The darkness feels limitless, heavy, pushing against your body as you breathe. The air smells stale, dust and mildew. It’s icy and burns your lungs. The thick atmosphere reminds you of that one corner in your basement that the light never reaches, that one corner that you never venture into. A harsh light from behind cuts a sharp path in front of you. Instinctively you move towards the glowing area as if to keep the demons at bay. The light caresses an intricately decorated safe in the middle of the room. A key to the mysteries you never realized you had to solve stare back at you.
Curiosity gets the better of us all.
Today’s review is on The Room series of games from Fireproof Games. There are three games available as of July 10, 2017: The Room (2012), The Room 2 (2013), and The Room 3 (2015). Later in 2017 The Room: Old Sins will be released. All are on iOS, Android, and Kindle app stores, and The Room 1 and 2 are both for sale for the PC. Currently, I have only played 1 and 2 as I’m waiting for 3 to be released on PC or until I can get more storage for my Kindle Fire. xD I don’t enjoy playing games this beautiful and detailed on my phone. I will review the other games in this series when I can.
I bought these two games on the Steam sale I spoke about in another post for $1.24 US. Originally, both games are $4.99. They are puzzle games set inside a Lovecraftian-isk world focusing on mystery and obtaining knowledge rather than defeating foes or being set up for jump scares. So far there have been no interactions with non-player characters, but from The Room 3‘s official flickr you can see that has changed. All the games feature a variety of puzzles, objects the player can manipulate, a somewhat interactive environment, richly detailed locations, and a creative mythos derived from real world mythology and cultures.
The Room 1 and 2 feature different levels, or “chapters” as they’re called in the games, that you access after solving the previous chapter’s puzzles. All of the puzzles are ones where you have to solve multiple, smaller tasks to complete the main solution. Some of the keys can change shape to open multiple locks and there are items that have hidden objects inside of them which can be keys or pieces to another puzzle. Almost everything in the general vicinity of the area you’re in can either be manipulated in some way or features a clue to help guide you.
One of the coolest features is an eyepiece that allows you to see hidden things that are in some way attached to the mystical Null. Sometimes it’s strange messages, sometimes it’s an interactive doorway to solve an enigma. This access to an underlying world unseen around you is very unsettling, but at the same time is very intriguing. I found myself exploring every new area with the eyepiece on just to see all the messages and pictures.
Each chapter is also beautifully designed. Although the non-interactive areas of each scene tend to be very dark, the light that is there always creates a moody feeling. Nothing in the games so far is actually scary, but the way everything is put together there’s an edge you feel.
All of the objects you interact with are wonderfully rendered with realistic textures. Many of them you can move around and see from all angles. The metals look metallic and shine in the light or are dull and rusted depending on what they are. On the wood, you can see the patterns of the grain. Ornimanition is beautifully carved and is painted to look as realistic as possible, even on metal. There is nothing flat about the world you’re in.
The Room (2012) had a graphics upgrade that was available as a free download (but is now a part of the game itself) when The Room 2 was released since 2 was on a much higher scale design-wise. However, in both games, you can set the graphics to a low level or the highest level to give you the best experience for your device.
The sound is also amazing. You can hear the fire crackle when you’re up near a torch, the ocean pounding against the boat you find yourself on in 2 for one chapter, or the chink as the tumblers in a lock fall into place. Just like in real life there is sound everywhere and many times clues are revealed within just by listening.
While 1 and 2 are not real horror games (2 starts to delve into this side more, however), the atmosphere within the areas you’re in feels pregnant with other-worldly creatures that seem to be watching you even before you see into the Null. I believe this is because of how each chapter is set up. The areas are limited in their lighting so you can only really see so far around you, you can hear a lot but not always see what you’re hearing, and you interact with no one. Being secluded in unfamiliar places and not knowing what you’re dealing with triggers the paranoia in your brain.
The games also offer the ability to use hints to solve puzzles, however, there are only a small number of available hints for each. I believe the maximum was four and the minimum was one. While the hints are shown in a timed manner depending on how long it takes you to work out a particular situation, they get more specific by the end of the list.
Both games make use of the themes commonly referenced in Lovecraftian works. These include cosmicism, esoteric cults, the paranormal, and ancient gods. The puzzles are set up in a way that they seem endless. The writings of a character simply called AS show how he’s slowly being driven insane trying to understand his newfound knowledge. There are even references to works of Lovecraft himself and other similar tales such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. If Lovecraft could design games he would probably make ones like this series.
The first game deals with a limited introduction into the world of The Room where you learn about a mystical source of power called the Null. The path set before you was laid down by a mysterious person so far identified by the letters “AS.” As you advance through the chapters you are given more glimpses into what the Null is. There are fleeting notes on its history, such as it was known in ancient times across many civilizations. AS also was able to create the lens to the eyepiece you wear to see into the Null with the Null itself. He relates that the reasoning you can use it to see into it is because the Null somehow has light refracting properties. This Null sounds really weird and yet awesome.
Each chapter, except the last, takes place in one room of a house. The epilog takes place within the Null itself to lead into the second game. To advance to the next chapter every solution must be finished so the main puzzle is solved. In this game, you are unlocking a series of containers, each one inside the next. The first is a huge safe, the next is a smaller lock box, and so on. Almost every key or item used to grant access to solve the main puzzle is hidden somewhere on the box itself.
I really enjoyed sitting down and working on these puzzles, but this game was short. I finished it in about four hours (Steam keeps track of how long I played a certain game as well as what time and date I finished the original achievements) and then went back and took some pictures. Read below for a more detailed summary.
The Room 2
After the success of The Room, Fireproof Games was able to devote more time, personnel, and money to a follow-up. That game was the amazing The Room 2. I did really enjoy the first one, however, 2 reminded me of a compact Myst. Instead of focusing on a box within a box in one room, you are sent to other richly imagined locale. They are still tiny areas, and you still have puzzle boxes to unwrap, but now you have hiding places and clues all over the whole scene.
The locations in 2 are an underground temple(?), a galleon sailing through a horrendous storm, an early South American (Mayan?) temple ruin, a Victorian office/seance parlor, a wooden row boat that leads to a strange island, and a mad scientist’s laboratory. Again, you can see the deterioration of AS’s mind. There is also more information about the Null coming from other sources besides AS and from AS’s experiences themselves.
Some of the puzzles for these games have no order in how you find the missing pieces or solve certain tasks, but some do. That was probably my greatest frustration as I like to tackle one issue at a time and work out from there. However, I don’t know how else they could have made these games work if not for the back-and-forth. In this setting, the frustration actually makes the game better. Never thought I’d actually say that about anything, either. >_>
The only real drawback was how short the games are for the price. Even though 2 has much more going for it in terms of scenery, the puzzles seemed shorter and somewhat easier. If I had spent $10 on both I would feel somewhat cheated, but if their regular price was around $3 a game it wouldn’t be as big of a deal to me. This is really a situation where I wish media development software was cheaper, but that’s a whole different article. Because of how much I liked 1 and 2 when the time is right I might get 3 and Old Sins for full price.
In the end they were incredibly fun and I would recommend these to anyone who likes puzzles and Lovecraft. Especially if you’re looking for something to keep you occupied for spurts at a time (if you’re not like me and will sit down for hours and game) and if you enjoy researching elements outside of a game that gives you a broader understanding of what’s happening along the way. I did most of my major lookups into the mythology after I finished 1 and 2, but I can totally see doing it while playing. Mainly because I do it a lot with games. Also, even with The Room 3 out, there are still unanswered questions and considering stories in this genre…you may never know the answer. But wouldn’t you like to try and find out?
Check out the rest of the pictures on my flickr.