On paper, Rooms: The Main Building sounds about as much fun as a three-hour slideshow entitled ‘Artex – Swirly Ceilings through the Ages’. That’s because it’s based on those godawful tile-sliding puzzles where you have to rearrange a picture. However, Rooms manages to rise above its inauspicious roots to offer some fairly sophisticated DS puzzling.
Cast as Mr. X, you’re flung into a peculiar steampunky city that’s a bit New York, a bit London. For reasons not made totally clear, the only way home is to find golden jigsaw pieces, achieved by navigating through dozens of tile-slide puzzles (the titular ‘rooms’) and a handful of point ’n’ click segments (to call them puzzles would be generous, as they’re painfully easy).
The neat twist on the well-worn tile-sliding mechanic is that although you can only move the square you’re standing in, and can’t always walk between adjacent tiles, you can warp between them using wardrobes, phones or subway trains. Similarly, items such as keys and candles grant access to blocked tiles, while pumps evacuate flooded squares. For a further challenge, you’re awarded gold status for a room by making sure the image in the tiles’ background is correctly aligned when you get to the exit.
The game has a great learning curve, throwing in new elements at just the right time (though the hint system is pretty useless if you do get stuck). And while there are only a hundred puzzles, completists will want to chase gold status on all the levels. Whether through design or the restrictions of the DS screen, some rooms must be scrolled through as they disappear off the page, which isn’t massively user-friendly, but on a superficial level this is a nice-looking game. Mr. X reminds us of the rotoscoped original Prince of Persia, and there’s a fair bit of detail in the levels even if they do all look very similar.
Hardened puzzle fans could probably rattle through this in an afternoon or two, but it’s worth trying out because it’s such a fresh take on a stale idea. It’s also a game that’s perfectly suited to portable, touchscreen gaming. You should consider making room for Rooms in your DS.
Apr 5, 2010