A brilliantly compact, well constructed and atmospheric puzzler that’s likely to give you chills. This is iOS gaming at its best.
The Room Review
by on February 1, 2013
In our top ten list of scary things, boxes have never ranked highly. Spiders? Get them away from us. The dark? Well, you never know what’s lurking out there. But… boxes? God, no – they’re only good for holding our Cornflakes. Until we played The Room, that is; a game about… opening boxes. No, wait – come back! It’s far more exciting than the premise might suggest, we promise.
It starts with a note from your friend, A, thanking you for coming to their aid. They knew you would: you’re the smart one, and curious, too. The stakes, it sinisterly warns you, are incredibly high. You tap the key attached to the letter, and away you go: box number one. Said box is an incredibly complex piece of engineering, mind – no mere parcel tape holding this steampunk marvel together. You might need to find and attach cogs, for example, or swivel around a set of lines so that they align into a pattern, or any number of other things. There’s a strong element of old-school point-and-click gaming: items you find go into your inventory, and you use them all over the next few puzzles. The eerie, spine-tingling atmosphere, though, marks this out as one of the most unusual and distinctive games we’ve experienced this year.
You see, you’re solving these puzzles in a dingy room. You never really see what’s around you, and there are no other characters: there’s just the table in front of you, and the box on it that you’re trying to open. You have no idea what might be inside, or surrounding you. Every now and then you encounter another note from your friend, offering up hints about the backstory. You’re left to fill in the blanks for yourself; you’re given a rough peg on which to hang your own narrative. And just like in a horror movie, your imagination tends to supply the worst parts all by itself. You hear a noise in the background and brace yourself, on edge about what might happen next. It’s probably nothing, but you’re still cowering behind a pillow (yes, we’re not ashamed to say we’re wimps). The psychological tension is simply wonderful.
The tactile nature of the puzzling is, too. You swipe at the screen to turn things around, and double-tap on something to zoom in. Objects are dragged and dropped from your inventory, and keys are turned as if they were real. It’s all done from a first-person perspective too, maximising the immersion. The one thing that does detract slightly is the clues, which are accessed by tapping the top-left corner when the relevant icon appears. You can ignore them if you want to go it alone, though – but we did frequently find ourselves grateful of their appearance. Despite the fact you know that you have all the necessary implements to hand, this isn’t easy going – in fact, there were one or two occasions where we resorted to YouTube walkthrough videos to help us out of a particularly perplexing spot.
The Room’s four ‘chapters’ clock in at two or three hours’ solid puzzling in total, and ideally you’ll want to play through them all in one greedy sitting. Don’t let this put you off, though – it’s an intriguing slice of horror puzzling that’s a workout for both brain and adrenal glands, and it’s one of the most interesting things we’ve come across on iOS in quite some time. There’s the suggestion of more to come, and we’d gladly welcome it. Even if it does mean we’ll not be able to look at a gift-wrapped cube with a certain shiver come Christmas Day…
Download this app: The Room for iOS
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Review courtesy of Tap!