The Room Review
Out of all the mobile games I have played so far, The Room is by far the one that feels the most like a premium experience. If there is a AAA category on mobile, this is a prime example of how to do it right. Ironically an independent studio made it, which just shows you how nontraditional this space is.
From the title you might expect The Room to be a game where you are stuck in a room that you have to escape from. In fact it turns out to be the opposite. You are in a room with a safe that you have to figure out how to get into. Being a puzzle game, you find everything you need to get in somewhere on the safe itself. The game is divided into chapters: each time you open the container you find another inside that you must open. You start each chapter by inspecting the container to identify the points that you can interact with it. Many of these points will do nothing until you obtain some object (a key, a cog, a crank, etc) from another part of the container. All your interactions are intentionally tactile, making good use of the touch screen.
The puzzles tend to do a good job of walking the fine line between being too hard and too easy. I was concerned at the beginning when it insisted on continuously giving me hints. It soon stopped and I realized that I was sorely unprepared for what I had gotten myself into. Most of the levels were quite enjoyable, giving just enough challenge to result in a satisfying “Aha!” moment. Even when if you get completely stuck, the game gives optional hints. There are usually a set of hints for a particular puzzle. They start general and vague and progress to being so specific that I never had to look online for an answer.
The story is told through a series of notes left by the previous owner of the safe. They had been researching what they call the Null element, and the game soon takes on a creepy old-world mysticism vibe. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Amnesia: the Dark Descent, though of course it is not a horror game. The story tropes, the tactile interactions with the world, and even the visuals all contribute to this feeling. The game was lauded when it came out for its visuals, and they still hold up for the most part. There were a few textures that I would have liked to be higher resolution, and a couple of times I was distracted by jagged edges on objects, but it wasn’t a chronic problem. Also if you get the PC edition this should be less of a problem as they touched up many of the textures.
One of the important things in a mobile game is being able to pick it up for quick sessions and put it down at will. The Room manages this by saving after every action, so you are free to leave and come back as often as you need to. I did not find it difficult to remember what I was in the middle of doing when returning to the game.
If you have a choice of different devices to play on, go with the one with the largest screen. I played on my Nexus 5, and there were a few times I felt cramped and had to lean in close to inspect objects. The game is also quite dark, so you will have a hard time playing anywhere near sunlight.
There are five chapters in the game (four at launch and an epilogue that was added to lead into the sequel). It was not an especially long game (took me a weekend of moderate playtime) but it was not nearly as short as Monument Valley. I would say that it is worth a good $3–4, and fortunately because it is a relatively old game you will find it for a lot less. Check it out on Android, iOS, Kindle, or PC.
If you like this piece and you want to help me to be able to write more, come support me on Patreon https://www.patreon.com/ianrbuck
Originally published at ianrbuck.blogspot.com on September 15, 2014.