The Room isn’t about a room. It’s about a safe, and what’s in the safe. But once you’ve played the game, you won’t be surprised by the misdirection in the title. Nothing about The Room is what it seems, and the pervading sense of mystery is key to pulling you through from start to finish. The Room is a beautiful, creepy, challenging puzzle game that just about everyone with an iPad 2 or 3 should play.
But back to that safe. The safe is a heavy, metallic box situated in the middle of a dimly lit room. Your goal, given in the form of a hand-written letter at the start of the game, is to find out what’s inside the safe. The letter says that it contains “something they said could never be built.” It’s “the only one in existence, and the key to incomprehensible power.”
Penetrate the impenetrable.
The safe is the game. You can swipe the screen to to circle the camera around the safe, and the closer you look, the more cryptic symbols and asymmetrical parts you’ll notice. As you tap and swipe at its oddities, fitting pieces together and solving an array of puzzles, the closer you get to the goal, and the more mysteries you uncover. But like Russian dolls, the safe is only the beginning of the game, because the safe contains an ornate wooden box that’s home to a whole lot more puzzles. And on it goes.
There’s nothing revolutionary about the puzzles in The Room. Any adventure/ puzzle gamer has found a key somewhere to use somewhere else, has pieced together clues to spell a word or decrypt a sequence of numbers. What really holds these puzzles together is the game’s chilling atmosphere. All parts of the safe (and the box, and what comes after the box) fit together physically and stylistically. It’s like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe story: intriguing, mysterious, and nearly impossible to stop playing once you start. Like we suspect many players will, we completed the game in a single sitting.
Secrets, reveal yourselves!
Beyond that, the graphics, soundtrack, and lighting are simultaneously beautiful and uncompromisingly grim. The Room holds together from start to finish as a unified whole rather than as a series of unrelated puzzles. The game was clearly conceived as a single vision, and that vision has been achieved.
It’s not a perfect game. Some puzzles have solutions that verge on too obscure, and others can feel repetitive. But in a game with so many puzzles to solve, those quibbles are almost a given. There’s a hint system that does an adequate job, but you can’t request one hint after another. Instead, you have to wait for a new hint to become available, even if the initial hint did you no good. And the ending? Let’s just say that it’s something of a let down.
Despite its minor faults, The Room is an all-absorbing puzzle game full of more beauty and mystery than just about anything else on the App Store. Chances are, once you start playing The Room, you’ll voluntarily lock yourself in until you find your way out.