Fireproof Games created something wonderful with its series, The Room. Taking the simple idea of a puzzle box, it span the idea out into a brilliantly tactile and atmospheric game that had you solving puzzles to uncover its mysteries.
With the second and now third game, the concept has expanded, taking you from a single room and into larger environment. While this has slightly diluted the concept for The Room Three, the franchise remains as engrossing as ever.
You’ve got to get out of this place
Let’s quickly move over the bizarre story of The Room Three. You are on a train, off to explore some mystical happenings. The train goes through a tunnel, the lights go out, and you awaken in a locked, Gothic dungeon. Weird enough in itself, but your only company in the room is a puzzle box and a message from "The Craftsman".
Your goal is clear, find your way out of the room, escape the castle, and get off the island, to reach freedom. Standing between you and this objective, however, there are dozens of fiendish puzzles and cryptic riddles.
Every puzzle is entertainingly devious and makes brilliant use of the game’s touchscreen controls. Some of these conundrums have you swipe the screen with one figure while manipulating another area with a second digit. Others want you to pull in other items from your drag-and-drop inventory - which is conveniently placed on the left of the screen. The ease and tactile joy with which all of this can be accomplished will be no surprise to veterans of The Room, Fireproof have always had a brilliant understanding of mobile controls.
Having a closer look
The final layer to the puzzling comes in the form of a spyglass. This tool changes the way you see the world, revealing otherwise invisible clues. It could reveal a hint in the form of a riddle, or show you the inner workings of a lock’s tumbler so you can tease it open.
Thus, for me, the process of solving a puzzle went: try everything, get stuck, remember the eyeglass’s existence, try everything again. But while this loop could frustrate, in The Room Three it never did because - even when stumped - playing with the opulently designed puzzles delighted me. Plus, if you ever get really stuck, there is a well-designed hint system to subtly nudge you in the right direction.
Perhaps the oddest element of the eyeglass is that it also give you the power to play with scale. Some of the game’s problems involve beautifully designed little wooden toys - involving everything from boxes to churches. Wearing the eyeglass zooms you inside these to solve their tiny traps from within. It’s a nice, if slightly surreal, touch that makes the game feel far larger.
As good as ever
While I love The Room Three, in honestly it is not the strongest of the series. So, if you haven’t The Room Two that is probably a better place to start. But if the third game proves anything, it’s that great ideas remain great providing the developer maintains the same care and attention to detail.
The Room Three looks amazing, offers fantastic gameplay, and will repeatedly have you asking the question “what’s in the box?”