Review – The Room Three
Over the last few years I’ve spent many hours enjoying the four games from Fireproof Games in the dark puzzle series The Room on my subway commute. Atmospheric puzzles and good production values are the keys to my heart. But despite how well the controls work on mobile devices, I always wondered if The Room could be better enjoyed on real monitor. Now I don’t have to!
As the third entry into The Room series, there’s a bit of a history to cover.
In the original The Room, players follow notes and clues that lead them through a series of mysterious puzzle boxes. One after another, more boxes and more notes written by an unknown author slowly reveal the existence of a dark and powerful fifth element known only as “Null”.
The sequel sees players trapped in a dimension whose laws of nature are governed by the Null itself. The Room Two ditches the focus on puzzle boxes and shifts to other environmental sets as the Null pulls players through time and space following in the footsteps of a character identified only by the initials A.S. Your only hope of escape from the Null dimension is tracking down this A.S.
The Room Three opens on a old steam train crossing through beautiful scenery when entirely unprovoked, the walls of the train booth open up and the black tendrils of the Null reach out and pull us into its world. This time we land in a haunting estate known as Grey Holm. It’s not long before we learn that we were transported to Grey Holm by a figure known only as The Craftsman who says they are responsible for inventing all of the devices we’ve seen so far in the series. The Craftsman wants to release the Null from its pocket dimensions into the world itself and needs your help to assemble The Craftsman’s Key. But if you’re clever enough to solve the hidden puzzles throughout Grey Holm, you just might be able to subvert The Craftsman and put an end to his dark agenda.
The Room Three, like its predecessors, centers around discovering hidden compartments and their secrets in various puzzle boxes and early century desks to repair ominous Null fueled dimensional rift machines.
What’s different about The Room Three in comparison to the earlier games is how the puzzles span across multiple environmental pieces. The original game focused on puzzle boxes, while the second game focuses on a series of objects with intertwining puzzles set within one of the many Null pocket dimensions. In The Room Three we see the puzzles expand into multiple rooms with intertwining pieces. It’s a simple idea, but it really reinforces the growing scale of the story through the series. Initially only concerned with simple puzzle boxes and the discovery of the Null’s existence, we now deal with the Null expanding its reach into the world at large.
The game’s puzzles come in different forms. More often than not, players exploring rooms and attempting to interact with random objects leads to the discovery of what gadgets react to the player. From there it’s a game matching missing components to their respective devices and then resolving how they interact with the larger device. In one instances, players will add small brass ice skater figures to a music box with a series of overlapping circular tracks. The figurines will move automatically along the track as the music box plays and its the players role to press a button to change to tracks with the correct timing and sequence. When completed, we’re awarded with a small red gem that clearly belongs in a nearby wall panel for another puzzle that when solved will grant us a key for a lock box and so on.
Some of The Room Three‘s more clever puzzles involve using a lens to view the unseen influence of the Null. Sometimes it will allow players to see through certain surfaces and manipulate the interior contents. Other times it will paint the walls with arcane symbols that guide to the next solution. As you traverse through the game, it’s worth giving everything a second to catch any hidden secrets, and possibly even a handful of secret endings.
As much as I enjoy the discovery component, The Room Three‘s puzzles can get a little repetitive. There are a lot of key textures that you begin to notice repeat over time which will quickly guide you toward interactive objects. It doesn’t take too long before you start to pick up on the general formula. As soon as you know what to look for, it becomes fairly easy to walk into an unfamiliar room or examine a new object and understand how the pieces fit, even if you can’t immediately decipher the order. Similarly, there are a number of puzzles that reappear such as the above battery circuit puzzle and an audio tuner puzzle. Once you determine how to solve one, you’ve figured them all out. Even though the game’s difficulty increases over time, it’s the solution’s methodology that’s the key to solving the puzzles in the game from start to finish.
One of the areas where The Room Three really shines is the atmosphere. Low tones rumble beneath the hum of buzzing batteries and the groaning wooden walls of Grey Holm instilling unease. Arcane symbols painted wall to wall and note from the mad Craftsman calculatedly placed across the estate allude to the dark plot we take part in. With each new puzzle solved, dark machines come to life with dreadful cries of scraping metal. And somewhere, the sinister fifth element grows ever closer to the realm that we know. I’m amazed with how effectively Fireproof makes the Null feel alive, especially in such a mood-focused game.
I truly never thought that I would say this, but as good as The Room Three is, I prefer the mobile version. While it looks and sounds just as good in either version, the controls were designed for a touch screen. There were too many times when I would try to flip a switch but the range of motion with my mouse didn’t track as well as dragging my thumb across a small screen. Even when I increased the mouse sensitivity, I would have to click and drag a few times to turn on a simple switch. The Room Three simply isn’t designed to work all that effectively with a mouse.
Frankly, I was surprised to see Fireproof Games release The Room series on anything other than mobile or the Switch, because it just works so darn well on those platforms, but I’m thrilled to see it makes its way to other platforms so more people can experience what a fantastic series of puzzles these are. Everything considered, The Room Three should not be missed by anyone who enjoys a good puzzle or escape room.
Despite debuting on mobile platforms, The Room Three maintains great textures, even if animated characters do move a bit stiffly.
Consistent puzzle design and clever incorporation of story elements vastly overshadow the mouse control challenges.
The soundtrack and effects and well done and manage to successfully make Grey Holm feel like there’s something wrong with its very nature.
There are multiple secret endings to be uncovered if you’re clever enough to solve the puzzle. If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to resist going back to Grey Holm.
Final Verdict: 8.5
The Room Three is available now on iOS, Android, and PC.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of The Room Three was provided by the publisher.