• Review: The Room

    Who doesn't like puzzle games? Games of skill and speed are great and all, but when it comes down to it, nothing beats a good puzzle game that lightly tickles the brain. Puzzle games force you to use neurons you wouldn't normally use by arguing with people in the forums, or attempting to force you opinions on someone else on Twitter. A good puzzle game is great in short bursts, and plays just as well when you've got a few hours to kill.

    The Room is one such puzzle game. It features numerous puzzles of varying complexity, all wrapped up in an incredibly atmospheric environment that goes so far beyond setting the scene you almost feel like you're there, solving the puzzles yourself. It's also Apple's iPad game of the year but what kind of a game is awarded Apple's iPad game of the year?

    A game like The Room. A game that's so incredibly, devilishly clever that you'll revel in its brilliance.

    There's actually not much you can say about The Room, because it's better experienced rather than described, but I will say a few things about the game and the puzzles contained within.

    First, the puzzles. So many puzzles! Puzzles within puzzles. Puzzles leading to other puzzles, contained within other puzzles. Seriously, if you like puzzles, then this is a game you should play there are puzzles hidden in every possible element. Some of them are obvious, and you'll know what you need to do to complete the puzzle almost immediately. But The Room doesn't make it that easy for you, because the puzzles are so fiendishly clever that you'll be scratching your head until you realise how to go about solving the puzzle.

    Like I mentioned earlier in passing, the puzzles are incredibly well designed. If you've played Portal, then you'll know what I'm talking about *The Room gives you a few puzzle mechanics to play with, mixes them up, and puts on one of the most intricately designed shows you've seen. There's heaps of variety in the puzzles you'll encounter there are locks which have corresponding keys, of course, but there's so much more besides.

    You'll drag and pan your way around a variety of puzzles, sometimes to get a look at something from a different angle, sometimes to use an item you picked up elsewhere. You'll play with all kinds of little mechanisms that include gears, levers, switches, buttons, and whatever else. You'll use light to illuminate your path and look at pictures to find out clues to other puzzles. You'll interact with the puzzles mainly via touch, and one of my favourite puzzles included the one where you had to drag two sliders simultaneously to unlock a small box. I mean, what other puzzle game have you played that uses multi-touch? Another puzzle uses the gyroscope, and you'll have to tilt your iPad to solve it. Some puzzles will allow you to progress to the next puzzles, and others still will just give you a clue to solve some other puzzle.

    The Room mixes the puzzles up with a mechanic that's introduced fairly early on, the eyepiece that allows you to see the unseen. Sometimes it reveals invisible ink markers that give you clues on how to solve a puzzle, and other times (without spoiling anything), it's a portal to another dimension entirely. Indeed, the game even tells you to use the eyepiece, and use it often. It's always a good idea to take a look at things from a different perspective.

    It would have been a huge shame if puzzles in The Room didn't work as well as they do, but I'm happy to tell you that isn't the case. The puzzles are brilliant *varied, insanely clever, and so well put together. The way everything just works and how puzzles flow onto one another has to be seen to be believed. The puzzles are easily the best aspect of The Room better than any other puzzle game I've come across, and all because they're so fantastically well designed and well executed.

    If the puzzles are the best thing about The Room, the second best aspect, then, is how it puts together such a great atmosphere. During your puzzle-solving escapades you'll find notes from a mysterious creator that detail some kind of story. You're not exactly sure what, but if you read the notes you get the sense it wasn't entirely of this world. The notes talk about Null elements and other things you don't fully understand, and that, combined with the harsh, spotlight lighting, means that the atmosphere of The Room starts to feel heavy. It's dark, but it sets the scene.

    The Room is a fairly short game depending on how good you are at puzzles (but you shouldn't need more than four or five hours), but after playing through it I can see why Apple crowned it iPad game of the year. It's an amazing original title that works incredibly, brilliantly, well. It features some truly innovative puzzles that flow into one another, and more than that, it feels cohesive it's not just a series of disconnected puzzles. Everything is related. It's dripping with atmosphere, and the notes you find add a dark element to the puzzles. It's a great game, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

    The Room is $1.99 on the App Store. I played it on the iPad, but there's a free iPhone version with an in-app purchase to unlock the full game.

    Benny Ling is the puzzle master. Or so he claims.
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