Long before you kids in your short pants and fashionable haircuts were escaping escape rooms, there was one developer far ahead of that curve. In 2012, Fireproof Games released their first game in their The Room series of puzzle games. Last week they just released The Room 4: Old Sins on PC, and it’s a doozy.
You may well have played Old Sins when it came out on electronic telephones in 2018. Such is the way of Fireproof that they release the millions-selling Room games on mobile first, with PC ports coming a good while later. Except, well, they’re not really ports, which is why this is worth your attention. They’re remakes, from the ground up.
Each game is based on the concept of a puzzle box, writ increasingly large and elaborate with each iteration. In the shiniest of shiny pre-rendered graphics (as we used to call them), ornate wooden curios impossibly unfold, slide, rearrange and majestically transform, as you poke and prod, press buttons, turn wheels, and slide in that errant cog. By the third game, imaginatively titled The Room Three, this had spread into exploring interconnecting rooms, teleporting to lighthouses, and using magical eye lenses that allowed you to be shrunk down and appear inside the intricate puzzle-furniture.
In some ways, The Room 4: Old Sins reels that feature creep back in a little, yet manages to feel like an advancement of the format all the same. Instead of roaming free about a mansion, trying to remember what the bloody hell is going on its almost incomprehensible story of “the null” and warring scientists and… honestly, I really don’t know — I’ve played them all multiple times and never made head nor tail of it — this is all, technically, in one room.
In fact, it’s all in one dollhouse. It’s just, with that funny old lens thing, you get transported into each of the mini-mansion’s rooms, and solve the dozens and dozens of interconnected puzzles within.
There’s so much to this, with interweaving elements spread across multiple locations, and then applied to the overall dollhouse itself too. As you finish each room it’s overtaken by the black tendrils that are, maybe?, the null, you feel a step closer to completion, only for another room to be revealed and an armful of new inventory objects, locked cabinets, and transforming wooden keys to deal with. This is all delivered with the unnerving sound effects and rumbling background menace that underlines the series’ unsettling ambience.
And as I said, this isn’t simply a port of the mobile version from three years back. According to Fireproof, it’s how long it takes them to rebuild the entire game from scratch, this time to take advantage of the vastly more powerful PC graphics and indeed to make it playable with mouse, rather than a finger.
“You may know that at Fireproof we don’t port our games to PC but instead remaster them from the ground up for a new audience and platform,” explain Fireproof. “[We] recreate pretty much 100% of our artwork at much higher resolution as well as refitting & re-lighting the entire game world.”
It’s something I appreciate. Not just because it looks damned great, but because that three years is just about long enough for me to completely forget all the puzzles from the first time I’ve played it, so I can enjoy it all over again. I’ve been doing that the last few days, and having such a good time doing it. It’s out on Steam now.