When we were figuring out who was going to cover what game at Hudson's Gamers' Day, one of the titles that we knew very little about (okay, nothing) was listed only as Rooms. Rooms, what's Rooms?
Never being too sure about what you're going to have to preview can be slightly daunting. For all we knew it could have been a Japanese flower potting simulator. But luckily it wasn't, and Rooms: The Main Building, a rather charming puzzle game, ended up being one of the favorites of the day.
Puzzle fans, please continue on.
Rooms: The Main Building (Nintendo DS, Wii)
As I mentioned before, Rooms: The Main Building is a puzzle game. The premise is that the main character receives an invitation to a different world, and upon accepting the invitation, the player is transported to the world that Rooms is set in. As is the usual case when a strange invitation leads a person to another land, the trick is immediately finding a way home. So begins Rooms.
The first thing you notice about Rooms is that its art style is pretty unique. While most puzzle games are currently focusing on cuteness and a cartoon-like appearance, Rooms takes a more realistic artsy style that could easily be a backdrop to a Victorian era mystery. It's within this stylized world that the player has to manage his way from room to room, moving ever forward to his eventual escape back home.
Getting from the entrance to the exit of each room is the puzzle that you must solve. To do so, the player is presented with the current room broken down into movable squares, with each square having its own gimmicks and limitations. The mechanic of moving the squares is based on those tile based childrens' games that had the one tile missing. Instead of manipulating the tiles to form a picture, though, you move the squares around to create a pathway that leads to the room's exit. The only drawback being that you can only move the square that you're in, and can only move from square to square depending on the properties of the square itself and the ones next to it.
For example, one of the levels I played was a room with five squares and one empty space. I began, of course, at the entrance to the room and proceeded to move the squares around. Although I was able to move my character around a bit, I kept running into certain obstacles. Some squares have walls on certain sides that won't let you pass through. Some squares have ladders you can use, but they're not leading to another useful square or a square with a wall blocking its path. Suddenly finding myself trapped with nowhere to go, I was clued in to the next layer of the game's puzzle solving mechanic.
While moving the squares around is certainly part of the solution, each square has certain attributes that need to be factored into your character's movements. Some rooms will have a telephone that will transport you to the receiving phone in another square. Some squares may have a dresser whose function is to switch the square you're standing in with another one. The attributes that these squares have aren't there just for the player to use when they need them, either. They are part of puzzles solution and need to be used and considered if the player wants to solve the room and move on. This adds an entire other level to the puzzle factor of the game, and it's definitely something that had me wanting to come back for more.
The final feature that turned me on to the tile was not one I was able to try, but certainly one I know people will enjoy. While the Wii version will have 2-player head-to-head, the DS version will have a fully formed level creator that allows you to upload your levels via the Nintendo Wi-fi service. So not only will you get to create and share your levels, you'll be able to play other people's creations, too.
All in all, Rooms: The Main Building is starting off on the right track. With its unique art style and its refreshing take on an old puzzle mechanic, Rooms is a title that may not grab your attention at first, but will certainly pull you in once you pick it up.
Note: Pictures shown are of the title's art style, no gameplay art is available at this time.