Re-entering The Room - Does Fireproof's classic tale of puzzle boxes still stand up?
Does it ever
There's still something deeply unsettling about The Room. Where the games that came after it in the series have built up the mythos of the null element, that first trip into the unknown still has enough to make your spine tingle.
Part of that is down to the much narrower scope of the game. While it's called The Room, a more apt title might be The Box. In the sequels you're moving between destinations, here though your focus is on a single object.
Although calling it a single object is a little disingenuous. The box in question is a series of nested puzzles, opening and closing, blooming like a bizarre clockwork flower. And each layer brings more questions and more unease.
It's easy to forget how revolutionary The Room was when it first came out, and while its sequels might be technically more competent, it still more than stands on its own today.
Part hidden object game, part point and click adventure, and part an experiment in the tactile nature of smartphones, everything about the game came together to create something unique.
Not just mechanically though. The dim Victoriana on show, the hauntingly gothic Poe-esque narrative, the ideas that the game sucks in from the likes of Lovecraft and Barker - each of these is a piece of a much larger puzzle.
At its heart The Room is a game about the tragedy of ambition, of pushing too close to secrets that should remain uncovered. That fits it firmly into the realms of science-fiction, along such luminaries as Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde.
It also means there's a morality on show here. Even while you're solving the puzzles, you're repeating the mistakes of the games sort-of-antagonist. You're making the same discoveries he did, unpicking the pieces of a mystery with little heed for where it might take you.
And it's that which becomes the driving force of the game. For all of its trappings and gloom, it's an experience about human curiosity. About looking for things that shouldn't be there, then combining them to push deeper into something forbidden.
The games that came after The Room tried to show you more of the strikingly bad things that your actions had uncovered, but in a way those visions tended to dilute the sticky feeling of wrong-doing.
They're still amazing, and you should definitely play them, but by widening the scope, by showing what's lurking in the dark, they lessen the imaginative leaps the player is making.
The Room still stands as one of the best games available on the App Store. More than that, it transcends the idea of what a mobile game can be. It's an experience that only really works in the palm of your hand, and there's something truly special about that.
Where other horror games might try and make you scream with jump scares, The Room simply tells you there's something waiting for you in the dark. And the horrible truth is, it knows you're going to go looking.
Looking for more about The Room? Well check out our review of the latest game right here