Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Room

Do you know what? Sometimes this procession of roguelikes can get a bit wearing, even for me. Sometimes it can seem that every man and his dog are making a 'procedurally generated dungeon-crawler with a twist' and so recently I have been making a conscious effort to find something new to keep me occupied. This hasn't always been successful (badger-simulator Shelter springs to mind) but when you try new things then sometimes you strike gold, and when you find something like this then all of that endless panhandling suddenly seems worthwhile.

The Room is a beautiful puzzle game in which players are tasked with gaining access to a series of ornate safes and complicated puzzle boxes. There is some kind of story to explain why you are doing this, which involves investigating a friend’s disappearance, but this doesn’t really distract from the main activity of poring over beautifully constructed objects in order to find clues on how to get into the damn things. Your friend leaves you a few notes dotted around the place to guide you, and your first task is to reconstruct an amazing eyepiece which will help you to follow his progress, but in the main you are given a device to examine and then left to get on with it.

The boxes themselves are lovely to look at; all brass plates and clockwork gears they seem like they could jump right out of the screen and into your hand. There is a real sense of being given something physical to manipulate and unlock, which is quite an achievement for a game that you play on your phone or tablet, and this is reinforced even further by the excellent touch controls. You can rotate the view through 360° and pull handles or turn dials simply by making the appropriate movements. Puzzles are tricky, without ever feeling unfair, and are satisfying to solve (even getting a couple of 'ahs' from me when something particularly nice happened). The game will also give you hints if you can't see how to progress and these point you in the right direction without laying the solution on a plate. The difficulty level is extremely well-judged and, even though the whole thing is over in a few hours, I found that I needed to take regular breaks in order to refresh my concentration.

The Room is wonderful to look at, challenging without being impossible and genuinely spooky in parts (yes Mr Scratched-out-face Victorian man I'm looking at you). What's more you can get this well-designed little piece of loveliness for just £1.49. If you don't already own it then I would rush out to your local platform-specific internet store and get it now. It's wonderful.

The Room is available on iOS or Android.  I played it on a Nexus 7.