The Room, a name as simple as its concept. Winner of numerous awards including the BAFTA award (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), scoring perfects everywhere, and with more than 6.5 million copies sold, The Room hardly even needs an introduction. By now it has set the standards of mystery puzzle games, and is one of those puzzle games everyone has heard about. Originally developed for iOS back in 2012, the game later saw release on Android and Steam, and is now finally out on Nintendo Switch, marking the title’s first ever debut on consoles.
So… as a big puzzle and mystery nut myself, what do I think about it?
You recieve a letter from an old friend, luring you into The Room where a complex safe or box is waiting for you. In the letter, your friend says that he discovered something so powerful and dangerous, that it had to be locked away and that he therefore built this contraption in order to keep it away from the unworthy – hoping that YOU can solve it.
From there, it is just you and the box, but occassionally throughout the game, you will discover additional notes he has left behind that briefly tell the story of how he came across this power source. Making you ever the more eager to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Your friend is very vague in his notes, meaning that much of what he says is up for interpretation, but it does get more and more psycadelic the further down the rabbithole you go. I won’t give away anything specific here, but the story does straight up lead up to a sequel.
Going into this game I didn’t expect a story at all, except of course for the opening letter saying ”solve my maze”, and while I don’t think games like this need any story, what was here didn’t get in the way of the core gameplay. On the contrary, it was actually quite nice to discover these bits of backstory along the way – again, adding to the mystery.
When you boot up the game, you are first asked whether you want to play in TV mode using a single Joy-Con, or in handheld mode using the touchscreen. I went with TV mode, as I have a strong policy against greasing my Switch screen, and I am happy to report that aside from being a bit sensitive with some puzzles, the motion control is responsive and works great, it is just like being back on the Wii, but better!
You then find yourself in a dimly lit room with nothing but a box or safe to keep you company. A short tutorial shows you the ropes but then you are on your own. Actually that’s a lie. If you do squamble around for too long without making any progress, a question mark in the upper right corner will light up, indicating that you can get a hint, with the amount of hints per puzzle ranging from 2-4. Some straight up giving you the answer on the last clue, while others just say ”look closer at this thing”.
You observe the box as a whole and then zoom in with X, in order to interact with its puzzles and the objects in your inventory with either A or ZR. You then zoom out with B when your attention is needed elsewhere, while R resets your cursor, which you may often find a need to by the way.
The game then just throws one expertly crafted puzzle at you after another, each poking your curiousity and promting you to go on, to see what the next clue will lead to, the one after that, and the one after that! The game is seperated into 5 chapters, the first being about solving the safe, and the remaining ones being about solving another box you get from the safe, and it never seizes to amaze you how many secret drawers, mechanisms, cabinets and other thing-a-ma-jiggies are hidden within this thing, as puzzle after puzzle, it keeps transforming before your very eyes, and I absolutely loved that!!
A gameplay element introduced very early on, is this special lens you acquire. Looking through it once you have fixed it, reveals things that you can’t see with the naked eye, which you sometimes need in order to solve a puzzle. For example having to align something, but the pattern only being visible through the lens and so on.
If I can come with one critizism, it would be that, the safe itself was solved a bit too quickly, whereas I felt more could have been done with it. Says I who kept using the hints to get a move on, and I am slightly embarassed to admit that, but hey, reviewing a game you can’t keep hanging around the same puzzle forever. That said, some of them were indeed very vague, making you look for very very subtle hints, clues, and inconsistencies on the box itself, while with others I was like, ”oh but of course, I could have figured that out on my own”.
For one admiting to getting help half the time, I did think that sometimes the solution was given to you a bit too easily though. Sometimes it was as easy as pressing a button to have a diagram automatically stop on the correct picture you needed, while at other times the puzzle was super obscure on first glace, so I felt there was a slight bit of difficulty inconsistency on this department, but it didn’t happen too often. Being the first game, I can excuse if the difficulty balance might not be perfect right away.
It should be said though, that although you may argue that I spoiled the excitement for myself by using hints about half of the time, the truth is I still very much enjoyed The Room, and if you are the brainy type who don’t need no hand holding, then so will you. The thing is, if I get stuck on something in any game for an extended period of time, I get bored, and if I am bored for too long, I get sleepy. I consider myself of about average intelligence, but I feared I would never get through this game, given its puzzle-heavy reputation. The hint system however, allowed even an average Joe like me to get through it rather comfortably and still getting immense enjoyment out of the game. My enjoyment came from simply observing how all the pieces ended up fitting together and kept revealing even more secrets as you went along.
There is no music to speak of in The Room, apart from the mysterious ambience at the main menu. Other than that, all you mostly get are sound effects from the box itself, when you turn a key, wind up a mechanism, put a plug into place, or watch as the box transforms yet again. It is subtle, but its all you really need.
Visuals & Performance
The game looks really good. Centering around this transforming box, the developer has put a lot of effort into making every single bit of texture as detailed as possible, some of it even being damn near photo realistic. I didn’t stumble on any graphic clippings, glitches, or other unpolished elements.
One might argue, well the game is about a box, how COULD they mess that up, but that’s just it, when a mere box is all you are working with, it is nice to know that extra care has been taken to make everything about it flow flawlessly.
Only one time, did the graphics get a bit blurry for me, when a piece of the box was practically right in my face for some reason, but that is such a minor nitpick at this point I don’t know why I even bothered to mention it.
The Room introduces a very unique concept and goes all the way with it. Apart from maybe the safe that I personally thought was done way too quickly, every nook and cranny of the box is utilized to the point where you feel accomplished, and with every new layer you unlock, you are kept wondering what’s going to happen next. It may not have much replay value, as is with most puzzle games, but that is just how this genre works.
At $9.99/£9.99, it is double the price of what you would pay on Steam, but for a puzzle game as masterfully crafted as this one, however short it may be depending on your intellect and/or reliance on hints, and with the added touch- and motion controls, I feel totally comfortable saying I think it is still very much well worth the price!
A simple concept
Puzzles are masterfully crafted
Ambient soundtrack triggers at the right moments
No replay value
First chapter is a bit short