You’re stuck in a room and you need to open this intricate box in front of you. After looking at every angle and crevice of the box, you finally manage to get it open. Inside is another box. That’s the core gameplay for The Room — not to be confused with the 2003 blockbuster film.
You begin in a room (obviously) with a large, ornate trunk sitting in front of you. The main — and only — objective is to get this open. This involves finding keys and notes in secret compartments, utilizing light and moving mechanisms, and deciphering hidden clues. This first box acts as a tutorial that explains the basic controls. You can focus on one small detail, or twist and turn objects around, such as the various keys and cranks you find in hidden places along the way. Unlike any other puzzle games before it, The Room is a mixture between these complex puzzles and an atmospheric escape the room game. There’s this ominous atmosphere that makes me feel like each time I unravel a clue, I get closer to finding something I’m not supposed to see.
Originally released on iOS and brought to Android and PC, The Room is now available on the Nintendo Switch. This version is most similar to the mobile versions in that you use touch controls while in handheld mode. The touchscreen allows you to easily turn keys, open drawers, and find your way around each puzzle box. However, while the console is docked, a Joy-Con controller doubles as a motion-controlled pointer. This pointer feels a bit slow and not nearly as precise as touch controls or a mouse, but it’s still better than using an analog stick. I prefer handheld mode, so this version isn’t much different to me than playing on mobile but with a larger screen. That being said, I still prefer it on Switch, mostly because I find myself loving Nintendo’s hybrid console more and more as its catalog of games grows.
Aside from controls, The Room runs well and looks beautiful as always. All the tiny details on these ornate, Victorian boxes are lovely to look at and see in action. A special eyepiece given to you at the beginning sees through reality and shows hidden symbols, only adding even more to the game’s intrigue. This lens opens up a whole second layer to puzzles, and is an essential mechanism for solving a good portion of them. This second world only creates more questions as to what lies beneath the mystery. Meanwhile, light, creepy music plays in the background, creating a certain sense of dread and trepidation as you try to discern the secrets from these otherwise benign puzzles.
The Room doesn’t rely on story, but various hidden notes tell a tale of research into an ethereal “null” element. This might explain some of the strange symbols seen through the eyepiece, but players are left wondering what any of it really means. All that’s certain is that completing one level will reveal another box. And that maybe, in the end, everything will be clear. The boxes become more and more intricate, like one that opens up to become a sort of planetarium. It’s absolutely beautiful, even if I’m not sure what its getting at. The hidden symbols and mysticism of it all kept me going, even if it meant finding more questions than answers.
The Room only has about four levels — or boxes — so it’s a relatively short-lived experience, especially if you’re adept at solving visual and spatial puzzles. If you’re anything like me, and can’t figure out what comes next or where to put that weirdly-shaped crank, you can ask for a few clues as to what comes next. Clues don’t tell you exactly what to do, but they do a good job of nudging you in the right direction. It’s not that the game is particularly challenging, I’m just slow with puzzles. With its low asking price, however, it’s certainly worth your time.
Though you won’t see any references to Tommy Wiseau’s directorial masterpiece, The Room is a must-play for anyone interested in puzzles and mystery. Its Victorian-style puzzle boxes, complete with ornate contraptions and secret symbols, make for an alluring yet creepy atmosphere. It’s unclear what mysteries lie in the boxes — here’s hoping you can solve that one for yourself.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided by Team17.
The Room offers up a unique take on puzzle solving, with its intricate, ornate boxes and intriguing mystery. The touch controls and the game's beautiful, tiny details make the experience enjoyable on the Nintendo Switch, even if it's not too different from its mobile version.