Booting up The Room, I was initially disappointed that it wasn’t about an eccentric named Johnny and his frequent trips to the flower shop. What I found instead was a ingenuitive little puzzler that seemed to capture the same wonder and enigmatic nature of a Myst, though without many of the more frustrating features of that particular title. Instead of expecting you to take copious notes, The Room works in segments, never asking you to focus on too many pieces at once in your journey to find the center of a series of boxes, meaning that the solution is never too far from where you need to use it.
Though hints were offered constantly, I rarely needed them. One could argue that the game is a bit too easy, but given the tactile clockwork nature of everything and the rules that are put forth, establishing that clues can be hidden just about anywhere on the box, I prefer it to the alternative. I wouldn’t have spent nearly as much time with the game had I been staring at the screen for hours on end. There’s a challenge sweet spot that most puzzle games miss. The Room thankfully employs the Portal philosophy of hiding something in plain sight, enough to make you work for it and feel clever for discovering on your own.
There are a ton of little moments like this that continue to drive you forward. Even if you have no interest in the background narrative, there’s the ever-present feeling that the next solution is never too far away, bringing you that much closer to discovering the secrets of the box. It’s simple and provocative, like the mystery door on a game show. Sure, the reveal is probably something lame, but what if it’s not? What if the boxes never stop, eventually demanding that you manipulate pieces the side of a matchbook? What if Peter Molyneux is in there? Or Gwyneth Paltrow’s head? I need to know, and only my wits and a series of oddly shaped keys can do it.