming you’re as old as I am, that is. If it’s before your time, keep it to yourself; I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that The Princess Bride is 25 years old. Where were we? Ah yes, The Room. It’s a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a box. A beautiful, devilish box.
The Room takes place in a – believe it or not – single room. Strangely, that may make it sound bigger than it really is. Most of it really takes place trying to open up a box on a tabletop. There are many sides and spires and holes and notches in the box that all play some role in opening it up, and just like many games of this nature, the more you open it up the more confusing it gets.
The game then entirely revolves around you rotating and examining the box, looking for a small imperfection that will help you open a tiny portion. Maybe it’s finding a few weird symbols around the sides and then inputting those symbols in a certain order later. Or seeing hash marks on one of the legs that make you think you can grab and rotate it. You’ll have a very limited inventory (mostly keys), and every piece is vital to opening the box.
The game looks gorgeous and the box is a sight to behold. It’s covered in interesting bits and just begs to be explored. The controls help reinforce this, since you’ll be swiping to strike matches, drawing circles to rotate keys or a screwdriver, and even moving the iPad around to tilt items. It has a very fantastic, involved feel to it.
While there’s an atmospheric gain in keeping the entire game in such a tiny area, I felt the gameplay suffered because of it. Since almost the entire game is about this box inside the room, when you hit a point where you don’t know what to do next, there’s nowhere to go to do something else. Typically, when playing a game of this style, I’ll walk away from a puzzle I’m stuck on and work on another, eventually heading back to the original and trying to solve it again. In The Room, if you can’t figure out the next move to make in opening the box, you’re stuck until you figure it out.
Because of this, I often just swiped back and forth to rotate the box, hoping some minor detail would jump out at me. It worked a fair amount of times, but when it did I never got that sense of satisfaction you get when you solve a puzzle, since I sort of just stumbled into it.
The Room is an interesting game to try and pin down. I enjoyed my time with it, but I’m not sure I would recommend it to someone else. There’s a definite level of frustration there when you hit the wall and aren’t sure what to do next. The hint system leaves a lot to be desired and nothing takes the fun out of a puzzle game faster than having to go online to find an answer that you can’t come up with. To that end, I’d have loved to see more ways to work out the puzzles yourself. Still, when the game works, it’s really good.