The Room Three Review
The Room Three Review
A visually stunning game crafted with a level of creativity and intelligence that one rarely sees in tablet gaming
Posted: 04/21/16 | Category: Review | Developer: Fireproof Games | Publisher: Fireproof Games | Platform: Ios, Android

Genre: Puzzle Adventure
Release Date: November, 2015 
Review Platform: Android tablet


Imagine you're in a used bookstore, standing in front of a shelf filled with worn paperbacks, most of which fall into two categories: formulaic ‘whodunits’ and tawdry romance novels. You scan the books with a sinking sense of déjà vu. Suddenly, you notice a copy of an out-of-print book that you've been seeking for some time. Not only is it in good shape, it's autographed by the author!  In that moment, you cannot believe your good fortune. The universe has smiled on you in an ultimate stroke of serendipity. You've found a treasure in the midst of banality!

Such was my feeling when I chanced upon The Room by Fireproof Games in 2013. The ‘escape’ genre for Android tablets was filled with sameness… hundreds of ‘open the door’ games rife with pop up advertisements. At first glance, I thought The Room might be more of the same but the screenshots implied otherwise. As I began to play, I realized that I was experiencing something remarkable: a visually stunning game crafted with a level of creativity and intelligence that one rarely sees in tablet gaming. For a second opinion, I would suggest reading the Just Adventure mini-review by the venerable Ray Ivey.

A Brief History

In 2013, The Room Two was released. It's an excellent game with many of the same qualities as the original. Having achieved near perfection with its first title, the Fireproof development team had a real challenge if it wanted to build a better mousetrap.

Fireproof Games is an independent development studio based in the U.K. Throughout 2014 and 2015 Fireproof's web postings indicated that it was working on an additional title in The Room series, with the goal of making the next installment better than the first. In November of last year, The Room Three for iOS was released. Much to my dismay, the Android version lagged behind by a few months and I continued to watch and wait. In early 2016, my patience was rewarded!

A Room with More than a View

I am delighted to report that, with The Room Three, Fireproof Games has once again exceeded all of my expectations. You begin on a train, as a nameless traveler without a backstory. You discover a box in your sleeping car which you open to reveal a note from The Craftsman – a faceless presence who has orchestrated a complex path for you to traverse. When you exit the train, you find yourself in Gray Holm – a sprawling vacant estate filled with puzzles and more notes from The Craftsman.

Your first discovery is an incomplete scale model of the estate. As you manipulate objects within and around the model, more is revealed and details are added.  Ultimately, doors open and you begin to explore the actual buildings that make up Gray Holm.

Puzzle This!

At its core, The Room Three is a complex puzzle game with a minimal story. What makes the game so unique is that the puzzles are linked in a way that nothing feels contrived, and each success rewards the player by expanding the game’s possibilities. Most solutions are mechanical in nature and involve objects that can be opened, repaired, aligned, assembled, etc. Some depend on environmental clues and others are solved through thoughtful manipulation.

Fireproof Games excels at creating diverse puzzles that are beautiful, intricate and provide a sense of wonder as they're solved. Each is a gateway to another task which draws the player through the game with a constant sense of anticipation of what is to come. My interest never waned as I opened containers, made keys, operated machinery, recognized patterns, navigated mazes and found missing objects.

You're provided with a special eyepiece that allows you to see strategically-placed clues that aren't visible to the naked eye. The same eyepiece is used to reveal and access tiny spaces such as a small hole in a wall or an opening in a miniature model of an estate building. This creates additional landscape without expanding the physical geography of Gray Holm.

The graphics are, in a word, spectacular. The environment and objects are presented in 3D with almost photographic clarity. Using a touch screen, you feel as if you are physically handling each object and this creates a true sense of participation as the environment unfolds around you. The Room Three delights and surprises the player as a box evolves into a clock tower with a magical entry point, or a coin unfolds into a key, or a circuit is completed and the lights come on in a new section of the estate.

As its name implies, the original game takes place in a single room. Starting with an intricately carved box, you interact with its many facets until you have a huge structure to explore. The Room Three departs from this, and your completion of the scale model provides access to a variety of estate rooms and buildings that include an observatory, a clock tower, a library, and a mill.

The soundtrack reflects the emptiness of the environment and creates an overwhelming sense of being alone. The music is melancholy and, when combined with ambient sound effects, adds to the player’s sense of immersion. Wind whistles, machinery clatters, a telephone rings, a few rifts of music drift from nowhere. There is no dialog and no ‘thinking out loud.’ Your only clue that someone has gone before is the breadcrumb trail of notes from The Craftsman and the occasional handprint or scrawled message from a previous traveler.

The hint system is just about perfect. If you're stuck, you can get a subtle hint such as, "I remember seeing this pattern elsewhere." Then, after time has elapsed, you can access the next level of hint which reveals a bit more information but is still not a dead giveaway. This allows the player to be guided when necessary without having the experience spoiled. And, in truth, there is no way to cheat past a mechanical puzzle. While hints point you in a direction, you must work out the actual solution on your own in order to progress.

My only complaint, albeit minor, is that there are areas in The Room Three that are severely lacking in light. Even with my display contrast turned up, there was at least one puzzle and several objects that I couldn't see. Then again, this could be because I am playing on an older tablet or simply the result of my aging eyesight!  In any event, this isn't a game to play on your phone as there's far too much detail to take in on a small screen.

The Adventure Continues

As I was moving through The Room Three, I was aware that there were unfinished tasks. I passed by an unlocked drawer, an unopened safe, and machinery that remained out of service. As the game pulled me along, I found myself thinking that perhaps these were just loose ends that Fireproof had not had time to tie up. Imagine my surprise when the game ended and I was given a chance to revisit Gray Holm and change my fate!

The Room Three provides the player with the opportunity to return to the latter part of the game in order to complete unfinished business and experience three alternate endings. What I originally thought were red herrings turned out to be puzzles and tasks that I had failed to accomplish on my first passthrough. Fate is fickle however, and the hint feature is turned off during this opportunity for extended gameplay. Thus, I returned to Gray Holm armed with only my own intellect. I retraced my steps to find the skipped puzzles which, when solved, revealed additional objects and areas I hadn't previously encountered. The new path I chose resulted in a different ending and, once again, I was given the option of returning to retry my hand at changing Fate for yet another outcome.

What a terrific way to end a game! It gave me a chance to delay that sense of loss that one inevitably feels when a truly great gaming experience comes to a close. 

Save the Best for Last

Each title in The Room trilogy stands on its own and provides a unique experience. The games are loosely linked by the player’s obsession of finding the source of an ethereal material known only as The Null. This concept/substance is introduced in the first game and then referenced in the next two, via the letters that you find along the way. To really appreciate Fireproof’s genius, I would highly recommend that you play all three installments in sequence.

So many times, a sequel isn't as good as the first release. Fireproof Games didn't rest on its laurels and take an easy path to create The Room Three. Instead, it improved on a near-perfect game and have succeeded in delivering an adventure that surpasses the original. I look forward to watching for future titles from this talented development team.

Grade: A+
Visually stunning game with touch screen interaction that creates a “you are there” experience
Challenging puzzles that make sense and are fun to solve
Unique gaming experience that should not be missed
Specials from Digital Download
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