Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle is the official sequel to “Rooms: The Main Building” which was released back in 2008 and 2010 on both the NDS and the Wii respectively. The original Rooms game was one of my favourite games back on the NDS as it was so original in its design as it mixed FMV with sliding puzzles. A few weeks ago Handmade Game, with the help of PrismPlus CO., Ltd, released Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle on PS4 and PSVR. I couldn’t resist picking it up and seeing how the game had evolved from its 2008 prequel.
HandMade Game self-published Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle in Korea, with PrismPlus Co., Ltd. publishing the title in Japan and the West.
The story of Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle itself is rather interesting, not the story of the game, but the story behind how it came to be. Referring back to an interview with www.Paulsemel.com back in 2015 and comments made by HandMade game on the Steam Forum a month later, it appears the game almost didn’t come out! Developers HandMade game and Kuno Interactive, along with the publisher Com2US, actually released the second “Rooms” game on mobile a few years prior to the PC release under the name “The Mansion: A Puzzle of Rooms”. However, just like most mobile puzzle games, it was plagued with microtransactions which made it more of a ‘pay-to-win’ style of game and thus lost a lot of interest with the general public.
Thankfully, Handmade Games managed to obtain the rights back for their creation and proceeded to port the game over to PC. They made it a one-time purchase with no microtransactions and renamed it to “Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle“. They didn’t just simply port it over though, they added 44 more levels, four new mechanics, stripped all in-app purchases, completed the story, added controller support and overall made it a much better game to play. It appears the mobile version has also been removed from both app stores and is no longer available for download – hopefully this means we may see a Rooms 3 at some point as well!
Sorry to go off on a tangent, I just thought it was quite interesting how the game was almost crucified by the demands of a publisher until it was salvaged and saved a few years later and put back together into the game the developers originally envisioned – only with more content. Now, onto the game itself…
Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle‘s story is quite dark and the ending I’ve achieved so far hasn’t really got any lighter if I’m honest! Our protagonist is a young girl named Anna who strikes a strong familiarity with a Tim Burton-style character such as Coraline. Anna awakes one night after reading about a mysterious toymaker and his house – this instantly brought back memories of The 7th Guest with its haunting story of the crazy toymaker! Unable to sleep, Anna heads outside and finds that the toymakers house has magically appeared right outside of her front door.
Being that Anna is rather curious, she grabs her lantern and proceeds inside in order to investigate. Much to her distress and dismay, upon entering the mansion, the doors slam shut and Anna finds herself trapped inside. The mansion isn’t like any you’ve ever seen – each room is built from moving segments that must be moved into certain positions in order to allow you to access the door to the next room. Anna must venture through 144 rooms while adapting to all the new mechanics being thrown into the mix as well as avoiding the evil cursed puppets.
If you’ve never played either of the Rooms games before then you’re in for a treat with Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle. Back when the original game came out it was released on both the NDS and the Wii, the NDS offered touch controls and the Wii had a ‘virtual cursor’ with the use of the Wiimote. When the original game was re-released in 2014 on Steam, the game received full mouse support and with the advent of Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle getting released the following year, controller support was added too. On both PSVR and the PS4 we only have the option of using the DS4 as the controller – no Move controllers. Thankfully the developers had already optimised the game for the controller so there are no issues here at all with the controls.
Speaking of which, the game is as simple as you could imagine. You move Anna around with the Left Control Stick, you perform actions with the face buttons and you operation various other mechanics such as rotating the segments with the shoulder buttons. You can also gently make contact with the touchpad for a hint as to where segments should be in the room – not the actual locations, just where ‘A’ segment will be. Also, yeah – you ‘gently make contact’ with it, not push the touchpad in – just lightly stroke for some reason. There are other controller mechanics which come into play later on and in the basement levels but everything has a decent tutorial and you’ll have no issues picking up the game and jumping straight in as the game eases you in gently.
