The Room

The Room, from Fireproof Games, may be one of the most well thought out apps I’ve yet encountered on the iPad. Playing out through an enigmatic series of puzzles within puzzles, every stage has been polished to perfection.

The easiest way to describe this title is “Myst in a box”, although this doesn’t quite do it justice. The influence of Myst seems visible throughout, from the beautifully textured surfaces and the subtle atmospheric soundtrack to the mysterious handwritten notes scattered throughout, hinting at the arcane science of game’s universe.

The game sets itself apart from Myst through its many varied, tactile interfaces, which are often so well realised that they cease to feel like interfaces. Keys turn in locks, draws smoothly open, hidden panels slide neatly into place, and the experience is of interacting directly with the objects themselves.

The puzzles are a mixture of exploration, lateral thinking and occasionally complete guesswork. Each chapter begins with a large box. After some probing, secret features are exposed: a key may unlock a door that gives a clue to a mechanism elsewhere, and gradually the box expands, revealing its peculiar internal logic.

Like many puzzle adventures, it’s possible to become stuck occasionally, and a subtle hint prompt will linger discretely at the edge of the screen whenever there’s a long period without progress. I only used this occasionally, however, the game is well balanced for difficulty, and the developers have been careful to communicate when a puzzle has been solved and is no longer relevant.

Unlike the original version of Myst, the camera can be fluidly positioned anywhere, and on the new Retina display iPad, the results are particularly stunning. The grain of wood is exposed in glorious detail, metallic surfaces gleam and and objects in the background are subtly blurred. It’s no wonder Apple featured it so prominently on the App Store, the visuals alone are a terrific advert for the iPad itself.

At £2.99 / $4.99, it is incredibly good value. I completed the game over several weeks, in a series of scattered twenty minute sessions, and always found it easy to pick up from where I left off. I’ve also been enjoying a second run through while writing this review, I’ve already forgotten the solutions to a number of puzzles.

It seems likely that more content will appear, and the developers would be well justified in charging for this through in app purchases. I’m greatly looking forward to further journeys through The Room.

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