I hate criticizing a game for being “too short” because “too short” means different things to different people. Some hear a game is 90+ hours and go “What! That’s it? Not worth my money!”, while others hear a game is two hours long and go “That’s the perfect length I’m looking for”. We all have a different answer for what it means when a game is too short because we have a different amount of time available that we’re willing to sink into something, or wanting to. For me, there’s no better way to scare me from a game than to go “Ah, this one takes 20 hours, and then it gets started!”, where to some people that’s absolute catnip. That’s a forever game so many people are looking for! Nah, count me out, I prefer something that’s a few hours long and far more tailored. And that’s exactly what The Room is.
But having said that, The Room is still way too short! And that’s entirely because it spends its whole time adding more and more mechanics in a way that feels like the developers had an inexhaustible pit of ideas. Each new level, new room, and new puzzle box gives you some new thing and a new way to solve puzzles that hadn’t been there before. The game keeps layering it on until the end, and then finishes up on an extremely abrupt “Congratulations, you did it.”. It’s weirdly like an old NES game. “You have proven the justice of our culture! Now go and rest our heroes.”
The Room is also far too short because it’s exactly my jam. I’m so all about escape rooms that it’s hilarious. I played all the Zero Escape games to completion, the next game that’s being developed by the developers of the series and Danganronpa is like my most anticipated next game. I’ve done escape rooms in town, I even have a family who’s helped design them. If I could quit my job right now and become a guy who just tests escape rooms to see how hard they are, you better believe I would.
This combination of “everything I ever wanted” and “well-designed enough to keep having interesting twists all the way through” means that when game was over, I clicked back to the main menu in the hopes it secretly had unlocked more. I know there are three of these on phones! What if this Switch version, despite not mentioning it at all, is actually secretly a combination of all three…..? Alas, it’s just the first.
And The Room is an incredible game, make no doubt about it. Nothing to do with the Tommy Wiseau movie, it’s a game that launched on iOS that presented you with a simple goal: there’s a puzzle box on the table. Solve the puzzle box - the only clues you need for it are included within the box itself. You don’t need outside knowledge or anything from the last puzzle, you just need to attack this one box in the right order.
You, as the main character, are attempting to figure out what happened to an ancestor who was doing alchemical work to discover an elemental force, a la fire and earth, that’s instead the absence of all things: the Null element. Much as the concept of zero had to be discovered by someone, so too did an element that’s the absence of the rest of them, and his pursuit seems to consume his mind as he reaches nearer to the truth.
Which is really where I first started to realize that this was going to be a much shorter game than I wanted it to be. By level three I was on 5/7 notes, I think, so yeah, unless they added more notes (they don’t), I knew it would be over too soon.
There’s no way I wouldn’t recommend this game, but just know you’ll probably be done in about two hours. To me, a two-hour game that leaves me wanting more, is far preferable to a 40-hour game that’s stretched itself too thin, and I really only found myself wanting more because I just liked it so much. Are there a couple of times too many where the puzzle is “rotate the shape so it makes the right shape again”? Sure! Are some of the parts involving the box a little too hard to notice that they can be interacted with? Yes!
But it was still exactly what I wanted. I’ll play this again. I’ll play the others in the series. There’s a dumb part in me that wants to have these puzzle boxes in real life even though they’re actually literally impossible. It was impossible for me to give this game a less-than-stellar score, unless it wound up being extremely racist or something like that somewhere along the way.
And it wasn’t!
Buy and play The Room, just know you’re going to be left wanting more when you’re done. Luckily there are three others available on phones - no word on when those ones might come to Switch, but they’re available if you have something that can run them.