The Room & The Room Two Review(s)
I have some serious reservations when it comes to the mobile gaming platform. The micro-transaction laden infrastructures that adorn every marketplace available leave a rather sour taste in my mouth (much like the concept of free-to-play on consoles), and I consistently find myself disappointed whenever I attempt to delve deeply into the mobile gaming world. Yes, there have been a few winners, but they seemed rather obvious (tower defense) and therefore unimpressive.
That being said, ever year, around Xmas time, I take a header back into the over-saturated world of mobile. This year, there was a much larger sense of urgency as I had wrapped up ACIV: Black Flag and looked out over the bleak landscape that is next-gen (Is it cool to call it current gen yet? This is getting to be a bit enigmatic.), finding the catalog on offer incredibly wanting. In my rather bitter despair at having sold my PS3, I looked to my iPad for solace. In looking, I was shown the wonderful, fresh-breath flavored world of The Room series by developer Fireproof Games.
Now, before there is any confusion over which game I am talking about during any portion of the review, bear in mind that I view them as one. The only real difference presented from the first to the second is that the puzzles grew to encompass entire rooms instead of singular puzzle boxes. That, and the length of the games is rather brief (6+ hours to complete both) in comparison to what I usually review.
I don't know how many of you crazy kids out there remember Myst, but my first moments in The Room brought me immediately back to a childhood spent gawking at the gorgeous adventure puzzler.
The inherent scope provided by the intricacy of the puzzles is reminiscent of Myst as well. When solving them I never thought that much time was passing, only to look up and find that day had turned to night. This same feeling of immersion is amplified in The Room, due in large part to the tactile element presented by touch-screen tech.
A story...I think.
There is a fiction entangled throughout your time within The Room(s), albeit one without plot of much consequence at all. Though I initially found this a bit disheartening, I quickly came to realize that a true, plot-driven story would only serve to distract from the intricate puzzles that require most of your facilities.
What you are presented with is a written account of one main character in journal form, produced for you by letters hidden (and not) throughout the different puzzles. These letters serve to add some purpose to your solving the puzzles, and to add a very thick air of supernatural about the whole process.
One thing that never becomes clear is who your character actually is. The letters allude to some minor possibilities, but never anything firm. It was in this that I found myself asking why quite often.
I understand perfectly why I am working my way through these increasingly intricate puzzles, but some character motivation would be nice. This person is subjecting him/herself to some seriously creepy environments in pursuit of a scientist clearly of the "mad" variety, a reason why would have been most excellent.
This a rather small complaint in the larger scheme of things. What information you are given serves to add weight to your puzzle solutions. In the end, what more do you need in a game like this?
A Photo-Real Creepy Level
On the whole, I tend to lump mobile gaming graphics into the Nintendo category, or the "Oh, that is so cute!" category. I understand the use of animated, cartoony type graphics, but will always lean toward the more photo-real. It is in this light that The Room(s) never fail to impress.
There were more than few moments during my time with the games that I actively searched out a material in my apartment so that I could compare it to what was on the screen. On many of these occasions, I was so impressed that I yelled for my wife to come over for verification, only to have her confirm and then call me a nerd supreme. I, of course, responded by stomping my foot, yelling "You'll never understand!," and going back to the game.
The textures that Fireproof use in the construction of their puzzles are pristine and serve to add serious weight to the already heavy feeling of the games. I say weight because there is a very real sense of tactile interaction going on while in the puzzles. The ability to manipulate these very real looking objects with touchscreen tech is every bit an adventure puzzler's second greatest fantasy.
The first is actually being Indiana Jones.
What the f**k was that?
Sans the title screen, there is no real soundtrack to the games, but there is most definitely sound. Not only is there sound, but the pragmatic puzzler will be happy to know that every sound has a distinct purpose.
In what seems be a lost art in entertainment these days, Fireproof proves their auditory might by making excellent use of silence. There is a very real reason why silent films never stuck around, people tend to get freaked out when left with only the voices in their head (an inherent problem with modern civilization). Fireproof takes full advantage of this by isolating the sounds of the materials being manipulated and the occasional creepy voices or footsteps in the background. With such silence to contend with, sitting back and taking a larger view of the puzzles can get to be a bit unnerving.
After getting through your childish fear of silence, the fantastic acoustics provided by each room bring the manipulation of the puzzles to life. Each wooden slider; each button depressed; each key turned is recorded and played back with exacting precision by Fireproof. Far too many times I found myself just pushing buttons or sliding tabs because the sound was so damn gratifying.
That was awesome!
That is exactly what I exclaimed upon finishing each puzzle. The Room(s) are the oft-missed, perfect mix of time invested and reward reaped. The little information you are given in combination with the natural curiosity about what clue/piece comes next are enough to keep your head buried in the game for hours.
For those hesitant about jumping into a puzzler due to their inherent difficulty, pacing is managed for you by hints dispersed based on time. The first levels of these hints are incredibly vague so as to not give away too much, only gently nudge you in the right direction.
Thanks for reading.