The Room

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The Room

Post by JaySevenZero » December 24th, 2016, 9:55 am

Here is where you can leave your thoughts regarding the The Room trilogy for possible inclusion in the podcast when it's recorded.

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Re: The Room trilogy

Post by BlueWeaselBreath » July 9th, 2017, 5:19 pm

I don't remember quite why I decided to give The Room a try, but it may have been because it was free (the second installment had just come out) on my Kindle Fire. I was a huge fan of text-based and point and click adventure games, Sierra and LucasArts and the like, but their casual spiritual successors, the escape-the-room games that flooded the smartphone market, had never really blown my skirt up. A few of the ones I tried had some inventive mechanics that used the iPhone's touch screen and gyroscopic capabilities, but the lack of compelling narrative, interesting art-style, or variation of scenery typically hobbled these games as far as I was concerned, and it only took me three or four escape-the-room games to decide they weren't the best use of my limited free time.

The Room is leagues beyond these games, though. Despite the name, which makes it sound like just another of these simple escape-the-roomers, it takes a Myst-like tone and marries it to with truly inventive and gratifying touch-screen mechanics to create something special. I think The Box would have been a more apt name, since the fact that the original takes place in a room is purely incidental, but maybe the developers feared that people would make puerile jokes about a game called The Box. Anyway, the description said it had won some awards, and the screenshots looked neat enough that I gave it a try.

I'm glad I did. From the start, the game had an ambience and mystique missing from its casual brethren. I have played so many Myst-clones over the years that I didn't think any such game could strike me as fresh, but The Room had such an appealing and immersive aesthetic, with this complex and fantastic but somehow realistic looking device, which looked like it COULD plausibly exist. And -- I can only speak for playing on a large screen device like a Kindle Fire or iPad, results may vary on a smaller phone screen -- it felt like I was actually there, interacting with the machine, pulling switches, sliding knobs, pressing buttons. I'd never played a game with such a tactile connection to the game world.

These days, I generally play games for the narrative experience, and typically don't get into games that don't contain at least some sort of quasi-narrative hook. So I was surprised to find that The Room's nods to a backstory -- those memos and journal notes that were lying around -- were, to me, completely superfluous. I barely cared about
what they said, I was just having so much fun playing the game, futzing around with the ever-changing contraption.

This issue became more salient in the second game, which I still enjoyed but quite a bit less. Instead of the single elegant box that contained most of the first game's puzzles, the second game had more puzzles distributed around the environment, involving more of "the room," as it were, and had more little journal pieces lying around. I'm afraid I found these changes to be to the game's detriment, as I didn't care about the backstory, and felt like the game lost what made the first one special. I found many of The Room 2's puzzles to be more run of the mill, and it began to feel more like a standard Myst clone as compared to the original. Still, it was full of clever puzzles, so if you liked the first Room, I'd heartily recommend the second. If you can only pick one, go with the original, for sure. It's one of the most enthralling games of this genre I have ever played.

I have not played the third installment, but if I have the chance to do so in the next several weeks, I'll update this post with my impressions!

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Re: The Room trilogy

Post by The_reviewist » August 29th, 2017, 11:29 am

Similar to the above, I picked up The Room on Kindle Fire when it was free, and was cheered to see the Trilogywas going to be on Cane & Rinse. I'd always assumed the games would be a typical "room escape" puzzle, as I'd tried a few cheap and nasty similar games, but none had been more than a mild diversion, with puzzles that were rather pedestrian.

Imagine my surprise at the sheer attention to detail and sheer artistry that went into this game. Not to mention that earwormingly creepy tinkly main theme. Not only that but the subtle undercurrent of occult mystery, and the ongoing quest to find the secrets of the mysterious A.S. and his dabblings with Null energy and doors between realities.

Indeed, contrary to some others, I found the framing storyline was a huge draw throughout all three games. The first, leading you down an unnerving path, only realising too late that you've been following the trail of a doomed man. Ending deliciously with the hint that you are now trapped as he is, with a ethereal flash of him in the cracked eyeglass in the final seconds, and his haunting final letter where he mentions seeing a fleeting shape that might just be you, and praying you never followed him.
The second game builds upon that story, uncovering more of the origins of the Null dimension, and expanding the mythos, while providing a very real urge to escape with your sanity intact. Taking the player through realities and more complex puzzles, lead by the repentant A.S. whose corpse is found withered and sunken by the ravages of unknowable aeons of Null time.
The story of these first two games combined very much reminded me of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, with a similar style and aesthetic, although a simpler one and their thrilling end provided a very satisfying close to the experience, crashing from the house and away from the hellish denizens of the other dimensions, free at last.

