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12 thoughts on “Discussion: More Room Is Less Room

  1. While I enjoyed The Room’s sequels a great deal more than it appears you did, I do agree that the expansions in scale and scope haven’t been in the series’s favor. I feel the same way about the Batman: Arkham series as well: I vastly prefer Asylum’s more focused metroidvania-esque gameplay to the open-world sequels (though that could also just be due to my dislike of open-world games in general).

  2. Hi Luke,

    For me, I think it just became workmanlike, because progress was all but assured, except for what you might call “padding” – all that on-rails camera swishing from point to point. I fear that The Room has not built on its strengths but progressively undermined them. When I read it described as a proper adventure, I wasn’t sure if that’s what I actually wanted out of it.

    Admittedly I kept playing The Room Three and I still liked tinkering with oddball little machines. It’s no Bioshock Infinite 😉 but the more I ruminated upon it, the more I sensed the game was adrift from its roots.

    Those Batman games are still on the agenda! One of these days…

  3. I hear nothing but praise for Arkham Asylum. Definitely want to give that series a go at some point.

    Though I haven’t played any of The Room games, I know Hai finished the first one fairly recently and enjoyed it from I gather. I wonder if she’ll give the others a punt?

    “[…] to full-on Myst (Disclaimer: I only have a vague impression of what Myst is)”

    This was exactly my thoughts as I was reading your newsletter (and I too only have a vague impression of what Myst is).

    I loved that bit of Steerpike’s Doom review too 🙂

  4. Oh look, Luke has left my comment for me!

    I also agree with everything in your newsletter. Nice read, no essay from me. 😉

    P.S. Why the hell hasn’t anyone else copied The Room’s formula? Like, properly, not just one of those fucking dreadful hidden object games?

  5. Gregg, I can heartily recommend The Room. It doesn’t really make any missteps apart from one particular puzzle where you have to do something the game has never suggested you could do (and will never ever do again for the rest of the series). And it’s not like the others are bad games. I do worry sometimes that when I get a bit ranty I sound like I’m tearing something to pieces because normally I’m quite positive – the other games are fine. I just think The Room is perfect and hadn’t simply made the puzzles spread out over larger areas (thus also leads means more obfuscation is introduced).

    I miss Steerpike’s writing. It’s time to read the Dark Souls Diaries again…

    Shaun, I assumed someone must have copied the formula… but I guess they haven’t? I didn’t go looking, after all.

    Hidden object games can be nicely diverting, now now. Or do you mean “fucking dreadful” ones vs “good” ones? I remember trying one of the Drawn titles and I’m struck, thinking back, to how it feels similar to The Room Two and Three. I don’t mind hidden object games but I unxpectedly bounced off Drawn; I found it a little convoluted compared to what I was expecting.

  6. Maybe I’ve never encountered a good hidden object game?

    The last one I played was from the last-but-one Artifex Mundi Humble Bundle. I forget what it was called (the plot involved time travel and a magical uncle or some such) but hooo boy did I find the experience underwhelming.

    Are there any you would recommend? At the moment I’m hunting for decent mobile games that don’t run in real time.

  7. The Room doesn’t sound so much like a hidden object game to me (one where you have to find objects hidden in a picture) as like an escape-the-room game (where you may not need to necessarily escape the room)–you’re tapping around solving puzzles to figure out mysterious combinations to open boxes and things like that, right? Like, if I’m not mistaken, the gameplay isn’t entirely unlike What’s inside the Box? (That’s quite a short game, especially if you only want to play a bit to see what I’m talking about. Or honestly you might be able to tell what’s going on just from the screenshot.) Though I haven’t played nearly enough hidden-object games to know if that’s what they’re like now. It does seem as though there is a lot of hidden-object/point-and-click crossover.

    Speaking of which, I was thinking that the world is ready for a series of guest posts called Memories of the Flash Age, about the Flash games of yesteryear which are generally still available for the playing. What do you think, Joel?

  8. Shaun,

    I think HOGs have their audience. That is, they’re good games in the eye of the beholder. I once played with a trial of something and it was remarkable how I was happy to fritter my time away just looking at the screen. I recall a similar game written in Atari BASIC back in the 80s where you were straining to find words in a sea of apparently random straight lines on the screen. It was the same every time but I loved that game.

    I don’t know if there’s any point recommending a HOG unless you like them, you know? I don’t have any recommendations. I just understand what they do for people, like the endless Solitaire clones.


    What this thread has highlighted for me is that there is a funky grey overlap here between Room Escapes and HOGs. They both have players scouring images for hidden features – click the right hotspot and voila, something is revealed. And that’s where Drawn comes in. What I played of Drawn had this tactile quality, that as your fiddled with the shapes in front of you, they responded and things *happened* like machines unlocking. In The Room, a big part of the game is figuring out where things are hidden – again finding the hotspots that reveal something. It’s seems clear to me right now how these are related, but I could understand if no one else agrees 😉

    So perhaps I’ve drawn the wrong conclusion that The Room is like a HOG, when it’s better to say that The Room is like a Room Escape and Room Escapes have functional overlap with Hidden Object Games.

    And of course I can’t help but point out that The Room (only the first game) is a reverse Room Escape, you’re trying to get *into* something… But, yeah, now I’m seeing Room Two and Three as extremely polished Room Escapes so thanks for that 🙂

    Oh god Matt don’t put me on a series, those never end well for me. This is just your latest attempt to go off on a tangent, I just know it.

    (FYI, I played Inside the Box last night up to the early teen levels and then I’d had enough.)

  9. No no, I’m offering to write a series. An occasional guest-post series. Very occasional, because of the speed with which I get around to writing things, as you can tell by how long it’s been since I said I would talk about the level select screen in Closure.

    And that was my set-up to go off on a tangent.

  10. The original Flash version of Closure was great, we really liked its scratchy look and oppressive gloom and ambience. We’re just getting round to playing the full game now actually.

    Joel: yeah, I’ve always lumped hidden object games in with room escape games, although I’ve not played many I’ve got to say. Perhaps a crucial difference is with room escape the order in which you do things is key. In that regard you start getting quite close to the mechanics of games like Samorost where you do a lot of searching for the interactive bits and trying to understand their purpose, then working out the steps you need to take to progress to the next screen/area.

    Shaun: We played quite a bit of The Tiny Bang Story because it was just gorgeous and gentle, and surprisingly fun with a few of you. It had a nice variety of puzzles and things to find and piece together so I reckon there’s a bit of something for everyone.

    “At the moment I’m hunting for decent mobile games that don’t run in real time.”

    Did you try Card Crawl? Hai and I loved that. Wazhack is something I always come back to as well, but YMMV!

  11. Matt,

    As you’d be doing Closure for the exposure, you’d have to pay me money for the slot. I have a lot of people demanding to be write Electron Dance articles and the quality I’m seeing, I can tell you now, is pretty dang high. I’m not sure you can take the wordheat.

    I’ll have a think about it! Typically I’ve found acting as editor takes up as much time as writer – every time I thought I’d have a few easy weeks with other people’s words, it’s been the absolute opposite!

    I still like the idea of posting other people’s stuff. Especially as Shaun is so vulnerable to exploitation right now after Arcadian Rhythms came to an end.


    Of course, I did actually lump all this stuff together under “secret boxes” but the mechanical similarity between HOG and Room Escape had … ESCAPED me. It was… HIDDEN.

    Drawn is often referred to as an upmarket HOG and if I remember correctly there was an order to that. Perhaps this is where my feelings of its proximity to The Room stem from. Again, this is really sketchy memory I’m DRAWING from.

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