Review by MTLH
The Room expands further yet again.
What we have here is the third instalment in a series that started back in 2012 with The Room, a game that initially was released for iOS platforms before being ported to Android and Windows. It was quite successful, to put it mildly, and a sequel followed about two years later. The aptly named The Room Two expanded on the concept of the first game while retaining what was already fine to begin with. This was a success too so a second sequel followed in 2015, The Room Three. In a way it's kind of funny. Going by these titles, Fireproof Studios seems keen to name it's games as succinctly as possible. On the other hand, when it comes to the games themselves, they instead seem intent to continuously enlarge The Room's scope.
It appears as if the trend set by The Room Two continuous. Whereas the first game showed darkened rooms where the puzzleboxes where put under a spotlight and the second diverted some of that light to illuminate a corner or two, the areas found in The Room Three are comparatively very visible. There is still plenty of gloom going on though as well as a fair degree of shadowplay to create the eerie vibe the series as a whole depends on for it's atmosphere.
The environments themselves are realised well and offer the occasional surprise, such as the introductory level for instance being situated on a moving train. The various objects and items retain their sense of tangibility which adds a lot to a game like this that revolves around manipulating such things. Also worth a mention are the remarkably good looking cutscenes which bookend the game.
The atmospheric music helps greatly in setting The Room Three's uneasy mood, staying mostly in the background where it occasionally gives way to an assortment of knocks, bangs and little rustling noises. Add the whispering into the mix, and the results are very discomforting indeed. As with the previous games, the sound effects do their bit in aiding the visuals in making the various objects more tangible.
After having escaped the Null space in the previous game, the series' protagonist finds himself once again drawn to this occult element and the trappings that come with it. Having been invited to the Grey Holm mansion by the mysterious Craftsman, he must once again navigate a series of rooms with the promise of finally learning the secrets behind the element.
Although the plot still doesn't go very deep, it feels more substantial than in the previous instalments. It's primarily conveyed through letters that are scattered about the place but the story that they tell, in combination with some environmental elements, is more in line with what you must actually do. The story in the first game amounted to little more than a bit of context while in the sequel the scope of the plot didn't match the game's size. Here, the idea of having to complete the Craftsman's tests aligns better with the gameplay itself and how long it lasts. Besides this, The Room Three also manages to perfectly create the unsettling atmosphere that the series leans so heavily on, both through the presentation and via the plot's tone.
The gameplay naturally revolves around solving puzzleboxes although by this point in the series describing them as such would do The Room Three a disservice. There are still boxes of various forms and sizes to gradually open up but the locations they stand in play an even bigger part than they did in the second game. Most locations consist of several rooms while the special lens that reveals obscured signs can now also be used to access hidden chambers such as those found in some of the scale models of the mansion.
A new feature this game adds to the series is that instead of offering a procession of chapters, the mansion acts as a hub of sorts from where they can be reached. The aim of the game is to collect a few small pyramidical objects with which to access the final area. They can be earned by completing a chapter which leads to a loop of placing such a pyramid on the hub's central pedestal, subsequently gaining the item necessary to open the gateway to the next level, collect it's pyramid, place it on the pedestal and so on and so forth. Even with the required item in your possession though, opening the doorway still requires quite some puzzling. That applies to the mansion itself too as it contains puzzles of it's own with which to unlock some alternative endings.
The puzzles you encounter are mostly of the 'slide this panel to open that hatch which yields a key with which to open that drawer' kind which also typified the previous games. Even so, the environments also add their own elements into the mix which leads, for instance, to the player having to melt down keys in order to forge new ones and braving a labyrinth by remote control. All in all, there is quite some variety on offer here, even for those that have played the first two entries.
Despite the widened scope with it's larger levels and an added hub, The Room Three does still play a lot like it's predecessors. The puzzles remain quite linear with progress following a strict path with the biggest difference being that they consist of more elements to interact with. The mansion adds it's own puzzle path, it's true, but even that is a linear affair and stands apart from the main route through the chapters. This isn't really an issue mind you, but when the rest of the game has been so expanded it's curious to see that this approach hasn't been applied to the way the puzzles are structured.
The Room Three consists of five proper chapters, an introduction and all the stuff you must, and can, do in the mansion's hub. All in all that covers quite a large area, especially for the series in general and when you consider that those chapters are quite meaty. The difficulty is still primarily based on getting into the right groove, as in finding that first button or switch and then work your way from there. Still, with the expanded number of elements in play and several endings to unlock, this is the most challenging The Room game yet.
In all fairness, The Room Three does exactly what The Room Two did, taking it's direct predecessor as a basis and then expanding it's scope. In this game's case, that leads to the introduction of a hub with it's own puzzles to solve, chapters that consist of multiple rooms and the possibility to enter scale models via the lens. The puzzles too, while still relying heavily on the series' tropes, incorporate a lot of the added elements into their routine. The story furthermore plays a bigger part, or at least a more substantial one, and offers multiple endings. Add to this a splendidly realised presentation and unsettling mood and this is definitely the best game in the series yet.
At this rate, who knows what the next one will add? Multiple puzzle paths to follow simultaneously perhaps and I wouldn't be surprised if it also featured a single and freely explorable area instead of a string of interconnected chapters. In any case, whatever the future may bring to the series, whether you're a veteran or a newcomer, don't miss out on The Room Three.
OVERALL: a 9,0.
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