The Empty Room

by Matthew Alger profile

One room/Science Fiction
2010

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Number of Reviews: 6
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An intriguing premise that did not deliver., April 8, 2022

I have struggled to give a score to this piece. On one hand I wanted to like it, I wanted it to let me into its secrets and give me something to latch on at the end. On the other hand I often felt it failed me as a game and left me with the sensation that the plot did not live up to what it built.

But first things first, this is a puzzle game, a "escape" game where your purpose is to manipulate the environment until you can get out of it. It has a good premise, if maybe not the most original of all: the room is absolutely featureless and it's through examining it that different devices may be linearly unveiled, then manipulated until the exit can be found and reached. This can be done quickly once the workings of the devices are understood, but it also can be frustrating if the player loses the thread along the way.

The writing is clear enough to convey the gameplay and to engage the player at the beginning. There are great details and touches there (like your own clothes (Spoiler - click to show)and how they may change colors to match the room, some details on a late game item ((Spoiler - click to show)the towel, what it hints to) or whatever is displayed (Spoiler - click to show)on the screens but at the end of the game everything is left dangling and unsolved, with nary a lead for the player to guess the meaning of it all.

That may be a respectable author choice a but its the implementation that fails the most: key elements fail to be mentioned in the room description once uncovered, changes in the devices may go unnoticed by the player and the gameplay risks degenerating into a "examine everything and touch everything" fest once the player becomes lost. What I disliked the most, however, was a "guess the verb" fight I had right on the last movement of the game. The hint system confirmed that I knew exactly what the character was supposed to do, but not what I, the player, must type. A walkthrough would have gone a long way here.

I can recommend this game to anyone that is patient, has a couple of hours to spare, is looking for a straightforward puzzle with some guessing involved and - more importantly - can lower the expectations the beginning of the game may create. Two stars: would be three had not I become frustrated.