Review: The Room Three

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Review copy provided by developer

The longer a series runs for, the harder it is to keep the magic going. Even legendary franchises like Mario and Zelda have their missteps, despite an overall strong showing. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to find a series like The Room, where each new game is a clear improvement over the last. I’m certainly not saying the original was at all poor, in fact it was one of my all-time favorite puzzle games. But The Room Two built upon it in creative and engaging ways that pushed the series forward. Now we have The Room Three, which if anything elevates the series even higher with a fascinating new structure and more secrets to uncover than ever before.

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Since this one follows pretty closely in the wake of the first two I won’t detail how it happens, but you find yourself trapped on a mysterious island in the company of the shadowy Craftsman. He’s left a trail of clues and devices for you to follow through the many locales of his retreat, all circling back to the horrifically nebulous Null. There’s a plot afoot regarding this tentacled presence, and only by solving the Craftsman’s puzzles will these machinations and your place within them become clear. And if you want to understand the full scope of events, you’ll need to dig deeper than you ever have before in the series.

Like its predecessors, The Room Three is a puzzle game played from a swiveling, first-person perspective. There’s no free movement, you simply double-click on points of interest to zoom in on them and start fiddling with all the buttons and dials. That’s always been the meat of the gameplay, finding contraptions to interact with and puzzles to solve, and it’s as good as it’s ever been here. The devices you manipulate are more detailed and more creative, featuring everything from telescopes to align to camshafts to position. There are familiar machines like printing presses, fantastic devices like mechanical animals, and the truly bizarre like an elegant mahogany blood reliquary. And the actual interactions are still some of the best in the business, with rich clicks and snaps and complex animations to reward your puzzling acumen.

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On top of this excellent base are three huge innovations this title offers over its predecessors. The first is the scope of it, far more vast and varied than anything seen before. The Room pitted you against increasingly-intricate puzzle boxes, and The Room Two saw you leap between puzzling chambers, but The Room Three gives you an entire island of mysteries to unravel. It’s not the full Myst experience, mind you, but every chapter starts you in a hub area and challenges you to open the portal to another spot on the island where the bulk of the action happens. Aside from the hub there’s no backtracking but this setup gives the game a much clearer sense of space and progression than prior entries did. Each of these areas is also significantly larger and more detailed than, say, chambers in The Room Two, which leads to the game being nearly twice as long as either of its precursors.

That’s great news on its own for fans of the series, but there’s yet more to discover here. There’s a new mechanic involving your otherworldly eyepiece that allows you to move inside of small spaces like models and keyholes. In these confines you can pick locks directly or solve mechanical problems, really just more of the same kinds of puzzles but given a new dimension in how they can be secreted away in places. You’ll also find some surprising interactions between these pocket realms and the “real” world that further justify its inclusion. The other innovation is multiple endings, a first for this normally linear series. Once you beat the game you gain the option to replay the final chapter, where a surprising number of hidden puzzles have been tucked away. Completing these side tasks to different degrees earns you the game’s three additional endings, and some of them are well-hidden enough to tax even veterans of the series.

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It honestly would have been enough for the developers to produce another game of the same scope and quality of The Room Two, but what they’ve given us instead shatters expectations. The Room Three is bigger, smarter, and more surprising than the games that came before it, truly excellent games in their own rights. That makes this one a new high watermark for the puzzle genre as a whole, with its clever secrets and unique challenges. Fans of tactile brain-teasers can’t afford to sleep on this one, and if you’ve never experienced any of The Room games hopefully this gives you the push you need to delve into the entire series.

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