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Rooms: The Main Building DS Review Package Art
Hudson Soft

Rooms: The Main Building DS Review

For fans of the puzzle genre, there certainly exists a very large library of titles; some of which are pure puzzlers, and others try to combine with other genres, with mixed (see Puzzle de Harvest Moon) to fantastic (see Puzzle Quest) results. While Rooms: The Main Building for Nintendo DS may not be an instant classic like Puzzle Quest, it does offer something new to a genre that has more than its fair share of alternatives. Ultimately, Rooms is an interesting and refreshing take on a tried-and-true puzzle formula, resulting in a good game held back from being great by muddy visuals and unnecessary style choices.

Perhaps the best way to describe the gameplay would be as a mix of a platformer and sliding tile puzzle. To start, this makes for a risky choice on behalf of the developer-- generally speaking, sliding tile puzzles are often used as time-wasters in other videogames. Furthermore, it's not as if the slide-puzzle is a unique formula that could offer hours upon hours of gameplay; luckily, this is where the twist of the platformer genre comes in.

For any given puzzle, the hero must get from point A to point B; to do so, he must traverse through the tiles that make up the sliding tile puzzle. The only way the hero can move is by exiting or walking from the tile he's currently standing in; once the hero's tile and another are adjacent, the hero can go move into the next block. However, if moving to left- or right-adjacent blocks, walls can be in the way preventing crossing into the next area; top- and bottom-adjacent tiles require a ladder to move between.

If this were the only gameplay twist, very few fresh and distinct puzzles could be created. Luckily, there are even more features; for example, if the hero picks up and uses a phone sitting within a tile "room," he will warp to another tile that has a second phone. Some tiles also have wardrobes, which, instead of warping the hero, swap the tile the hero's standing in with another tile in the puzzle that has a wardrobe-- the hero is essentially at the same position on the puzzle, but the tile/room around him as changed. Other times there may be water filling a tile/room, requiring draining of the water from one block into another. All in all, while the core mechanic of the slide puzzle remains, there is plenty of creativity injected into the gameplay, opening up a multitude of puzzle options.

Finishing a puzzle unlocks another puzzle, resulting in well over 100 puzzles. Furthermore, there is also a reward system of sorts; if the puzzle is completed, then the player earns a silver rating. However, if the puzzle's tiles are in the necessary spots to correctly display a photo background through the tiles, a gold rating is earned. While ultimately a forgettable system, it's still neat to see the designers realize that there will be more than one way to solve a puzzle.

Despite these great aspects, however, there exist more than a few gripes about the title. First and foremost is the obnoxious storyline that is attempted. Like most puzzle titles, the story is unnecessary, and for Rooms this is no different. However, the developers, for one reason or another, put far too much emphasis on the story, resulting in awkward breaks from the gameplay.

The visuals also detract from the core gameplay experience. The style is certainly quirky, reminiscent of Victorian England-- think of the recently released movie Sherlock Holmes-- and the style complements the gameplay, allowing for (admittedly silly) explanations of, say, the telephone and wardrobe. Sometimes, however, this can result in lulls in gameplay. An example is of the hero using the subway system to navigate amongst blocks in the same row; a unique idea, hampered by the fifteen seconds required for the hero to get on the subway, ride it to the destination block, and get off.

The developers also attempted too much with the visuals, aiming for a more realistic presentation, one that does not mesh well with a handheld design. The graphics are dark and pixelated, and everything is ultimately scaled down, which results in muddy visuals. The audio can be hit or miss; some of the sound effects can sound crude, while others sound excellent. The music is quirky and fitting of the style; it complements the game nicely but is ultimately forgettable.

Despite all these gripes, Rooms is still a blast to play. While $30 may seem a bit steep for the title that, when boiled down, is nothing more than an advanced slide puzzle, once the game inevitably lands in the bargain bins it is definitely recommended for any puzzle fan. With a Wii version of the title already out, we can only hope how the title is the first in a series, testing the waters and seeing what works and what does not. If that is the case, it is quite likely that the next game will have fixed these errors, and let the unique take on the slide puzzle formula shine through.

final score 7.0/10

Staff Avatar Robert Thompson
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"Henshin-a-go-go, baby!"

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