Still Playing: The Room – Epilogue

This newly-released Epilogue is a free update to Fireproof’s breakthrough debut The Room, and a highly effective whetting of iOS appetites for what’s to come in the sequel.

Where once The Room’s supernatural dread gradually intensified with each unlocked box, this epilogue must, by its nature, pull us right back into Fireproof’s dark, distinctive world from its beginnings. Expensive-looking CGI sequences at the top (and tail) of this extra hour of exploratory puzzling are a reminder that this addendum has been created under very different circumstances.

We’ve already told the story of Fireproof’s accomplishments; the abridged version reads: ex-Criterion staff set up as outsourcers-for-hire, save enough money to make their own game and release The Room, a £2.99 iPad-only game in a vaguely unfashionable genre with console-grade production values. It was a surprise hit even before kingmaker Apple named it Game Of The Year 2012, and was a delightful counterpoint to some mobile game makers’ obsession with business models and monetisation.

Fireproof’s imposing figurehead Barry Meade has since become something of a hero to many in game development – a forthright, outspoken advocate of creative vision over analytics or user acquisition. Speaking to us after that Game Of The Year award, he has described Apple’s accolade as ‘fucking amazeballs’, and has also become a forceful speaker at industry events; his advice, earned over many years at the sharp end of game development, is refreshing – just make a game that you’d want to play, and it’ll do just fine.

That said, this Epilogue is a canny piece of in-app marketing, though that makes it sound cynical in some way. It’s not – it adds a new series of locked box puzzles which remind us exactly why The Room scooped that coveted award, and builds a little more anticipation for the sequel.

It’s an extra hour of immaculately rendered observational puzzles, and a robust test of your lateral thinking. The hint system seems more generous this time around, regularly alerting you to each new clue should you fail to make much progress swiping and poking around this detailed, dense contraption. Find the solution yourself and each success feels like a miniature personal victory; fall back on the hints and the only punishment is a little loss of pride.

That’s not to say there’s excessive hand-holding here. Resist the hints proffered and you’ll still be faced with a dead end or two, most likely because you hadn’t pursued one conundrum quite as far as you thought you had. The puzzles are never obtuse – though Fireproof’s insular world lacks scale, its detail, density and consistent logic somehow makes moving a camera around a single box in a dark room an absorbing experience.

These are fiercely economical spaces; a puzzle might begin by uncovering a single switch beneath an innocuous-looking panel, and quickly expand into sliding your finger around a maze which spans a far greater space. As each little puzzle is solved, the items collected and switches revealed mean that they slowly begin to run into each other to solve the wider mystery.

Part of its magic is in how each stretch of polished black metal and every clunk of clockwork cog has such physical weight. The confluence of artistry and puzzle design here has rightly been hailed by players of The Room, though our own [8] now seems a little miserly with hindsight. Its only crime might be to leave its players wanting much, much more.

An excellent additional hour of The Room ahead of its sequel proper, then. It’s difficult to imagine a more entrancing, polished puzzle game on iPad – that it’s currently available for just 69p / 99¢ seems almost criminal.

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