The Room (mobile)
Your correspondent predicted correctly. Your curiosity would get the better of you. You would arrive at The Room, sparse but for an unusual safe, seeking answers. In order to protect it from lesser minds, a box, something they said could never be built, is secreted inside the safe. Your first task is unlocking the mysteries of the safe. Once you do, like your epistolarian host, you're irrevocably imbibed by an eagerness to know more, fingers drawn to a tiny panel to unlatch, an oddly-placed contraption to wind up, or an arcane design in gold. Thusly, you are subsumed by The Room, a splendidly surreal, 3D puzzle adventure from Fireproof Games.
The Room consists of four chapters. You begin in view of a small side table, upon which is an envelope. To angle yourself within reach of it, tap and swipe the screen. A couple more slight gestures let you slide a letter out of the envelope and turn it over to read. "I have every faith in you solving its mysteries," you're told of this unique box. "You always were the smart one," and "The stakes are higher than you could possibly imagine," proffer further enticement to carry on through dexterous puzzles and clever riddles, seeking yet another key to another latch or one more clue to just one more coded lock. Stopping at this point appears to be much more difficult than the current quandary that befuddles you.
This is because The Room's touch controls make immersion as natural as scratching an itch. A briefly worded tutorial initiates you in all the controls and soon they are intuitive. For the most part, you'll make use of your tablet's multitouch functions, tapping your way around all sides of the beautifully appointed constructions which make up the safe, the box, and all the devices, knobs, drawers and secret messages therein. The distance between you and the game's completion is paced out by a need to explore every interactive area—some conveniently obvious and others much more well-hidden—correctly deciphering a puzzle then activating the next sequence of requirements.
While your lateral thinking and deduction skills will be put on trial, puzzles are usually solved through manipulation, either through a deft swipe or, occasionally, tilting your mobile device, so most the challenge is mitigated by how observant you are in your explorations. There is an amazing amount of interesting cachés and designs to examine and they're multiplied by a special eyepiece received early on. Gameplay is similar to the Dismantlement series of games, even if the look and scope is much broader. Rather than escape, you are pulled further inside.
In those occasions your progress deeper into the box is stymied, tapping the "?" icon will provide a hint. Hints are scaffolded so that the first usually states what you already know, then, after a few minutes, the next should prove more helpful. Often in that time, your diligence in exploring will uncover the solution before more hints are needed. Progress is punctuated by more correspondence from your host. Each letter continues a narration about the device's incredible powers and explains its origins. As you read, you partake and empathize with his inability to let go. Chapters end by opening the next stage, taking you deeper toward the center and more revelations.
Analysis: There is very little to displease in Fireproof Game's remarkable creation. My biggest complaint is its being too short. "Too short" being operative for "I want to never stop playing with this gorgeous, gadget populated box!" and thus we can only impatiently wait for an update or another installment of the game. Yet, as far as value goes, this was perhaps the most fulfilling app I've purchased to date, affirming every good reason to possess an iPad. The exceedingly astute player might complete his or her adventure in under ninety minutes but most of us will spend over two hours in downright awe, especially those who enjoy lingering over lovely visual effects and whose latent compulsiveness to observe every detail is ignited by the intricate artistry.
The Room is remarkably well-constructed and designed, to the point that immersion overrides any sense of your surroundings beyond the box's apparatuses. That leads to the next small blemish on this beautifully imaginative game—an incomplete 360° navigation. Well, it's not a flaw, really, except the wealth of imagination crafted into layers of contraptions and architecture transmute to the player's increased desire to play and assay. Which precipitates frustration when we're only allowed certain views of the box's details or only certain hotspots are active. From distant angles, you can fully circumnavigate the box; once you zoom in, though, you cannot move freely around the box. It's a complaint that wouldn't and shouldn't exist, that only arises because of the superior way Fireproof has made this room appear so real and this box feel as if we're actually moving our hands and eyes along every side.
Here is a box, blooming at your curiosity and to your delight, furnished with copious amounts of magnetic fascination and little else. You'll learn "the truth of your predicament" soon, but it's never enough to regret the experience. Myst-like in its ability to evoke a mesmerized state of engagement, The Room is eye candy for the mind.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad 2. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.