The Room is a charming and intricate puzzle game with fantastic graphics and atmosphere. The puzzles are interesting and thematic, difficult enough to be rewarding without being too hard as to be completely obtuse or impossible to follow the logical thread.
The game is fun, engaging, and does not overstay its welcome. Despite the occasional hiccup and largely irrelevant story, the game is well worth the price.
The entire game has a marvelously dark and moody atmosphere laden with tension and intrigue. The environments are detailed and well-rendered, and the objects you interact with are wonderfully intricate and visually interesting.
When searching for objects that you can interact with and trying to figure out what is and isn’t important, the game can be wonderfully engaging. Fumbling at the surface of the various items presented to you is marvelously tactile, as though you really do have this object in front of you and you’re running your hands over it, trying to figure out what will and won’t move.
The ambient noise is also flawlessly executed, providing the perfect level of tension to keep your mind engaged without becoming tedious or repetitive. It also sets the stage for the intrigue of the story, but regrettably, this is not fully taken advantage of, especially where it clashes with the game’s mechanics and the story’s execution problems.
The graphical fidelity and effects are very well realized, and can be especially gripping as things progress in the game…barring a few points where objects clip through one another. The scenery is immersive, everything is well-rendered, and there are points where I wish I could just step away and explore the environment.
In summary, the atmosphere of The Room is a fantastic selling point, and contributed immensely to my enjoyment of the experience. The graphics and sound design are extremely well-handled.
The mechanical aspects of the game are mostly exemplary. The experience of rotating objects and reorienting yourself for a better view of what you’re looking at is very fun and, for the most part, the actual mechanics of interacting with things is well-executed. However, there are some slight problems that hold it back from being perfect.
The puzzle design on the whole is very good, and there are very few instances where I could not do what I wanted to do. But there are situations where my understanding of the mechanics clashed with what the game actually wanted me to do. This led to some puzzles being more difficult than the developers intended, just because I was confused as to how to make the next step, and not what the step itself was.
Most notably was the mechanics of focusing the camera on an object. To focus on something, you double-click on it. However, there are times when focusing on one object that you need to shift focus onto something that is still visible in the frame. But before you can shift focus to it, you first need to unfocus from the first object, then double-click again to refocus. There were also moments where camera perspective mattered a great deal, and it was unclear that it was necessary to focus on an object in order to get the appropriate perspective. I am not entirely sure how this could be remedied, but it did bring me out of the game at some points.
The other annoyance was interacting with inventory items. The controls for rotating things in your inventory are different than those for moving the camera in the rest of the game, and so there were times when I would be struggling to turn something around, only to discover, for some arbitrary reason, that I couldn’t. However, this rarely came up and was overall not a huge detriment to the game.
In summary, the mechanics of The Room are largely very good and support the atmosphere and theme of the game. There are a few hiccups, but largely, playing The Room is a fun experience without any major problems.
Puzzle Logic: 9/10
This is more or less the meat of the game. Unsurprisingly, you will spend most of your time solving puzzles and following logical threads. And thankfully, the puzzles are very fun to complete. Each problem you face has a solution that becomes clear if you apply yourself and take full stock of your tools. There are no leaps in logic that require you to twist your brain around to the creator’s mindset, as most things in the game are well-signposted, and you can go a remarkable distance just by paying attention to the shapes of things and recognizing when things will line up.
Most of the puzzles consist of being spatially aware and recognizing hidden details. The game rewards people who pay attention to breaks in the pattern and recognize how the devices presented are intended to work. In essence, The Room is about puzzling out how a complex machine is supposed to work, and following the line of logic in order to get it moving. For me, it was immensely satisfying to get the little gears moving and see what the mystery box did next. I was drawn along by my curiosity, and ultimately I completed the game in a little under two hours.
The game also has a hint system that unobtrusively offers advice…most of the time. There are moments when things are rather plainly spelled out for you in a distracting manner, such as when trying to align parts of a moving key. Thankfully, it is entirely possible to turn the hint system off. However, you can’t turn off some of the text boxes that pop up and state the obvious.
Sometimes this isn’t a bad thing, such as when they mention that a puzzle piece could be reused, but for me, this detracted from the delightful sense of figuring things out myself. After all, one of the biggest strengths of any game is that they can convey what to do through the scenery and mechanics, and for a large part, The Room pulls that off marvelously. But there are some minor stumbles, and not only in the explicit text of the text boxes.
A major mechanic of the game is the eyeglass which is used to see hidden details of objects. When used, hidden markings will appear in a vibrant blue, and you can see through objects that have an iridescent sheen. However, some objects are not very well marked as behaving differently under the lens (particularly wooden panels), and as the game goes on, you will end up interacting with objects that exist only on the opposite side of iridescent objects. This can cause some stumbles as the logic of the puzzle begins to conflict with what has already been presented. But even so, this was a minor concern.
In summary, the puzzle logic of The Room is very solid and one of its main selling points. Solving problems was extremely fun and kept me engaged from start to finish, with only a few small missteps.
The Room has a story. Probably.
Your random and reclusive acquaintance has left you a note telling you of some incredible secret power he has discovered, and a slew of items filled with puzzles that will keep “lesser minds” away. You go on to discover that your acquaintance has found a mysterious “Null element” which has strange and powerful properties, and then…well.
Then everything gets less and less comprehensible.
There are a LOT of extraneous details in the notes and the environment that have no bearing whatsoever on the actual plot. Your acquaintance throws around proper nouns with no context provided, as though expecting people to have full engagement on things only mentioned once or twice, such as “The Circle” and “Astaroth.” The only thing that you can really see and interact with that has bearing on the plot is the Null Energy Source, which is treated exactly like any other inventory item.
Despite the implications that the Null Element is something deeply spiritual and dangerous, this is never something that comes up until perhaps the sequences at the end of the game. And the structure of the puzzles makes it clear that you are following a line of logic, not messing with otherworldly forces outside of your control. For something so mysterious and strange, it feels awfully tame and safe.
The story tells you that this stuff is fascinating and mysterious and linked in with something that has spanned back throughout history and affected many cultures, but it’s never truly shown or demonstrated. There are interesting moments where, for instance, you interact with something on the other side of a solid surface made transparent by your eyeglass. But the rules are inconsistent and designed to be puzzle logic first and actual logic a distant second. The way that things become more and more dreamlike, less and less physical, plays very nicely into the atmosphere—but if you try to follow the actual narrative, you will likely leave disappointed.
In summary, the story of The Room exists in a largely inoffensive and unobtrusive fashion, but it is ultimately not expanded on to an interesting extent. It exists as an excuse for you to solve puzzles. Thankfully, the puzzles are worth the asking price.