Friday, February 9, 2018

The Room (Android) - Review

When life is like a box of puzzles.

Since my bf is in somewhat in a gaming slump, and it makes me sad to see him drown his time in Dokkan (google it) instead of, you know, a real game, I am always on the lookout for something that might get him back into it. As I was listening to the Cane & Rinse podcast about The Room, a game I had heard and knew nothing about, I thought this could probably be one of those games. Described as a short but well-designed puzzle game I thought it would be right up the alley of someone who loved Safecracker and enjoyed Myst. Personally I have very little patience and thus fondness for puzzle games of all sorts, so when I decided to give The Room a go it was solely with the purpose of seeing if I could get my bf interested in it.

Turns out I was the one to complete it. Also turns out my 4 year old absolutely loved it and we had a blast finishing it. 

But before I jump too far ahead of things - I did catch my bfs interest with the game, but I found myself not wanting to relinquish control. This was a puzzle game I could actually figure out. This was a puzzle game that didn't bore me with its obtuseness and abstractness while at the same time not being so simple it was talking down to me (although that is often needed, I really do suck at puzzles).

The idea is simple - you're in a room with a box. The box has all the bells and whistles of a well-designed puzzle box that could only exist in the gaming world and it's up to you and your wits to open it up.

While there are many games about opening boxes, Safecracker is probably one of the better.

I do recommend listening to the Cane & Rinse episode on The Room if you're interested, even if you haven't played it before. They talk about The Room 2 and 3 as well, but I found there was nothing to spoil about the first one (it's not as they talk about specific solutions to puzzles anyway) since the story matters very little for the gameplay. While I agree with the episode in that The Room was a fun little game to spend some few hours with (some very few hours, but I'll get back to that) I disagreed with them on a couple of things.

For instance they praised the tactility of the mobile version of the game and definitely recommended players to play that version rather than the PC version. Since I don't own a tablet I got it for my phone. While I was worried that the screen would be too small for comfort, even though I own a 5,5 inch phone, this turned out to be no problem. The tactility however, I didn't have much enjoyment out of and would've personally preferred a mouse to click myself around rather than using my fingers. That being said, I haven't tested the PC version so I can't attest to the quality of that gameplay, only that the way I imagined a mouse working with the puzzles seemed to fit better with how I wanted to deal with them. 

There is a lot of dragging, spinning and pulling - all of which worked well enough, but I realized I am just a lot more comfortable using a mouse than my fingers for playing games. I guess experience has something to do with it since I don't really play any mobile games otherwise.

Graphically it's practical. Subtle and "hidden" drawers were just that, rather than completely hidden from view or requiring pixel perfect interaction to react. I also rarely felt that the game didn't understand what I was trying to press or do with a puzzle. Sometimes my clumsy fingers couldn't quite "grab on" to the right part of a drawer or lever to make it do its thing, but this never became an annoyance. EDIT 12/2-18: On subsequent playthroughs I have more often come across instances where an object simply would not interact in the way it needed to, most often something that needed to be pulled. At one point I even had tor restart the chapter because of it. Other things that I really liked about the game design was that you only really had one puzzle going at the time and once you were done with it, it became completely inert, so signalling that there was nothing else to do there and you could move on. That way I never got stuck with a handful of cranks, cogs and buttons that didn't fill any other purpose other than to confuse me. 

Not like some other games I know...

While I barely noticed the music, I found it definitely needed the sound effects as some of them signalled functions to a puzzle that would otherwise have been difficult to figure out. One of those puzzles in fact was the only one I got stuck on long enough to feel the need to use the hint system. That should say a lot since, as I have already stated several times, I am completely useless at puzzles.

I wouldn't say that that necessarily means that The Room is too easy though. Rather that the puzzles are quite logical in their design, and like I mentioned before you do them consecutively, further removing any confusion as to what to do next. Because of this I sort of disagree with the podcast saying the game can be quite difficult - while I realize it's very subjective and I should probably be the last person to complain about someone finding a puzzle difficult, I found that these were some of the most step-by-step logical puzzles I had come across. Even when the next step is a hidden button the box is only so large and scouring the surface doesn't take long or much effort. Which is fortunate, because other than the puzzles themselves there is little to entice you to move on.

The story, if it can be called that, is about as fleshed out as in a Mario-game i.e virtually nothing. You find notes lying around the puzzle box and they speak about elements and especially the null element although I can't say I paid much attention to any of it. From the podcast I gathered that later instalments put more time into the story aspect, but not necessarily with good results. You need the story in this game about as much as you need a story to play Mario Kart, if it hadn't been there at all it wouldn't have made the game any less fun to play. The puzzles kept me interested throughout without any trouble and it was perfect to pick up for a 5-10 minute session while commuting or waiting for something, just as a good mobile game should be.

Even shorter than this.

The game is short though. Even knowing it was short, I was shocked by how short it was. I didn't exactly time myself but it can't have taken more than three hours at the very most to complete the game. Still, for the 2-3 hours it lasted it was quite fun to tinker around with the box and actually feel like this was something I could wrap my head around. Like I said it was extra fun to be able to play it together with my 4 yo and see how he tried to solve the puzzles and he thought it was a blast (so much in fact he wanted to replay it instantly after finishing it).

This game now comes with an Epilogue part, which as far as I know was added later to the game but is now a standard feature. It simply elongates the game for about 30 minutes with more of the same and was no more or less fun than the rest.

I've used 1 euro a lot worse than this so I can only recommend The Room, even if you usually really don't like puzzles.

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