Murder mysteries are the bread and butter of point and click adventure games. Whether you’re a quick-witted journalist or a ghost, if you’re in a point and click adventure, you’ll likely be looking into a murder. It’s so frequently used because it is pretty difficult to get it wrong. As long as you have a corpse, some random objects you can MacGyver together and an antagonist, you’re pretty well set. A Room Beyond is very much in this mould, a mysterious ‘Fog Wanderer’ is roaming a local village, murdering people willy nilly, and for some reason you take it upon yourself to figure out what’s going on.
Instead of going for the more popular two-dimensional planes, A Room Beyond is set in a quite lovely voxellated 2.5D world. It’s not filled with hundreds of things to look at, instead being quite minimal and having quite a lot of the features of the landscape hidden from you by the dense fog, but what is there, is very appealing – as long as you keep it in windowed mode. Playing on too high a resolution does make things look a little worse for wear, but if you view it in a relatively low resolution, it is rather nice. The scenery around the village, and the additional details to things that you can zoom in on are both extremely well crafted. I wouldn’t say the character models are quite so fantastic, as they look like a low-res version of Minecraft Steve, but they do have their own charms, particularly when they are interacting with things. Watching them gesture and move around actually surprised me, as the characters had a fairly high level of mobility. I was expecting them to be fairly rigid, so when they were moving around like a regular human, it was very impressive.
Perhaps the strongest suit of A Room Beyond comes with it’s puzzles. They start off a little simple, but quickly become more and more tricky, and requiring some deeper thinking. Finding objects to interact with is quite tricky, as you’re led to believe that the majority of the scenery is just that – scenery – but there are a surprising amount of things you can break off from the scenery to utilise in solving the tasks you have been set. Once you’ve got the objects in hand, you then have the unenviable task of figuring out where they go. Sometimes it can be pretty straight forward – add a hairband to a stick to create a slingshot – but some are a bit more obtuse. The combination of the two throughout the game means that it plays so well. You’ll often find some things that just flow perfectly together, because it’s obvious, but even the smartest guys out there will stumble at some point in the game.
It’s nice to walk around the various areas in the game. It’s calming, relaxing. That is, until you start trying to move to view specific things, or want to click on something while moving. In the case of the former, it’s quite possible to get stuck on various objects around the world, and the latter is a very quirky system. Instead of being able to click on items to view them as you move around, you have to make sure you’re completely motionless before you click it. If you accidentally misclick, then you’ll have to wait until your character stops in order to direct him towards your target. Oddly, you can redirect where your character is moving to, but you still cannot interact with anything while he moves. It’s utterly bizarre, and incredibly frustrating. Accidentally misclicking just outside of your inventory and sending your character on a bit of a wander while you wait for him to stop, just so you can rub a chestnut on a person, is so irritating. While I can certainly forgive the first error – a full quality assurance test on any indie game is highly unlikely – the second one is mind bogglingly daft.
The Final Word
A Room Beyond is quite a charming game. The blurry aesthetic of it all gives it an eerie, unsettling feeling throughout and the soundtrack pipes up every now and then to further that feeling. It does have a couple of quirks to it, but because it’s a game developed by one man, it’s pretty forgivable, if baffling. It’s a quite wonderful game that tickles the brains of people that play it, and for that reason I have to recommend it to you.