The puzzles themselves are the highlight of the game. I’ve explained ‘what’ you do but not ‘how’ you do it. In the first mansion (there are four of them) you are only tasked with the basic mechanics, move the rooms and get to the exit. To do so, you move Anna around the various segments and then slide the segments around, like those puzzles where you have to slide squares around to form an image. Only this time you’re moving background items so Anna can climb ladders or swap a segment for one without a wall so that she can walk to the next one to obtain a key or an item.
It begins simple but before long you’ll also have a few rooms with evil puppets. These puppets move in the direction you move, so you must be strategic in your movements so that you don’t bump into each other. In later mansions, you’ll also have to rotate segments in order to progress, use bombs to blow up walls, use phones to teleport around, you’ll encounter certain segments that all move at the same time in the same direction, and even use magnets which will attract or repel all the rooms adjacent to it.
That’s not to mention the new mechanics you are given in the basement levels, which are even more difficult! The game never gets boring or repetitive but it certainly does get frustrating and annoying when you get to certain rooms where you just can’t figure out how to perform the slides perfectly. It’s all about trial and error, followed by repeating until you master them!
Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle, unfortunately, utilises a mechanic I really don’t like – as people who have read my Jydge review will know – the three-star grading and progression. First of all, Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle doesn’t stunt progression if you don’t get three stars (or cogs in this instance) but there are trophies around them and I believe the various mansions only unlock when you achieve a certain amount. I never got blocked from progressing though, so I’m not sure what the unlock amounts for the mansions were.
I know what you’re wondering “how do you get one, two or three cogs?” – you have to play the game perfectly… Each unique puzzle can be solved in a certain amount of ‘moves’. Walking around with Anna isn’t counted as a move, neither are some actions like operating the telephone or using the wardrobes. However, other things like rotating the rooms and sliding them around will count as a ‘move’. You have a counter on the left-hand side which counts down to zero – if you complete the room without it hitting zero then you get three cogs. If it gets to zero and it starts a new counter, then you get two cogs. If it gets to zero, starts a new counter, then gets to zero again and starts a new counter one final time, you get one cog. No matter how many moves you do, you will always get at least one cog if you make it to the door.
So, you’re basically aiming to try and complete each room ‘perfectly’ as there is little-to-no room for error. If you’re struggling to get three cogs on a level, try not to instantly search for a guide online. Keep at it and try to work it out yourself as it’s a lot more satisfying.
Jumping back to the mansion now, as I mentioned above, you have four mansions to unlock as you progress through the story. I won’t spoil what’s going to happen as you get further into the rabbit hole but let’s just say that I was a bit shocked at how dark the game got and the various subjects it touched on for a puzzle game. As you progress you will be shown various story-book style cutscenes as it dives deeper into the puppets, what the toymaker wants and what’s actually going on within the mysterious mansion.
Once you’ve completed the main game – or at any time, but after is recommended, you can jump into the secret basement levels by pushing down on the controller. These levels offer more new mechanics and much tougher puzzles. Don’t be worried if some of these puzzles take you between 30-60 minutes with numerous restarts as you work out what you need to do. From being able to use a mobile phone to teleport to any land-line phone, to only being able to move rooms which Anna isn’t stood in. These levels are brutal and will certainly test the skill of any puzzle enthusiast.
One thing I haven’t touched on yet is the VR support. Before I get into that, the game doesn’t really boot up the game in the most elegant of styles. What I mean by that is, when you boot up the game you get the “you need PSVR to play this game, press Cross to continue or Circle to quit” screen, which you get if you try and boot any PSVR title without it being turned on. Now, usually, when you press Circle to cancel this screen, it will loop back to the same screen – as will Cross if PSVR isn’t turned on. However, in Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle (and another game I’m reviewing shortly), pushing Circle on this screen actually forces the game to load up into the non-VR mode. My one suggestion here would be if they could add a front-end menu asking if you want to play in VR or not, or detecting if the VR is turned on as it boots up. Wipeout does that and Dead Secret gives you a menu to pick for example.
