When I started to take this reviewing thing a bit more seriously, I worked out a way of fleshing out my reviews so that they’re more in-depth than the 700-word writeups that I was putting out when I first started: phone notes. Basically, I jot down short notes on my phone whenever something strikes me about a game, good or bad, and I inevitably end up with a long list of things to talk about that I would have completely forgotten about otherwise. There’s only one game that this hasn’t worked with thus far, and that’s The Room, an Android/iOS/PC game so mind-numbingly mediocre that I’ve put off giving it a review since I played through it in May. I’m going to do something I’ve never done before right now and link you to my actual notes for The Room (with the profanity and personal information pixellated) so that you have a TL;DR version of this review: my actual review notes
You may wonder why my review notes are only three sentences long, with one of those being nothing more than profanity directed toward the developers. Let me first mention that all of my other review notes are much longer. There’s just not a lot about The Room to jot down, and this review will be a bit on the short side because of how little one can actually say about this disaster; we’re talking about a one-hour-long, unfinished game that’s received rave reviews from people on mobile devices who simply don’t know any better. There are better puzzle games that cost less money, though, even on mobile devices.
I got this game for free
The Room was free during a special promotion when I picked it up, but I still felt like I overpaid. This is a strange phenomenon that I can’t really explain, but suffice it to say that the single hour it took me to play through this game was more time that I felt it deserved, especially given the ending (or to be more specific, non-ending). As I mentioned before, The Room is an incomplete game. You spend an hour playing around with a box, doing small puzzles that are often as simple as pressing buttons in a certain order or spinning something into place so that another puzzle activates, but it then ends unceremoniously without warning. A story is hinted at in the form of increasingly frantic notes written by the researcher who involved you with the box in the first place, but nothing ever comes of this, the game instead opting to pop up an advertisement for The Room 2 once the game ends despite nothing having been resolved or explained. The Room is never marketed as being an episodic game and yet that’s exactly what it is, and this makes the developers incredibly dishonest in my book.
Gameplay is barely present
In The Room, you sit in the eponymous room with a large, mysterious box and try to open it. Said box is naturally a multi-layered puzzle box that frequently defies physics, but I’m more than willing to suspend my disbelief for something like that. What I’m not willing to do is call The Room a “puzzle game” or “puzzler,” because doing so would imply that there’s something puzzling about the game when there really isn’t. Its so-called “puzzles” are in reality little more than hidden object hunts as you tap or click on anything suspicious-looking. Sometimes this will bear fruit and provide you with an item that plays into whatever so-called puzzle you’re working on. More often than not, nothing will happen and you’ll have to continue looking for just the right spot to touch in order to proceed. A more fitting description of this game would be a “first person pixel hunt,” though the incomplete story that the developers have the nerve to call “compelling” on their website would compel me to throw something about pretension in there, too.
Looking at objects and… more tapping
You have an inventory in The Room and pick up items as you play. Most of the time this is just so you can use an item from your inventory to, say, fill a keyhole with a key that doesn’t at first look like a key, but you’ll also occasionally find items inside of other items. This is really the extent of the game’s difficulty: tapping on inventory items until the “puzzle” is suddenly as simple as putting a round item in a round hole. It’s absolutely mindless, and about as much fun as that toddler toy where you have to put the round and square objects in the corresponding holes.
There are clues for the lost
Again, there’s not much complexity to the so-called puzzles in the game, with most of your time playing spent tapping on things that look suspicious until things fall into place. However, failing to progress at a certain rate does pop up a question mark on the edge of the screen that allows you to access hints. I took a look at some of them, and while the game will be simple for those who have played through point-and-click adventure games (which offer more of a challenge), the hints seem fairly well-designed and are a good way of bringing newer gamers in.
The story is stupid beyond words
Basically, a researcher becomes obsessed with the idea of a secret “null” element and no one takes him seriously, so he begins researching it on his own. A lot of creepy stuff starts happening, but what does he do? He continues researching anyway, even when it begins to cause him so much pain that he has to use medicine. That’s about all that this game covers; while I’m sure there’s more to the story than just that (no doubt explained in The Room 2 so as to force you to pay more money for the story’s resolution), the details aren’t to be found in this game. This is a game that exists to create an endless number of questions and never bother answering them, and that’s just bad storytelling on every level.
One playthrough and you’re done forever
The Room has zero replay value. Zero. If you play through it once, you’ve officially seen everything it has to show you. I don’t mind linear games (as earlier reviews for games like Remember Me and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West will attest), but episodic ones that aren’t advertised as such and that then hold the rest of the story hostage by forcing you to pick up the next game? On top of being absolutely despicable behavior, the lack of story resolution combined with the mindlessness of the game’s puzzles means that there’s no reason to ever play through this game again. In fact, there’s not much reason to play through it a first time. There’s just too little content here to justify spending money on this game, especially given the poor storytelling and mindless puzzles.
There are better puzzle games
What bothers me the most about The Room is that it’s hugely popular while vastly superior puzzle games receive less attention. For example, Buttons and Scissors is brain-bending, free, and it doesn’t pretend to have a story. Even less popular than that is the innovative and deceptively simple Lyne, which, despite costing more than The Room, is one of the best puzzle games I’ve ever played.
There’s not much there graphically
While there are a few visually interesting tricks that come into play during puzzles such as determining a code by changing your viewing angle, the vast majority of the game looks very same-y. You’re constantly sitting on a wooden floor, looking at a wooden box with all kinds of bells and whistles attached, and that’s it. The Android version I played also has a huge amount of aliasing, and while I’m sure that this is (or at least could be) rectified in the PC version, the fact remains that the graphics are almost universally boring.
There’s barely any music
The game is advertised on its site as having “spine-tingling sound,” which is amusing since the game barely has any music at all. In fact, apart from the main menu theme that incorporates bells and strings and is surprisingly enjoyable, the game uses nothing but atmospheric fluff that makes it sound like a really lazy horror movie. You’ll occasionally hear whispering as you solve a puzzle or a string crescendo that suddenly repeats, cutting off the mysterious-sounding reverb in a hilariously anticlimactic way, but it’s not anything that could legitimately be considered spine-tinging or even interesting. Some actual music would have gone a long way toward making the game more enjoyable.
I’m not working off of memories from May when I say that there’s virtually no music, either—I’m sitting here with the game open, listening to the ambient music that plays during different stages through expensive headphones. There are the typical horror-movie cliches like bowed metal and string sections sitting on a single note, and that’s it. That’s what you’ll be hearing while playing.
Here’s what you should do: