As usual, I feel late to the party waiting on Android ports. Last week, the Game Developer’s Choice Awards named The Room its 2012 Mobile Game of the Year, just days after it made its Android debut in the latest Humble Bundle. The Room is a game that took many by surprise when it made its iOS debut some months back, but arrives on Android behind its impressive reputation.
The Room doesn’t sound like much on paper. In a way, it’s a riff on the classic one-room adventure game motif, but where those games largely centered on getting out of the room, this one puts the focus on getting into a mysterious box in the room’s center. Truly, “The Box” might have been a more appropriate title, as it’s the only thing you’ll interact with in the entire game.
This is no ordinary box, though. It’s the most elaborate puzzle box ever imagined. You’ll scour across its surface for tiny compartments, scrawled symbols, and other clues in the hopes of opening new compartments. All of these tasks make up small parts of the solution. And when you do get inside the box, you’ll find, of course, that it only contains an even more elaborate box.
The puzzles come in a variety of forms. The most basic involve touch interactions, like sliding panels, pushing buttons, and turning wheels, and all of these are very satisfyingly intuitive. As you open the various compartments, you’ll find items, which work in classic “lock and key” inventory puzzles, of the sort you’d find in any LucasArts adventure. Finally, there are the logic and clue based puzzles that evoke the Myst games, and force players to connect symbols and figure out mechanisms that aren’t immediately obvious. The wide variety of puzzle types do a great job of encouraging lateral thinking. Those needing a gentle nudge in the right direction have the option to take advantage of the tiered hint system, which will periodically offer more detailed hints the longer players go without progress.
It’s a deviously simple premise, aided by the truly excellent presentation. The graphics, while mostly limited to the ornate intricacies of the boxes themselves, are incredibly detailed, and some of the best I’ve seen on a phone. The music, too, is creepy and atmospheric, and suits the dark scraps of story that are revealed in the journal pages scattered throughout the box’s compartments. The eerie mood makes penetrating the box much more compelling than Molyneux’s Curiosity.
If The Room has any flaw, it’s that there’s simply not enough of it. Like Journey, it can be beaten in the time it takes to watch a movie, but unlike that game, it ends abruptly and leaves you hungry for more. Experienced adventure gamers will especially find the game to be on the easy side, while casual gamers make take longer to unravel the safe’s mysteries, but both will find themselves looking for the next challenge. Luckily, we won’t have to wait long, since The Room 2 is already on the way.
Is it Hardcore?
The Room is a moody and perfectly executed one-room adventure, and one of the best games of its kind. Its biggest shortcoming is its very brief length, especially in light of the genre’s low replay value.