The Room isn't your typical App Store success story. It's a complex beast, a multi-layered mix of adventure game and puzzler with tactile controls and a story that unfolds in sinister snatches.

It won Apple's coveted Game of the Year prize in 2012, and earned Fireproof Studios a BAFTA for Best British Game, beating off competition from the likes of Dear Esther, Lego The Lord of the Rings, and Super Hexagon in the process.

It even nabbed a Pocket Gamer Gold Award.

It's one of the best-reviewed games on both the Amazon and Apple App Stores, but all of that acclaim still comes as something of a surprise to Barry Meade, Fireproof's commercial director and co-founder.

"We were absolutely gob-smacked at the reception the game got from the public, and in particular the reviews on the App Store."

The story of The Room is a strange one, then, and like most strange stories it all began with a Hollywood adaptation of a Clive Barker novella.

Room at the top

Hellraiser might be best remembered for its sadomasochistic abominations with pins rammed in their skulls, but the MacGuffin at the centre of the film is a puzzle box that unlocks a gateway to another realm.

"Our initial inspiration for the game was The Lament Configuration, the puzzle box from the '80s horror movie Hellraiser."

"We just thought, 'Remember that box? Every kid wanted that box when we were young. That would be a cool toy on a touch-based device', and really it just went from there."

The tactility of The Room is one of its strongest points. At the centre of the game sits a puzzle box. You poke and prod it through the screen, twisting the levers, pulling the pulleys, and turning the keys.

Slowly but surely it opens up, reshaping into some new combination of puzzles to overcome.

"Mark (Hamilton, design director and co-founder of Fireproof) came up with the idea of making a game inspired by the Hellraiser puzzle box crossed with Chinese puzzle boxes, where you solved the puzzles by using your finger to push sliders and pull switches.

"In our research for the game we uncovered a lot of antique furniture and ancient devices and timepieces that further inspired what was possible and these became the later boxes in the game."

From those first ideas, the path to the completed version of The Room that hit the App Store on September 18th, 2012, was a reasonably smooth one.

"Compared to other games we've worked on, making The Room was actually easy and pressure-free. Honestly, if you want to hear something really difficult from development I'd have to make something up as it genuinely was a joyous period for us."

Within six weeks of those first discussions about Hellraiser and Chinese puzzles, a working prototype of the game that would eventually become The Room had been built, and according to Meade not much changed between then and the game's release.

Working within a tight budget, Fireproof focused on the mechanics and the setting to create an atmosphere, zooming-in on the box itself and reducing the titular chamber to little more than a place for you to stand while you considered your next move.

"We wanted to make a very Spartan game that didn't rely on characters or a big storyline or any of that stuff - we really wanted the game to be driven by the mechanics of the gameplay.

"We didn't have the budget for voice acting or anything else anyway, so we designed a game we knew a two-man team could make on their own that didn't require excessive attention or energy from lots of people."

The efforts of the team were ploughed into the setting, the controls, and the camera, making sure each of these three key parts worked together in harmony. The end result is a uniquely unsettling and engaging experience.

"We worked hard on getting the control scheme right, and I think the mood and atmosphere of the game sat really well with the gameplay we were pushing."

"It wasn't hugely intentional - we just like creepy horror stuff and Victoriana, so we wanted to make it with a whiff of the historical and supernatural."

Room for improvement?

A whiff is the right word. The Room presents a baffling tale of experimentation and alienation. Oh, and mad scientists searching for a secret and blasphemous element.

The narrative sits on the periphery, teasing the player with potential secrets but only posing more questions when you feel like answers might be in reach.

It's only at the very end of The Room that the mysterious, slightly aloof nature of the game frustrates more than intrigues, and that's the one thing that Meade wishes he could change.

"I know we all wished we could have made the ending a bit more stylish but we ran out of money and spent almost all we had on the meat of the game, so had little time to do the final section justice.

"On the one hand I think that was one area where we could honestly look at it and think, 'I wish we could have done that better' but on the other, we know how up against it we were and so are still proud of what we managed to produce."

It's a well-deserved pride. The Room has sold more than 1.4 million copies in the 11 months since it was released, won handfuls of Game of the Year awards, and a sequel will hopefully be out before the year ends.

Its story is one of commercial and critical success; of mechanics and setting combining to create something spectacular and unique; of a small, passionate team working within its limits to build a game with more imagination and novel ideas than most of the rest of the App Store combined.

"We didn't even expect to make any money, never mind see a success," Meade says. "I can honestly say it smashed our expectations to pieces then danced on the graves of our fears."