When I was at ALA in Vegas, I attended a great session about game making. The presenter started by asking, “How many of you are gamers?”
Not many hands went up. I might have lifted mine a little, but not the full, arm-raised, committed gesture.
Then, the presenter said, “How many of you have a device in your bag that you could take out and play a game on right now?” Everyone’s hands went up. “See!” he said. “You’re all gamers.”
For the past week, I waved my gamer card around proudly as I worked my way through the iPad/iPhone games The Room and The Room II. These may be some of the best puzzle games I’ve seen since Myst. Not as complex, but graphically wonderful and compelling.
The basic concept is this: You must solve puzzle boxes left in a Room by a missing researcher (and notes hid therein) looking into the classic fifth element, Null. As you solve the boxes, the puzzles get harder, the notes creepier and more tinged with madness. Things don’t exactly end well in the Room and in the Room II, now you have puzzles strewn across whole rooms to solve, with more madness, more notes and more spookiness.
The Room/Room II are like Myst in that you can’t die. You can’t really do an action that the game hasn’t laid out for you. But, the puzzles have that same feelings — I know what I should be able to do, but I haven’t found the right code, or right piece I need to add in or whatever to make it work. This screenshot from the Room II of the Tower was one of those rooms where I knew the clues were there and couldn’t find them for a while (or my brain wasn’t putting together what I saw).
The games are also good at evoking a sense of mystery and spookiness. At times, the soundtrack sounds like it’s whispering at you, words that you can’t quite make out that feel sinister. There is one room where I jumped a bit when one puzzle unlocked because I wasn’t ready for what showed up.
Because you can’t really die and it’s all at a first-person POV puzzle game, I’d rate this one OK for older kids, 10+ probably, because of the spookiness. If you are absolutely against things like seances and tarot cards, you need to skip the Room II then (though it’s a great puzzle.)
Since we’re (mostly) all gamers, if you need a recommendation for playing through while stuck in an airplane, home sick or something, I’d give these thumbs up.