The puzzling genre is undoubtedly my favourite to get stuck into in virtual reality, so I was particularly excited when Fireproof Games announced that they were bringing their critically-acclaimed The Room series over to virtual reality platforms. With their blend of clever puzzling and their escape room-style setup, the shift from mobile to virtual reality seemed like a very natural one.
I’m happy to report that the transition has been successful, with The Room: A Dark Matter not only maintaining the elegant sense of mystery that the series is known for, but also featuring an abundance of brilliantly designed puzzles that will keep you pleasantly perplexed as you work through the experience.
Don’t let the title deceive you – you’re not locked in just ONE room in The Room: A Dark Matter, but instead get to explore a multitude of intriguing locales as you take on the role of a Detective in 1908 who has to crack the case of a missing museum expert. This sees you traversing through multiple locations as you solve puzzles to unravel a series of clues, all whilst mysterious supernatural events occur around you.
The game’s tale is mostly told through objects in the environment, with countless pictures and documents pushing the narrative onward as you learn more about what exactly is going on. With its blend of supernatural elements and clever use of environmental storytelling though, there’s plenty on offer in The Room: A Dark Matter to keep you intrigued to see it through to its conclusion. It’s a surprisingly atmospheric experience too, especially when the game’s eerier elements come into play and leave you slightly unsettled as to what you might find hidden within the depths of each location.
One of the most important elements of virtual reality titles come with the controls, so I’m happy to report that The Room: A Dark Matter’s are more than adequate.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that the game doesn’t feature free-movement, but instead sees you teleporting to set points across the environment and then turning with snap-movement. This is typically something that I’d be a little disappointed by, especially since the Oculus Quest has dual-sticks and room-scale capabilities, but it actually feels quite fitting here – it ensures that players aren’t left wandering each area in frustration as they scour every nook and cranny for clues to each puzzle, but are instead limited to areas that are genuinely important to progression. Sure, it would’ve been nice to have taken a closer look at some of the impressive sights littered across The Room: A Dark Matter’s world, but from a gameplay perspective this approach was much more accessible.
The most important aspect of a game in The Room series is its puzzles, and boy, The Room: A Dark Matter has some real corkers that’ll really leave you scratching your head in delight. Staying true to its roots, there are plenty of puzzle boxes for players to interact with that are full of hidden compartments and little contraptions that you need to fiddle around with, though there are also an assortment of objects in the environment that will require your attention too. They all come together to make for some genuinely enjoyable conundrums though, with some requiring good observation skills, some requiring a bit of logic, and some requiring you to just tinker around with them until you find the solution – there’s a heck of a lot of variety on offer across each puzzle and they never grow old or repetitive in design.
One neat element of The Room: A Dark Matter comes with the special glasses that you can wear in-game, which when equipped reveal elements of the supernatural that are hidden around each area. This could be something as simple as showing the player a hidden message laced upon the walls or hidden handprints, but they’re also required to solve certain puzzles through various means. Don’t be afraid to examine objects in-game when wearing them, especially if they happen to have a shiny surface… it’s clever stuff.
As with most puzzlers, there may be a few moments in The Room: A Dark Matter where you’re left scratching your head a little bit too long and will want a helping hand. Thankfully, there’s a very neat hint system in place that gives you a clue as to what you need to do after you’ve spent a specified amount of time stuck on a puzzle – it’s completely optional too, so no intrusive hints hit the screen unless you specifically activate them. It ensures that the game remains accessible to all players, regardless of their experience with the puzzling genre.
That being said, The Room: A Dark Matter’s puzzles never feel TOO obtuse to solve, so you shouldn’t have to resort to hints too much. The series is well known for featuring challenging puzzle mechanics that are intricate and clever in design, and sure, that’s the case here too – however, they’re testing in a way that makes them feel especially satisfying to solve as opposed to being overly difficult for the sake of it. I don’t want to get into them too much not to spoil the experience for anyone, but expect plenty of variety and an abundance of rewarding ‘eureka’ moments as you work through each of The Room: A Dark Matter’s enigmas.
I’ve got a lot of praise for The Room: A Dark Matter, but it did come with one annoying flaw which I hope can get fixed in the future. Remember those special glasses I mentioned? Well, you’ll need to use them a lot in the game, but equipping them requires you to manually select them in the game’s inventory each time – they’ll even un-equip themselves if you switch locations, forcing you to have to equip them again. Now I know this might seem like a petty complaint… I mean, it’s not as if opening a menu and equipping an item is that big of a deal, right? However, I think a one-button shortcut would have gone a long way into streamlining the experience for players. But hey, if that’s the only real flaw I can think of, it’s clear that Fireproof Games have done a really good job here.
I played through The Room: A Dark Matter on the Oculus Quest, but I got the chance to try out the PlayStation VR version to see how that held up too. Both games looked fantastic visually with a heck of a lot of detail to be found within each environment and its objects, though the Oculus Quest version of the game had a bit more clarity with its crisper visuals. Controls-wise, they’re both near enough the same too, though that’s pretty much expected given that the control scheme is teleportation-based – it is worth noting that you can play with either the Move controllers or the DualShock 4 though. The game just held up well on both headsets, so you can expect to be happy with your experience with The Room: A Dark Matter regardless of the platform you play it on.
Fireproof Games’ first foray into virtual reality has been a mighty successful one, with The Room: A Dark Matter packed to the brim with intriguing mystery, elegant charm, and a ton of tricky enigmas that’ll push your puzzle-solving skills to their limit. It all looks and feels brilliant in virtual reality too, with the motion controls and the added sense of immersion really lending themselves well to the overall experience.
It’s as simple as this; The Room: A Dark Matter is one virtual reality puzzling escapade that fans of the genre simply won’t want to miss out on.
Developer: Fireproof Games
Publisher: Fireproof Games
Platform(s): Oculus Quest (Reviewed), Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, HTC Vive