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About the Story
You awake, finding yourself upon a hard, cool, plasticky surface. Placing your hands against the smooth floor you hoist yourself up. There's nothing here. Nothing at all. For you have found yourself in what appears to be a completely empty room. The floor, ceiling, walls - all white. There's not even a visible join between the walls and the floor. Nothing here. No little items, no handy key for escape - nothing at all, but you and the room. So how will you get out?
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Number of Reviews: 5
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The central conceit for this game is an interesting one -- you're in a classic locked room puzzle, with the twist that at least at first, the room is featureless. Various actions result in features appearing that you can interact with to escape.
My enjoyment of the game was very mixed. The puzzles are not particularly difficult, which I appreciated, but examining every object to see whether it had magically changed this time got old really quickly. (Spoiler - click to show)It gave me a nice sense of accomplishment to see a screen appear when I pressed a hidden panel. It was less enjoyable when different components appeared on the screen depending on how many times I looked at it or what else I had found in the room. It left me with the feeling that either the player character was exceedingly unobservant (which could have been humorous if it had been made explicit, but it wasn't), or the room was frustratingly unstable. The instability wasn't severe enough to be really disconcerting or interesting, at least for me, so it just felt tedious. Being spoon-fed puzzles in little bits at a time made the game feel extremely linear. Despite exploration seeming the central puzzle, you have to explore in a pre-ordained order, not discovering anything new unless you have done exactly what the writer wanted beforehand.
The game felt a bit rough and unfinished...for example, if something you do causes a feature to appear on, say, the ceiling, you cannot look at the ceiling to find it. You have to remember what that feature was called and examine it by name, rather than just looking at the ceiling.
The in-game help file is odd and unhelpful. I would have minded the condescending humor less if it had actually given me more useful hints on how to solve the puzzles.
The Empty Room begins with a contradiction; if the room is empty, how are you in it? Who you are is described in such a way to whet your appetite, but the meal never comes. That, unfortunately, is symbolic of the entire game. Many times TER whets your appetite with interesting descriptions, samples of high-tech (and low-tech), but there's no follow-through. There is no greater resonance.
Instead, what you have is a game that successfully encourages you to keep playing by gradually revealing changes in your environment. It's very linear, but this is one of a few games where the linearity works. Even after having played and won, I'm still not clear on what I just did, so while it's engaging, and challenging, it's not terribly clear. I suspect this is another part of the bare-bones mentality that never bothered with the answering why you are in the room, why you are dressed like that, and all the other big questions that will bother you while you're playing.
With all that said, the implementation is a bit, shall I say, odd. If there is something on the floor, for instance, the room description will not tell you that. Oh no. You have the examine the floor. The same thing goes with complex objects that you discover. You have to examine sides, walls, ad nauseum. The same thing goes when you do something. The game will not always inform you of the results, so it's back to examining things. This often places you in a somewhat frustrating and tedious cycle of "Do X. Examine Y." Now all of this would absolutely sink this game IF the puzzles were hard. Fortunately they are not, and so you can make progress quickly.
When you do win, the ending itself is probably the greatest let down since winning 1942, or the "endings" of Twin Peaks and The Blair Witch Project. There is a momentary elision of joy, but nothing is explained.
TER deserves three stars, because it can be won, it is challenging without being frustrating, and despite its linearity and its one-room nature (arguably), I played it to the end, and I managed to win.
And yes, the help system? Avoid it if you can.
This game drops you in an empty room. Not only do you not know how you got there- you don't know who you are, which begs the question about why you're even trying to escape.
The game consists of examining various objects until something changes. The changes are arbitrary- sometimes if you touch a box it will turn into an arcade machine, or if you examine a panel, a switch will appear. The game basically has you examining various things until the next flag triggers and you have something new to mess with.
There is no real story to speak of, so anyone looking for any of that will be disappoined. The escape puzzle is random and arbitrary, being neither intuitive or hinted. Nor is this truly a one-room game. (Spoiler - click to show) At one point you go to an alternate "black room" . It's impossible to get stuck in this game, and the game isn't difficult at all, since there are not many things to interact with at any given time. Some things are cheap. (Spoiler - click to show) Examining a board says there's an indentation. Examining the indentation says "it's just big enough to fit the screwdriver in it." Though the game never tells you the screwdriver is there on it's own. . In fact, many of the changes in the room aren't reported by the parser until you examine the item that changed.
It's an experiment in evolving atmosphere, but perhaps if the atmosphere had some reason to evolve, or some point it was trying to make, it would be better. I use Shade as an example, becasue the atmosphere changes as well, except that at the end it starts to all make sense. This game never gets to the making sense point.
The help file is funny, as the menu options have humerous responses, but it isn't overly helpful.
The game seems more suited to a programmer than to a player. Surely it was an interesting endeavor to code, and if you think about the coding exercises, it might be interesting. But with no plot, a linear and arbitray solitary puzzle, and no personality to the protagonist, you have to wonder "what's the point?". I would reccommend putting some kind of explination as to who/what you are, and why you're in this room, what the room is, and why you need to escape, or at least a reason why everything is changing out of the blue.
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