I wrote before that Point-and-Click games were my second favourite gaming genre ever and that I gladly welcomed them in any shape or form. So when I heard about The Room, I knew right away that I had to try it. Which I did—to my great delight, shall I say.
The Room, developed by Fireproof Games and published in 2012 for iOS and 2013 for Android, is a game that differs wildly from what you can usually find on these two platforms. Android and iOS games routinely tend to be casual affairs that involve simple gameplay mechanics, which The Room is anything but; this game appears as a refreshing island of brain-mashing in an ocean of uninvolving casualness.
The best way to describe that game goes as such: it’s basically a pint-sized version of Myst, in which you explore boxes instead of worlds and tinker with tiny devices instead of huge machineries. Apart from this scale difference, it follows the Myst template to a T by featuring first-person view, beautiful and sleek graphics and an atmospheric soundtrack that sets up a contemplative mood without hindering the player’s thinking process. It goes without saying that you can’t die in any way, which makes The Room a very relaxing experience at its core—albeit an intellectually intense one.
As one may expect from a Myst-like game, the story is conveniently vague and laden with mystery. It treats you with appetizing clues about what lurks beyond the borders of your current knowledge, providing thus a great incentive to keep playing. Not that you’ll really need it, if you’re a Point-and-Click aficionado: the enigmas alone are enough to keep you hooked to the point of obsession. They are clever, stimulating and come in a variety that’s quite impressive, considering that you’re only dealing with boxes of various shapes during the whole game.
As the title indicates, the whole action takes place in a single room. That room contains a cabinet that itself holds several secret-laden boxes, contained in one another like Russian dolls. You have to investigate each one of these devices to uncover hidden mechanisms and secrets that will allow you to progress to the next step and further uncover the underlying mystery that brought you here in the first place. This is a manner of speaking, for let’s be honest: you won’t uncover that much in this first installment. Fireproof Games planned to release several games from the get-go and thus kept the biggest chunk of the mystery for the latter episodes, and who could blame them? But back to The Room, 1st. Once again, it faithfully follows the Myst template regarding the unfolding of the story and the puzzle solving: you start in that unknown room with only the most basic information about why you’re here and what you’re supposed to do, and you have to figure out how to solve the puzzles and progress all by yourself. No instructions, no in-game clues woven into the narrative: you have to tinker, experiment, and most importantly, think—very often out of the box, both figuratively and literally.
It’s worth noting that despite taking its cue from Myst, The Room is significantly easier than any Myst installment ever released. The enigmas are nowhere near as complex as the ones featured in the Myst series, and the mechanisms involved are much simpler and easier to crack; and should you still be stuck, the game provides you with some complimentary clues that can reorient your thinking process in the right direction. As a Point-and-Click purist, I am slightly offended by this; but I guess it’s a better option than aiming straight for an FAQ as soon as you’re stuck. And of course, nobody forces me to use these clues in the first place, so it’s fine.
I’ve referenced Myst quite a lot until now, and that may lead you to wonder if The Room is nothing more than a less ambitious, watered-down version of that mythical Point-and-Click. Well, rest assured: there is fortunately more to The Room than just a copy-paste of Myst. The atmosphere, for one thing, is very distinct: The Room features a darker, more ominous setting, with supernatural undertones quite reminiscent of Lovecraft’s short stories. The fact that you deal with small contraptions while being confined to a single room gives a claustrophobic feeling to the whole experience, which is completely at odds with the openness of the Myst series that sends you out to explore worlds.
However, if there is one single department in which The Room outshines and betters Myst a thousand times, it has to be the gameplay—or rather, the perfect matching of the gameplay and the hardware. Touchscreen devices are absolutely tailor-made for Point-and-Click games: no hardware ever can provide a smoother, more satisfying Point-and-Click gameplay than a device that lets you poke and probe every corner of the screen with unmatched precision. And this is exactly the kind of experience that you’ll get by playing The Room on a tablet: a near-perfect gameplay in which hardware and software blend perfectly and seamlessly in a match made in heaven. Myst, with its use of the mouse to scroll and explore the environment, could sometimes be clunky and lack much-needed precision. The Room virtually eliminates these problems and offers an amazingly fluid gameplay experience that lets you rotate the camera in every direction, zoom as much as you want and explore every nook and cranny in the most precise way imaginable. Some enigmas even take advantage of the hardware in a way that’s delightfully imaginative and clever. Of course, the touchscreen may be slightly unresponsive at times, or the camera may be difficult to position properly; but these are only occasional inconveniences that cannot undermine the whole fluidity and efficiency of the gameplay. The Room is an incredibly intuitive Point-and-Click game that no aficionado of the genre should miss, for it may well be the game that we’ve dreamt about all these years while struggling to position the cursor on the right pixel.
Despite being a near-perfect and utterly enjoyable Point-and-Click game, The Room has a glaring flaw that can simply not be ignored: it’s criminally short. A Point-and-Click veteran could easily clear that game in a single afternoon, especially if they’ve played Myst before. Talk about brevity! However, a short but excellent game is better than a long and boring one, and Point-and-Click games are still too rare to be sniffed at, no matter how concise they may be. Given that The Room comes with a very fair price tag to boot, there is really very little reason to complain. Better purchase that game and enjoy it to the fullest, for there is much to love here. Good sales may even encourage other developers to create more Point-and-Clicks and lead to a rebirth of the genre—who knows? At least, it’s definitely something I would wish for.
So, I really had a blast playing The Room, and I’m now waiting for the opportunity to play the second installment, which should come in a couple of months. I really hope it will be as great as the first; but if the reviews are to be believed, it should be the case. As for now, thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!