The Room: Old Sins
By: Fireproof Games
If you’re a puzzle or adventure game fan who owns an iOS device, you’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard of Fireproof’s The Room series, and chances are you’ve played at least one of their games by now. They consist of realistic puzzle boxes that you unlock and pull apart with your finger by turning keys, sliding sliders, pressing buttons, and so much more. The materials look believable, and interacting directly with your hand instead of a mouse or controller makes it a very tactile experience. On top of that, there are satisfying puzzles and a mysterious underlying story, usually told through found notes. I thoroughly enjoyed all three of the games previously released and even replayed the first two on my iPad, since I only had a small iPhone when they first came out. So, like I said in my preview of The Room: Old Sins, I was both excited to hear that Fireproof was working on a new game, but also wondering if they had enough up their sleeves to keep the series from feeling worn. And it turns out, my fears were unwarranted, as Old Sins brings fresh ideas while retaining the essence of the original game.
First, bear with me as I talk a bit about the previous three games. The first one took place entirely on a table in the center of a room. Sometimes the table itself is part of the puzzle, and sometimes you’re working on a box on top of it. You spend your time rotating the camera around it and zooming in on details, noticing little odd things and feeling like a master sleuth when everything comes together. Every time I go back to it after a couple of years away, it still manages to trip me up because of how many little details there are to find. Its an incredibly clever game with a compactness I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere before or since. Tinkering around with each puzzle box and discovering all its secrets feels like magic. It truly is a game that stands the test of time. The second in the series moves away from the table, perhaps earning its name, as each chapter places you in a new room, slowly revealing parts of it as you solve more puzzles. Instead of abstract ideas and puzzle boxes that could be anything, you now have recognizable objects like a cannon, model ship, a card table, a lab and so much more. It’s not as compact as the original game, but the puzzles still make you think and there’s plenty of hidden switches to find. The multiple rooms and interactive objects within each one make it feel like a much bigger game. So where could they possibly go from there? Why, an entire walkable mansion, of course. With The Room Three, Fireproof went all out, making a full-blown adventure game where the rooms don’t just appear out of thin air. You actively open the doors that lead to them and walk around from one to another, even to multiple floors. It’s impressive in every sense of the word, but the scope made it feel a little less like The Room. Perhaps to keep it manageable, the main game was a bit easier than the previous two games, making up for it with bonus content that requires expert sleuthing to complete. The Room Three was a wonderful experience for me, but by the end, all the walking around to see what I missed became a bit tiresome. As much as I liked it, I began to miss that compactness of the original game.
So that brings us to Old Sins. What could they possibly do after giving us an entire mansion to explore? Well, how about another one, only this time more in the spirit of the original game? This new standalone story expands on all the mechanics we discovered in the trilogy, while at the same time going back to its roots, what made The Room so special in the first place. What I mean is that the central table is back. The game takes place in the attic of Waldegrave Manor. You’re here to look for a couple that went missing, and you searched the entire mansion except for the attic. That’s where the game begins, with a creepy dollhouse waiting to be explored. Using your trusty old friend, the eyepiece, you can go inside the rooms of the dollhouse, looking for items you can then bring back out and affix to the structure itself. Each time you add something to it, you unlock a new room. But whereas previous games would have you stay in a room and complete all its puzzles before moving on, Old Sins is less tidy. At any one time, you might have three separate rooms unlocked and available to explore. If you find an item in one room and can’t determine its use, you may need to take it to another room. In this regard, it’s more like a point-and-click adventure, but without the tedious running around between the different environments.
It still feels like a big game because you have a whole manor to explore, but the layout is much more user-friendly. Jumping between rooms is easy and painless, and examining the outside of the dollhouse feels like we’re back in the original game, looking for details we may have missed. It combines the best of both worlds and feels like a better fit for mobile than The Room Three‘s walking about. They managed to capture a sense of vastness and exploration without compromising on the core of what the series is known for — puzzle boxes. Even though we’re once again exploring a huge mansion, the mansion itself is a puzzle box. And it’s super satisfying to spin the camera around it, looking at all the details, seeing all the parts that are missing and anticipating the moment you find one of those objects.
