One room. Four walls, a ceiling, a floor—a claustrophobic space, if you can't leave. Dark music, heartbeats and whispers. You could imagine the walls closing in while you scrabble for an exit. But The Room [$0.99 (HD)] never lets you worry about any of that. There's a time you stop caring about your surroundings, when you don't care a whit about anything but what's in front of you. It's the moment your work absorbs you completely, or you're on the trail of a mystery.

The mystery, in this case, is a box. A beautiful, ornate box with dozens of secrets and few answers to offer. It has levers and dials, locks and keys, parchment and clockwork. Manipulating them is a joy, the nearest thing to reality you can get on a screen. And all of it leads you deeper and deeper inside, into a nesting doll of mysteries.

The box has many layers, each comprising a chapter of the game. Find the locks of each layer, discover the mechanics of opening them, and move on. The answers aren't all where you'd expect to find them, though: some can only be found in the mystical world that lays beneath our own. The first step you'll take in the game is to put together a device, an eyepiece, that lets you see into that world. And with its help, you'll be able to solve the many puzzles The Room has to offer.

The eyepiece isn't a clue system, mind—it's integral to the puzzle design. Some puzzles can be solved entirely in the physical realm. Others need a tweak in the mystical realm, need to be manipulated in ways that shouldn't be possible, but are—as long as you can see what isn't there. If you can't find what you need in either half of the world, there are clues as well. They aren't held for ransom, either. The moment the game decides you're stuck, you can tap a button and get pointed in the right direction.

The Room is a tactile sort of puzzle game. You won't need to manage mathematics or language puzzles, you won't really need to find many patterns. The main trick is just finding the missing pieces. They're hidden cleverly, often in plain sight. You take the box in your hands, turn it over, peer closely, poke and prod. And it feels like it's there in your hands. You turn keys with a satisfying thunk, slide drawers out and feel their weight, crank dials around and watch pieces turn in response. When you find the right pieces to manipulate, answers will be yours.

The mystery is never all that satisfyingly resolved, and The Room only has one chapter of the story to tell. It's over a little too quickly, and as is so often the case with impossible mysteries, it ends on a question. But while it lasts it's an elegant and engaging game, one that builds an atmosphere of dark experimentation. You don't know quite where your search will take you, but it seems it won't be good.

But how can you say no? The secrets are there to be found, and the puzzles so tantalizingly solvable. You might be looking into the abyss, but could you stop? Likely no more than could the man whose footsteps you follow. The search leads you on toward some greater truth—let's hope the future of The Room makes that truth a little more satisfying.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarNone
  • http://profiles.google.com/jordan.cst Jordan Lee

    I thought this game was great. Story was lacking yes but the puzzles were good stuff.

  • Mildrop

    Thought the game was really good, looking forward to the next instalment. Pity more games in this genre didn't show the same thought to originality.

  • sortvind

    well worth the price, hope for more quality games like this.
    1dollar price tag is slowly going away, and i am glad.
    premium games without IAP.

  • ducksFANjason

    Great review and a great game. The price is definitely justified.

  • Stangs55

    I absolutely loved this game. It's my current pick for GOTY. 5/5 for me.

  • http://twitter.com/Platronic John Francis

    Loved the review, my only question is why one star off? Is it the length versus cost? The only two criticisms I saw were length and story.

    • GSJ1977

      Yeah, same thoughts here. I loved it, and I'm not the only one - the App Store ratings are through the roof in this game. In particular the (almost) complete absence of 1 or 2 star user reviews sets this game apart, at least in terms of its production values and the breadth of its appeal. But apparently it's just not as good as playing a buggy, IAP-laden game where a 12 year old in hot pants pulls flowers out of her enemies.

      • 1Fcm

        You can't compare review scores when the two games are in completely different genres. 

      • MidianGTX

        Sure you can, one can definitely be better than the other. You don't get pity ratings for being a new genre.

      • toxiccheese

        What new genre? One is an action adventure open-world game and the other is a point-n-click escape game.

        Complaining that a game should be rated differently just because an unrelated game scored better makes no sense. Also, the review for this game by TA is 4 stars.... How is that worthy of a complaint? A review is only one persons opinion... How do people get all worked up over someone else's opinion... It's not even a negative review!

  • http://twitter.com/warm_concrete Octopus Erectus

    Compared to shitty Mickey Shorts and Lili games, this is a state of art game. It may be simple and short but it is a good and enjoyable experience like you’ve never had on iOS. It deservs 5 stars.

  • qnard

    Love the game! The only thing that lets it down is I have no music or sound at all...

    Am I being thick, can't find any controls.. Using the latest iPad and operating system

    • http://twitter.com/Fireproof_Barry Barry Meade

      Hi qnard,
      I'm not sure what could cause this. There is an issue with the mute button on the side of the iPad. A lot of apps allow you to use the speakers even when mute is on but The Room does not. This leads some players to think their mute is off when in fact it is blocking the audio from the game. If this is not your issue please contact info@fireproofgames and we will help you all we can. Glad you like the game :D

  • Eugene Masharov

    The game is amazing! Many-many thanks to developers! Can't wait for the next chapters!

  • http://twitter.com/Dj_Touch_Pro Thomas Mc Nally

    Downloaded this last night, great little game that gets you thinking. Good to pass the time more game content and the option to play your own music in game would be excellent.

  • YangGirl

    Great game, awesome graphics. Too short.

  • Brandon

    Great game, WAY too short though. I'm ready for the next installment.

  • http://dbcooper.livejournal.com P.F. Bruns

    Drat. I had hoped this would be based on the movie.

The Room Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 4