Pickiness aside, what’s VR like? For what it is, it works really well. All that happens is your virtual self is sat on the basement manhole cover and you can look around yourself and see the mansion in front of you and the courtyard around you. It’s like Star Child, The Lost Bear, Pop-up Pilgrims etc… in that, you are in a VR world but the gameplay is just happening in front of you. You can’t reach out and grab things or interact with the virtual environment, you just watch as you play the game in its virtual dollhouse. That being said, it’s a nice experience and everything is nice and clear and easy to make out/play. I just personally see the VR side as a bonus extra way to play it rather than a key feature. It’s great though that you have the option to play in or out of VR as it means more people can experience the game and try it out.
I also found that I could concentrate and progress easier whilst in VR as I was immersed in the world as I blocked out real life.
Graphically I really enjoyed Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle. The developers have opted for a much more cartoony look to the character and the environments over the FMV human who was present in the first game. This is due to the fact that Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle is aiming for a more ‘fairytale’ setting rather than the realistic one we saw back in 2008. The soundtrack is also equally as good with the perfect music to set the mood for each of the mansions both in and out of the puzzles. You can also pick up the Soundtrack on PSN here: Official Soundtrack on PSN – Something which I’m going to do tomorrow.
I guess the question is, “is there anything you didn’t like or that you would change”? The answer is yes, I’m afraid. First of all the beginning screen, as I stated above. I would have liked it if a real menu popped up asking if you wish to play in VR or non-VR mode (Like in Dead Secret) or the game to just detect if it’s turned on as it boots up and chose the mode automatically based on that fact. Secondly, I would have maybe liked some hints in the game. You can stroke the touchpad to see where segments ‘will be’ when completed correctly, but no hints on what goes where. Thirdly, the original game had the ability to create your own puzzles on the NDS and share them with a friend. It would be amazing if the developers could add that to this game – or if not, add it to Rooms 3?
Finally, there is currently an issue with the NA and EU versions of the game in regards to trophies. Now before I explain what the issue is – I’ve been in touch with the publisher regularly over this and I’ve been assured that a patch is on its way soon. Not all of the trophies are unlocking correctly. You’ll complete a mansion or certain criteria and nothing will happen, then when you trigger another trophy, it may randomly go back and unlock some of the ones you achieved but had never unlocked previously. The trophies in question seem quite random as I can’t unlock ones that others have and others can’t unlock ones I have. Once this is resolved I’ll update this text and let you know on Twitter (Follow me @GamePittReviews) – so if you’re looking at picking up the game purely for the platinum, you may want to wait for the patch. Otherwise, if you don’t care about trophies, the rest of the game works perfectly.
All trophies are now working as intended if you grab the latest patch as of 24th July 2018!
Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle is a very challenging puzzle game with a very dark and sordid tale to tell. Work your way through 144 rooms of some of the trickiest puzzles I’ve experienced so far this generation. Even though the premise of each room is the same (get to the exit), every single puzzle is different and will make your brain overload as you try to figure out the solutions! The added PSVR mode is a nice addition and offers a different way to experience the game but it doesn’t add anything more to the gameplay other than turning your room into the mansion’s courtyard. As such, I would recommend this game to any puzzle fans and highly recommend it to fans of the original game back in 2008 on the NDS.
Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle£11.99
- Very challenging puzzles + a lot of them
- Interesting storyline with a dark undertone
- The music is perfectly suited to the game (plus you can buy it on PSN for 99p!)
- Just when you think you've mastered it, the game will throw in new mechanics and obstacles
- The VR mode is quite relaxing as it shuts out the real world
- No real hint option, so could lead to frustration
- No menu asking if you want VR or not, just the 'you don't have VR connected' screen - which could be confusing to some people
- It's a shame the Level creator from the first game wasn't within the sequel