Fireproof’s “The Room” series of puzzle/escape room games makes the leap to virtual reality with The Room VR – A Dark Matter. Out for multiple VR platforms including PSVR, we tested the game using an Oculus Quest headset.
Of course, The Room has been the series that put developer Fireproof on the map. Their innovative use of touch screen technology to interact with a game world without needing a traditional controller made the original games a series of hit games for mobile and tablet platforms. This was helped by mature game design, which made sure the games transcended the ‘casual’ domain that so many mobile titles inhabit.
Although the games were converted to more traditional mouse controls for PC, A Dark Matter marks the first time they’re taking the series to a vastly different medium, and it’s up to you as a VR Sherlock Holmes-like detective to solve the mystery and find out what happened in a missing persons case. The case gets laid out to you in a (1908) police station, which also acts as a tutorial for the rest of the game – explaining the controls and various mechanics.
The setting then shifts to a location filled with archeology-related objects that your missing person was working on – many of which eventually become parts of the bigger puzzle but act as smaller puzzle challenges in the meantime. Completing one puzzle often gives you access to another puzzle, or an object you need to complete a puzzle you were previously stuck on. To help you, you also have access to a special lens that allows you to peer through surfaces and see what’s underneath – often crucial to your ability to solve a puzzle.
These are familiar mechanics to veterans of the previous The Room games, and they’ll feel right at home. The audiovisual vibe of the three main locations you visit look and feel like they fit in with the series as a whole, with the usual multitude of puzzles and highly detailed visuals where a hint can be tucked away in the smallest of corners. There’s some clever use of VR in how some puzzles and interactions use sense of scale to convey something you can’t have on a tablet game, but I’ll leave it to you to experience this first hand. A Dark Matter may not be the most realistic game in the franchise because of it, but it’s a creative new use of the puzzles that the series is beloved for.
Moving around the rooms in VR unfortunately doesn’t mean you’re walking around from puzzle to puzzle in real life, as roomscale gameplay (most likely as a result of PSVR compatibility) isn’t supported. To deliver a true ‘escape room’ feel that feels like the next step forward for the franchise, so it’s a shame the Quest version – with its wireless capabilities – doesn’t support it. On the plus side, it’s a visually very impressive game for the Quest.
The Oculus touch controllers are a great fit for the series, which has always had natural interaction as part of its formula. But instead of pushing, pulling and turning through a touch screen interface, you’re now physically grabbing and manipulating things in a virtual world, which feels like a logical next step. Hopefully at some point hand tracking will get to a point where we won’t even need controllers, but until then the Touch feels like an excellent alternative. There are some truly great and immersive ways of interacting with the environment and puzzles in the game, which will make going back to a touch or mouse interface seem like a big step back.
As usual, the puzzle design and progression is well done, with a hint system in place that ensures it’s difficult to get overly stuck or frustrated. Replay value, as with most escape room/puzzle games, is limited, so unless you plan on sharing the experience with others that is something to keep in mind when looking at the price tag for the game (which is around 30 Dollars/Euros). Having said that, for fans of The Room this is a must-play, and it’s one of the top puzzle games on the Quest.