Critical Play: Puzzles (The Room)


The Room


Fireproof Games


Android, iPhone, iPad, PC

Target Audience

9+ years

Important Formal Elements

The Room is a single player game employing a player vs game interaction pattern.

The objective is to fully unlock the puzzle boxes that the game gives you, and as you unlock each puzzle box, you extract a smaller but increasingly complex box within it.

The procedure is as follows:

  • The player is provided with the first of four puzzles boxes, which serves as a tutorial for the controls on how to move the boxes, and interact with the features of the box
  • The player unlocks each puzzle box extracting a smaller but increasingly complex box within it

The rules of the game are:

  • The player is told the story by the letters of a mysterious box in a room in a house
  • As the player solves the puzzles, more notes by the same author are found
  • The author of the notes is someone who had previously solved the mysteries of the box
  • The notes describe the use of an ethereal material called “Null”
  • They also show the author slowly descending into madness

Types of Fun

The game intends to provide a challenge to the player that is achieved as the player struggles to open each of the boxes.

A puzzle box

In addition, the game offers a narrative involving the research of an unnamed person into “Null”, which is described in the notes found through the various puzzles. The player discovers the various aspects of the story as they continue to solve the puzzle boxes

Notes found

How Mechanics Of The Puzzle Influence The Experience of The Game

The game uses motions enabled by the touchscreen of mobile devices to simulate real life actions.  Actions such as looking around the device, turning keys, and activating switches are performed on the touchscreen of the device thereby immersing the player into the game and providing realism of the actions. For instance, the player feels like they are actually turning a key in real life by performing the turn key motion on the platform. Since the game involves opening the puzzle boxes by undoing a series of locks, simulating an action such as the turning of a key greatly improves the realistic feel for the player, and the satisfaction a player gets when they finally get to open a box.

The game provides a tutorial box as a First Order Optimal Strategy to ensure the game isn’t too hard for novice players. A new player is shown how to move the box and interact with features of the box thus sets the player up for a reasonable challenge once they understand the controls. This is essential in establishing balance in the game.

Tutorial puzzle box

The game features a key inventory element, which is a lens that allows the player to see things made from the Null element that compose parts of the box. The lens can be equipped at any time to see the secrets, and requires the player to align secrets into a coherent symbol. This assists in propelling the narrative, and since the player is provided the inventory for the items, the player is allowed to control how and when the narrative unfolds by choosing to use the lens. The player still needs to align the secrets into a coherent symbol thus the challenge aesthetic is maintained even though the First Order Optimal Strategy of having the player access the inventory still holds.

Using the lens

Additionally, the game has increasingly complex puzzles as the outer puzzle boxes are opened thereby providing a difficulty progression. This keeps the player engaged by ensuring they don’t get bored easily. The player is assured of progressive increase in the challenge thus is made to work harder to solve the next puzzles.

Moments of Particular Success

The game utilizes the platform’s unique interface aspects thus further immersing the player into the puzzles. Motions such as the turning of a key to open a lock provides realism and offers more satisfaction as the player physically feels the release when a lock is opened.

Moreover, the progression of puzzles which is structurally provided by having more complex puzzles located within an easier puzzle provides the natural flow to the game. As a user is digging deeper and deeper, the game gets more complex simulating a natural trajectory making the game more immersive. As curiosity for what lies within a puzzle box is piqued, the puzzle inside is made harder thus the player experiences a greater satisfaction after experiencing a harder challenge.



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