Publisher/developer: Fireproof Games Format: iOS Release: Out Now
The title gives the game away. Fireproof Games’ follow-up to its esoteric take on the puzzle genre follows the traditional rule for sequels – spreading its reach further and wider in a longer runtime – but at its heart there’s a subtler, albeit crucial, shift. Your eyes are no longer entirely fixed upon a single object as you attempt to prise it open, pull it apart and tease out its innermost secrets. Instead, puzzles expand to fill a larger space, your attention flitting between several interconnected contraptions. You may still be pushing levers, thumbing switches, flicking latches and twisting keys, but there’s as much mystery in the dark spaces in-between. That’s the secret of this rangier follow-up’s success; The Room Two is about the room, too.
As such, it’s no surprise to discover more overt horror leanings than the first game. This is a true ghost story, and if by dabbling in the occult it occasionally conjures tricks that are trite, it pulls off a similar sleight of hand to Simogo’s Year Walk with a skilfully timed early shock. It’s a jolt that resonates throughout the adventure, effective enough to convince you that the rumbles, creaks and hollow echoes that reverberate around the dark spaces you explore are evidence of an otherworldly presence. As you drag your gaze from one object to another, you’ll swear you caught a glimpse of something – someone? – within the shadows. You’ll convince yourself it’s your imagination, yet the unsettling ambiance prompted by the exceptional environment and audio design is enough to cause a degree of doubt.
It may use broader brushstrokes at times, then, but a larger canvas gives the puzzles more room to manoeuvre. You’ll still find yourself scrutinising objects in near forensic detail, but slotting an object into place may trigger a mechanism elsewhere. The third chapter, for example, has you piecing together a crossbow before arming it and firing it at targets on the far wall, then burning a straw effigy to illuminate new areas. The first game’s eyepiece is used in familiar fashion, revealing hidden text and symbols. It remains a tired idea, and is responsible for some of the game’s weakest moments; fumbling awkwardly to line up floating crystals is an unsatisfying way to conclude each chapter, particularly given the care with which puzzles have been assembled elsewhere.
A sequel in the truest sense, The Room Two’s puzzles are grander in scale and its atmosphere is thicker than the first game.
These, too, are among the rare occasions where you’ll curse the imprecision of touch controls. Sometimes a crucial piece of the puzzle may take two or three presses or swipes to trigger. And with plenty of items that are merely decorative and thus unresponsive to your touch it’s occasionally all too easy to move on, unaware you were on the right track. It’s also a pity that the hint system – which can be turned off – doesn’t provide clues that are a little more cryptic when the temptation to accept a helping hand becomes too great; idle for long enough and you’ve essentially got an in-game walkthrough.
Still, in its finest moments – most notably during a genuinely unsettling séance set-piece and an intricate finale in an abandoned laboratory – The Room Two casts a spell that draws you in more effectively than almost anything else on iOS. It’s a masterclass in atmosphere and environmental storytelling and, significantly, its mysteries reward the effort you’ll expend to uncover them. It’s no accident that your role can often feel more captive than intrepid explorer; Fireproof skilfully demonstrates that escapism through escapology can be a potent conceit indeed.