Entering a dimly lit room a shaft of light gleams through the attic window, suspiciously highlighting a mysterious box positioned with palpable importance and care upon a pedestal. Notes and clues lead the way as you make your way around the outside of the box, looking for secret chambers and hidden devices. The key is finally found and slides effortlessly into the lock. This mystical box opens up like a dolls house and within it is another, smaller box. More complicated than the last, a written journal page hints to something more at play.
By utilising the touchscreen all the input behaviour brings you closer into the environment. Turning a key requires you to move the item over the key hole, the key inserting, and then rotating to unlock it. Cogs need to be turned, drawers pulled open, symbolic riddles solved. And then there’s an eyepiece to build that glares into another dimensional plane, thus allowing you to view the box and its innards in a green and red hue that uncovers further secrets. The box itself has a vintage and antique look, perfectly fitting the theme that unfolds.
“Sincerely eerie”Lying in bed, slowing unravelling the game’s mystery in the dark is sincerely eerie. The ambient sound design brings this room to life. Moving in close to examine a point of interest or stepping back to observe what almost sounds like a man inhaling and exhaling. Wood creaks and wind swims through the old walls, oxygenating the space. The more the box is unlocked and explored the further the soundscape shifts, conjuring a concern that perhaps discovering the true secret won’t be such a grand idea after all. But it’s too inviting not to take one final look and as the plot thickens and a sinister aura grips the air. It’s a beautiful use of touchscreen technology.
A clue system is in place which provides guidance along the way. There are a total of three clues available for each puzzle; however, they’re not instantly available. As time passes an optional hint will be provided to nudge progress in the right direction. This is a simple method that never feels like its cheating you or vice versa. These hints don’t need to be unlocked via an in-game payment system, nor do they punish you, instead they’re there as a helping friend should you wish to use it, and only if it senses you’re stuck.
“One giant enigma”This methodology continues forth into the puzzles themselves. There’s no ‘put the string on an octopus at quarter-past three on a Sunday evening whilst wearing a balaclava to remove the nail from a coke can’ gibberish. Everything involves some form of manual interaction and first time developer Fireproof Games never bamboozles or looks down on their audience. By moving around the pedestal the box can be viewed from all angles, points of interested examined up close. It’s one giant enigma to be explored.
Navigating can be fiddly at times on an iPhone screen, and those with an iPad can no doubt skip this criticism. Due to some contraptions being rather complicated in construction the wrong area can be zoomed into or the box suddenly spun. This never damages any of the puzzles, and by no means results in anger, it’s more of the aforementioned; fiddly.
Comparisons to 7th Guest in tone and style are likely. As the mysterious overtones sunk their cosmic claws in deep, there was a drive to unlock its secrets. Stand it beside Papa Sangre and they make a strong argument for design that begins with the technology first, refusing to force an idea onto it without contemplation – and this makes The Room feel necessary and unique, providing something unavailable elsewhere.
Version 1.0.0 review