Does anybody not love puzzle boxes? Who can fail to be fascinated by a simple-looking box that reveals itself to have sliding panels and secret hinges? I own one, a cheap and mass-produced thing, that I nonetheless adore. It takes seven clever moves to open it, and I have yet to give it to anybody who simply tossed it aside with disinterest. Once a puzzle box is in your hands, you have to try to open it. It’s just human nature.
My cheapo puzzle box is nothing compared to what you’ll face in The Room, an iPad app from Fireproof Games. Puzzles boxes like those presented in the game would cost heaven-knows-what if they existed in real life. The Room gives them to you on the compact screen of your iPad, and lets you manipulate them to your heart’s content: You’ll spin the knobs, pull the levels, find the secret keys (and then figure out where they go), discover the secret panels, and, best of all, solve the puzzles. Oh, there’s a backstory — you’re following in the footsteps of a scientist who discovered some mysterious new element — but this is beside the point, as are the supposedly creepy atmospherics. Really, you’re trying to open the box because how can you not? The box has secrets; you want to discover them. It’s just that simple.
The controls are wonderfully intuitive — you can examine the boxes by spinning them around, zooming in when you find something worth exploring. It actually feels like these boxes exist in a room somewhere, and you are manipulating them remotely. The art is luxuriously beautiful. All of this combines to make a game worth savoring.
Savoring it is difficult, alas, because the one drawback to The Room is its rather short length: There are just four distinct levels, and that includes the opening tutorial. A few reviews in the App Store complain that they beat the whole game in an hour or so. I spread it out over a few days and feel more-or-less satisfied with my purchase, but if you feel that a $4.99 price should get you a game of epic length, you are bound to come away at least a little disappointed. Nonetheless, The Room is elegant, original, and gorgeous — I say those adjectives make the game worth the price.