At first glance, you might think the realistic graphics got downgraded, but that’s actually intentional to make the dollhouse look like a toy, a model. But once you enter a room, that photorealism is back, with wood, metal and stone all looking good enough to touch — and thankfully you can do that, since this is a touchscreen game! Each room also has a very distinct theme — from the study, to the kitchen, to the curiosity room, and more — that makes them unique. One really nice touch is that there’s a garden you can access eventually and, once you open the gate to it, moving the camera will allow you to see the change from a model gazebo to the real gazebo. It’s fun to play around with, and it’s this attention to detail that makes Fireproof’s games stand out. And of course, as can be expected, the soundtrack pulls it all together, as every gear turning, glass breaking and wood sliding sounds exactly as it should. It’s done so well that you don’t even think about it while it’s happening, but I highly recommend wearing headphones for complete immersion.
As with the previous games, it’s going to be a much better experience on a large iPad versus a small iPhone. Interacting with the objects and watching everything unpack or fold in on itself is just better on a bigger screen. My enjoyment of the series as a whole increased tenfold when I got an iPad, so if you have one, definitely use it. But what parts I did play on my iPhone worked just fine. It also has flawless iCloud sync and multiple profiles, so you can play across several devices and family members can have their own separate games.
While the eyepiece is not used so heavily for finding clues this time around, some familiar mechanics return. Once again, you’ll use it on shimmering surfaces as x-ray goggles, allowing you to see and interact with a puzzle that would otherwise be invisible. The glass particles from The Room Three make their return, as well. When you see them, you can sort of shrink yourself down and go inside a miniature as though it’s life-sized. This mechanic is used heavily here, which makes sense, and some of the items you’ll get to go inside are so memorable that I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you. The eyepiece also acts as a sort of hot spot locator if you’re stuck, as you can see fingerprints and markings near puzzles.
Like I said, you don’t necessarily finish a room before moving onto the next. Sometimes, you’ll even have to do something in one room to affect another one. It makes everything come together really nicely and feel connected, cohesive. But I should mention that the individual puzzles never get all that difficult. Looking at each puzzle separately, this might be the easiest game of the series so far. Some puzzles might even seem like filler, but it’s hard to be disappointed with a game that looks and feels this good. I was like a child opening a birthday present every time I unlocked one of the game’s mysterious artifacts. I thoroughly enjoyed myself on my initial playthrough, which took about five hours. Every time I reached the end of the chapter and had the option to continue or quit, I kept choosing to continue, despite knowing I should pace myself and savor it. And I only used hints a couple of times when I just couldn’t see what to do next. Both times, I missed something obvious and felt silly for caving and using those hints. I recommend avoiding any help if possible, as the game is much more satisfying to complete on your own.
The story also seemed more straightforward this time, with all the writing collected in a book that fills in new pages each time you find a new book in a room. Through the writing, you can see a conversation between Abigail and Edward, the missing couple. Instead of piecing everything together through scattered notes, you can read the whole book at once and make out what’s happening. I think it also leaves room for a sequel, but I have no information about whether we can expect one. In any case, I appreciated this way of telling the story, as in previous games I would often forget what I read by the time I completed the game, so I compiled them all here for easy reading. It’s nice to be able to catch up in each room, as you might be playing the game over several days. In many ways, they took pains to make this game more user-friendly, requiring a little less effort on the player’s part. I’m sure this will disappoint some fans while pleasing others.
Now, as much as I enjoyed the game, I do have some critiques. There was the occasional anticlimactic moment where I worked hard to get inside some object, anticipating something spectacular, just to find one easily accessible object waiting for me. One of my favorite parts of the game ended this way, and I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t more to it. But most of the time, there’s proper payoff for your efforts. And again, any disappointment comes from the high level of quality I’ve come to expect from Fireproof. Knowing what they’ve made in the past, it’s hard not to want or expect them to outdo themselves in every aspect. For instance, after all the bonus content in The Room Three that could have been its own game, players might be sad that there’s no bonus content or alternate endings here.
You’ll enjoy Old Sins more if you look at it as its own game instead of comparing it to the others. Because of the scope, nothing is quite as compact as with the original game, so you have fewer of the “hidden in plain sight” puzzles. But it makes up for that with the sense of exploration and wonder as you unlock a new room or go inside a new miniature. I’m trying to avoid mentioning my favorite parts so you can be just as surprised by them as I was. Despite all the Room-inspired games that have been releasing lately, the series that started it all still looks and feels the best. I have no idea where they can go from here, and part of me is still hoping for a true sequel to the original game, a super-compact one that takes place all on one table. But I just know that whatever they come up with next will ooze quality and be worth my time. I envy those of you who are just starting to play Old Sins and still have all of Waldegrave Manor’s secrets to discover. If you have any interest in puzzle or adventure games, just stop thinking about it and grab the game here.
And if you need help with the game, try my complete step-by-step walkthrough guide here.