The Room VR: A Dark Matter is a puzzle game for Oculus Quest (reviewed here) and PC through Steam. It is the fourth entry in The Room series, but this time it’s not just a port of an already existing mobile game – developers Fireproof Games made an entirely new experience just for VR!
Somehow I managed to miss out on all three previous games – I wasn’t even aware they existed until earlier this year when fellow YouTube personality KrimZenTv mentioned them in his review of The Room: Old Sins for Rift. Needless to say, after playing Old Sins, I was intrigued enough by what I saw to purchase all three previous entries as well because I couldn’t wait to try them out.
I’ve yet to play the older games in the series, and so The Room VR: A Dark Matter was my first introduction to Fireproof’s work. Knowing that it was a new entry made for VR by the same company that brought me such great atmospheric puzzlers as Old Sins and its predecessor, I couldn’t wait to get started!
My excitement quickly turned into frustration, however, when I realized how short this experience really is. After finishing it in just under two hours (with minimal hints) and replaying one of its four rooms over again later on after finishing – now with full knowledge of what I needed to do – I can confidently say only the hardest of hardcore puzzle-solving fanatics will manage to beat all four endings in less than five hours.
The Room VR: A Dark Matter is a short and sweet experience, but its brevity isn’t the only thing that undermines this entry – its presentation is equally problematic! I can’t help but get the impression that Fireproof Games took such great care in making their previous games to be as atmospheric and immersive as possible, while pretty much ignoring how The Room VR: A Dark Matter would look on Quest all together.
Almost every area of this game looks like they were taken straight out of PC or console versions (necessary upscale notwithstanding) without adding anything to make them work with the whole point of having created them for virtual reality in the first place. These visuals are not very immersive, especially when you realize there’s no real reason for them to be what they are other than “because we can.”
The same thing applies to the sound design (or lack thereof, I should say). Nothing about this game feels like it was meant for Quest. The narrative is practically non-existent, and while I might have been able to forgive that if the gameplay did a good job at making up for it, that’s sadly not the case either!
Yes – you read that correctly: Despite all the shortcomings of its visuals and sound design, The Room VR: A Dark Matter’s actual gameplay is just as unimpressive as everything else about it! While Fireproof Games’ previous work had me hooked from beginning to end because of how spellbinding their puzzles were in terms of design and atmosphere, I can’t help but feel disappointed by this game’s unimaginative level design.
The Room VR: A Dark Matter’s puzzles are far too easy to be enjoyed for longer than it takes you to solve them, despite requiring some form of backtracking through the same area multiple times. Most often than not, all it takes is combining items in your inventory until you eventually stumble upon what you need (like a crowbar that requires no actual effort on your part other than obtaining it!).
What’s more is that even though there are four endings to discover (which should mean there are at least four unique puzzles), you’re actually solving the exact same puzzle each time – only presented in different ways! It was clear FireproofGames wanted to limit the amount of work they put into this entry as much as possible, and the result is a game that just feels lazy.
The sound design also doesn’t help matters. While it does its job at giving you a general idea of where certain items are located in your surroundings, it’s all for naught when those same sounds can be heard from anywhere in any given room! For example: if you have to find a key hidden amongst other objects on a table across from where you start, there’s no reason why you should be able to hear said key falling down as well as every single other object on the same table instead. It makes no sense – which seems like something Fireproof Games would care about (since I’ve seen them address similar issues with their previous games), but here they didn’t even bother.
The Room VR: A Dark Matter is a game that doesn’t live up to its full potential (or any of it, for that matter). While Fireproof Games did create four unique endings to surprise and amaze players who manage to find them all, I can’t help but feel like this decision was more of a cop-out than anything else.
Yes – the puzzles are hard enough on their own, so why add new ones when you can pad your playtime by artificially extending it instead? And while its visuals might not look bad per se on Quest, they don’t work for this specific platform either. Neither do the sound effects! Especially when they can be heard from anywhere within a given room… It’s beyond me how developers still haven’t learned that no, you don’t need to make games “look better” or more graphically impressive when it comes to Quest.
This is the same mistake Ubisoft made with Star Trek: Bridge Crew, and I’m sad to say Fireproof Games followed in their footsteps – despite having created great virtual reality experiences prior. The Room VR: A Dark Matter had some good ideas going for it, but some bad design choices ended up being what ruined this game for me. While there are a few interesting puzzles here and there, the overall experience certainly isn’t one worth recommending.