A surprise release by PrismPlus Co. Ltd, Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle just came out for Playstation 4 and comes complete with Playstation VR support. I had heard good things when it came out on PC, so it was high time to take this puzzler for a spin.
The Unsolvable Puzzle is actually the second game in the series, and I mostly remember seeing footage of the first game – which came out back in 2014. The second one came out a year later, and both were developed by Handmade Games – also the publisher of the PS4 version if you’re in Korea. Their gameplay is quite similar, though visually they use a slightly different style – more on that later.
In Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle, you’re a young girl called Anna who wakes up at night after reading a book about a mysterious toymaker and his house. After she gets out of bed, she finds said house to be right outside her own, and she ventures inside. What follows is a series of well over 100 levels (144, to be exact) in which she has to make her way to the exit each time as you control her from a 2.5D perspective (with extra depth when playing in VR, obviously).
Things start simple enough, as each level is made up of little boxes that form individual rooms for Anna to navigate, and a talking lantern teaches you the ropes. You can slide these little “box rooms” around to help Anna get to the exit, but pretty soon that won’t be enough. You’ll have to manipulate and use objects within the rooms, and you’ll have to do things in the right order, if you’re to be successful on the later levels. After a dozen or so levels, you’ll start scratching your head and restarting – which is when Rooms really comes into its own as a puzzle game.
Very often, the background (behind the little box rooms) provides a few hints as to the correct locations for each room, but blindly putting them there is rarely enough. The sliding dynamic is of course very familiar to anyone who, like me, grew up playing those little sliding puzzles with an open space – arrange them in the right order, and a figure would correctly display. Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle uses this mechanic, but adds its own gameplay mechanics into the mix. In some cases, that might mean that a wall or ceiling is missing, but there’s nothing on the other side – shuffling rooms around will then allow you to change rooms with Anna.
Speaking of which – Anna is animated much like a colorful cartoon character, a nice contrast to the generally darker shades and narrative tone in the rest of the game. This is different from the first game, which I believe used a real actor whose image was captured and put into the game. I really loved that aesthetic (it reminded me of the classic adventure game Toonstruck), but understand the need to switch to a different look with Anna – as The Unsolvable Puzzle is supposed to feel much more like a fairytale.
New gameplay aspects are introduced gradually as you complete levels, and include things like keys and ladders pretty early on. This complicates things and makes it harder to complete levels in the minimum number of steps possible – which is needed to get the maximum amount of three puzzle pieces per level. You’ll want to try and get these for the best possible ending, but you’ll quickly learn you might want to just try and get through all the levels first. You can never really get stuck, but you might get so off track that the game will suggest restarting the level – a good indicator of how you’re doing is that there’s always a number that tells you in how many steps the level can be completed.
VR support is optional for Rooms, and it’s not needed for your enjoyment of the game. The core mechanic works just fine without it, so this isn’t a game for the VR purist. It’s a bit like Castlestorm VR in that way – it’s the same game you get on a regular PS4, but it’s a nice added bonus to be able to play it in VR. And unlike Castlestorm, you won’t have to buy two separate games to enjoy this. If you’re into creative puzzle games, then this is very much recommended. Its flaw is that sliding puzzles definitely aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I found the creative approach to them used in this game to more than make up for it.