Update 3/30/21: If you enjoy The Room, we hope you’ll check out our interview with co-creator Barry Meade of Fireproof Studios on The Reality Escape Pod.
Reviewing the video game that inspired my marriage proposal.
Platforms: iOS, Android, Steam
Release date: September 2012
Price: $1 to $5 depending upon the platform (as of February 2016)
An abridged history
Escape rooms are a real life reimagining of a video game genre.
While classic games like Myst, The 7th Guest, and many Flash-based games represent the historical origin of the escape rooms, the iOS and Android game The Room (2012), created by Fireproof Games, is arguably the most important point-and-click (or in this case, touch) puzzle game in decades.
Story & setup
The three-dimensional puzzle game takes place in a single room of an old house. In the middle of the room is a puzzle box that houses more puzzle boxes.
It’s basically a Russian nesting doll of beautifully rendered steam-punkish puzzle boxes. Each level reveals a smaller, more detailed box.
The story is magically minimal. There are handwritten letters mixed in with the puzzles that are addressed to you, the player, and allude to a larger mystery.
The story never becomes heavy handed. Only in the end does it become clear that there is something larger afoot.
Because the story is executed with a light touch, most of the time it just feels like you’re tinkering with incredibly cool puzzle boxes.
Intimate and beautiful
You have full 360-degree control of the camera. It’s a first person game, but it isn’t dizzying.
If you want to move something, you touch and drag. If you need to turn a key, you spin it with your finger. Everything is responsive.
The extreme focus and strong controls make this game strangely intimate.
There are no other people in the game. It’s just you and the crazy contraptions you’re trying to solve.
The game can get tough, but it remains fair.
Should I play The Room?
I used to be a die-hard console and PC gamer. I haven’t seriously played a PC game since I gave up on regularly upgrading my machine back in 2004. I probably have logged less than 20 hours on a console since March of 2012.
Nowadays, if I want to get a bit of gaming in, it’s a puzzle game, and I’m doing it on a plane, train, or bus.
The Room is my favorite video game. It’s not too long. It’s beautifully designed, the controls are perfect, and the game is intimate.
I replay it every year or so. As soon as I can’t remember how to solve everything, I give it another go.
It is so deeply focused, simple, and elegant; I can’t help but return to it. I hold this game as a milestone in both video gaming and escape room history.
When it first came out back in 2012, it was a revelation in mobile gaming.
(Images via Fireproof Games)