The Room Three
[1/12/2016: The Room Three is now available for Android!]
It starts with a box of a very ordinary sort, at least as ordinary as a box that appears out of nowhere on your train ride can be, but what's inside is, oh, so much more than that. In The Room Three, a stunning puzzle adventure from Fireproof Games for newer iPads and iPhones and Android, it seems you've attracted the attention of someone calling themselves The Craftsman, and they'd like your help unraveling the secrets of what lies between the cracks of the world... if you can prove yourself, of course. What follows is an immersive and atmospheric trip down the rabbit hole, as, challenge after challenge, you are drawn deeper and deeper into curious places filled with curiouser mechanisms. You'll need to think hard in order to overcome the obstacles in your way, exploring each new area with the sweep of a finger to look for clues as to how to solve every new puzzle you come across. With multiple endings and hours of gameplay, The Room Three is just begging for you to pick up and play, but be warned that if you do, you might not be able to put it down until you're finished.
Playing The Room Three is a simple matter of dragging around the screen to turn around, double-tapping things to focus, and pinching to zoom in and out. Many of the things you'll encounter need movement to activate... swipe down on a switch to throw it, for example, or draw a circle on a key to turn it. Don't expect to be given any clear instructions whenever you come across one of the game's many puzzles! A large part of the game comes down to experimentation... figuring out how something works, how you can interact with it, and what might be required to make it work for you. In addition to using the items you gather, however, you also have your Eyepiece, which can allow you to see things unseen to the naked eye, as well as to literally get inside some objects and solve them from within. If you get stuck, provided you haven't disabled them, a series of progressively more direct hints will become accessible as question marks related to whatever you're currently dealing with... but don't assume they'll lead you by the hand.
It's all a surprisingly organic experience, with motions and actions that look and feel natural thanks to the game's touch-based movement. I've never played the original games (yet!), but I never once felt like a fish out of water as The Room Three drew me in. A large part of that is due to its stellar atmosphere, it's true, as Fireproof Games haven't slacked off on any aspect of the design. The soundtrack is at once both ominous and intriguing, and areas manage to be beautifully designed without cluttering things up with pointless decoration that might get in the way of your puzzle solving. Which, speaking of, is clearly the star of the show. The Room Three manages to make you feel like a real explorer, relying on your own wits as you go, and though there is a nice progressive difficulty curve, none of the puzzles feel like they're phoning it in. You may encounter a few that can be brute forced, but largely solving them comes down to fiddling with everything you can... hunting for secret mechanisms, twisting and poking, exactly as you would in real life. You will need to use more than one finger to activate some mechanics... using one hand to hold a spring-loaded latch open while the other presses a button, for example. It strikes a happy balance between simply pushing and pulling at your environment to find secrets, and needing to actively think your way through a puzzle each step of the way.
And make no mistake, you will need to use the ol' gray matter, because some of the clues you'll find are very subtle indeed. While the game is good about nudging you where you need to focus your attention in a larger space, it's still possible to start spinning in circles if you missed something, be it a closer look at an item in your inventory, or maybe just the right way to interact with an object you assumed was locked. If you make use of it, the hint system is just about perfect, so don't be afraid to turn to it if you're really stuck. Though some puzzles are definitely more interesting than others, the game feels like it's really at its finest when you're peeling back multiple layers of a single mechanism, unlocking it bit by bit. As for the game's story, well, it exists, and it's even intriguing in a suspicious sort of "we have such sights to show you" way (I'm on to you, "Craftsman", Clive Barker prepared me for this!), but it's hardly the driving force. This is, however, a big game, with the sort of gameplay that invites your coziest chair and warmest lighting to get lost in for hours on end, and with multiple endings, you're got reason to come back to it even after you finish it for the first time. The Room Three is prime example of why Fireproof Games are masters of their craft, and will keep you captivated the whole way through.