Which is why the third game stands to me as something of an anomaly. The concept is sound, with the player becoming unexpectedly drawn back into the other dimension, it somehow feels stretched, and less fun, in various ways. The craftsman feels like a surrogate A.S. rather than having a personality of his own, and the story is just more of the same. Although the multiple possible endings do provide some closure.

There's also an issue with the ongoing puzzles. The first game was all about a table and a box, or some variant thereof. Puzzles were intriguing but usually the stumbling block was that you simply had missed a small oddly shaped bolt or a switch on a corner of something. The second game ran this idea wider, with sometimes 2 or even 3 different puzzle areas within each room. It was challenging, but never tiresome.
The room 3, widens the concept further, where at times you are solving puzzles stretched across two or three rooms, each with 2 or more different tables or mechanisms within them. At times it simply becomes boring to try and remember the multitude of small holes, levels, switches, and which you have and haven't activated. And lord help you if you put the game down for a few days mid-puzzle. While still interesting, and by no means not fun, the third game feels overcomplicated. Perhaps part of this is that the original fun was stepping into each new room and beginning a fresh puzzle. In The Room 3, the puzzles are so interconnected that it loses that sense of satisfaction, as each puzzle usually requires 3 steps taken in each other puzzle to complete. Rendering it a chore rather than a pleasure.

Still, the trilogy is a great gaming experience, especially on tablet devices and I gather on mobile as well. Despite my cribs about Room 3, I still got some fun from it, and with the promise of a 4th installment, there's yet more fun to be had.

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Re: Our next-but-one podcast recording (21.9.17): The Room trilogy

Post by kintaris » September 5th, 2017, 11:59 am

Like many, I skipped over The Room when browsing the app stores because the generic name brought back bad memories of ropey dime-a-dozen room escape games I had suffered through in the past. The pseudo-Lovecraft aesthetic, obvious even from the app tile, wasn't doing much for me either. When I saw it on the upcoming shows list, I figured that there must be a little more to it.

Though I still found my eyes rolling at the plot and setting, I was pleasantly surprised by the core concept and the way the game moved. The majority of room-escape games on mobile devices look like they were knocked up in Flash in an afternoon, with no animation accompanying flicking a switch or turning a key. In contrast, I really felt like I was inhabiting The Room, and having to actually turn keys and drag switches added to the immersion. Basing all of the puzzles on the surfaces of a multi-layered ornate box was a great touch, and brought back hazy memories of marvelling at strange machines in Myst when I was younger.

Sadly, and not entirely unlike the Myst series, the attempts in Rooms Two and Three to pile features and lore building on top a simple concept wore thin pretty quick for me. Moving away from a small but intricately detailed box into a series of rooms stripped away some of the magic and gave us some pretty dull looking rooms to traipse through instead. At the same time attempts to pad out the story only served to wash away the sense of mystery that was originally so appealing. The addition of new mechanics in the sequels provided brief moments of intrigue, but the layering of multiple objects and rooms turned the third instalment into a bland chore as the camera lurched from one perspective to another. I eventually completed it, but I was so mind-numbingly bored by the finish that I couldn't tell you what happened in the story. It reminded me strongly of some of the worst excesses of the adventure game genre in the mid to late nineties.

The first game in the trilogy is a near essential mobile game for me, but I can't recommend the rest. I hope the developers can one day recapture the charm of the original and apply it to something completely different in tone, rather than build out this rather drab universe any further.

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Re: Our next-but-one podcast recording (21.9.17): The Room trilogy

Post by ToQi » September 20th, 2017, 2:53 pm

You only have to glance at a "The Room" game to know that it has nailed its core concept: making virtual these beautifully intricate, tangible-looking puzzle boxes. I can guess at how the developers conceived of each one, let alone how they made them look so convincing in terms of textures, animation and so on.

My wife and I devoured every game as it was released and were always left wanting more. Each game flew by so quickly and we always felt like we were easily flitting through these amazing puzzles that must have taken an age to design. We loved almost everything about them; my only criticism of these beautifully crafted games is that they are too easy for dedicated puzzle fans, making the experience seem fleeting, and the wait between titles seem all the longer.

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