A confession: I am not much of a phone games kind of guy. Not much of a podcast guy either. What do I do on my commute, you ask? I either stare silently into the middle distance like a psycho or use the New York Times crossword app, also like a psycho.
But my aversion to mobile games didn’t stop me from downloading — and devouring — the first installment of the game franchise The Room (no relation to the film). Now, a week later, and knee deep in the third chapter, my terrible obsession with these games has reached a fever pitch that shows no signs of subsiding. Now, I’m going to burden you with the same thing.
The Room is, on the surface, a relatively simple puzzle game. You move between various scenes and try to uncover the intricate requirements and mysteries contained in each room. Sometimes you have to open a box. Sometimes you have to find the missing piece of a torn photograph, sometimes you have to attach a cannon to a little model ship. None of that, though, is as easy as it sounds.
Perhaps the best time I had playing The Room, and a good demonstration of its fiendish mechanics, comes in The Room 2, about halfway through the game. Before you stands a tarot deck and a mysterious device. On the far end of the room, a desk with a typewriter on it. To its left, a bookshelf. At one point, having fixed the device, the typewriter, and unlocking the bookshelf (all difficult endeavors in themselves), the game requires you to find and write cryptic phrases into the typewriter, which in turn then reveals which tarot cards to feed into the device. It would be tedious if it weren’t so fun, and impressive in just how interactive nearly every item you can find in this game becomes.
On top of that, a perverse, dark, mystery element hangs over the entire thing. Mobile games, by their required nature, only move in one direction. There’s not much room to choose your own adventure. As you move inexorably towards the conclusion of each game, you’re implored repeatedly to stop; that no good can come of moving ever onwards to the end. Of course, you ignore this advice, since it’s so damn fun. Each game ends on a depressing but intriguing note, and each new chapter draws you further into the darkness.