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How The Room: Old Sins makes you wait in the best possible way

Columnist Susan Arendt on how the best games tell you 'not yet'
Product: The Room: Old Sins | Publisher: Fireproof Games | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad, Steam
Welcome to the latest in a series of columns on Pocket Gamer. We've sought out the best writers and most experienced gamers in the industry and given them a platform. Today we welcome back Susan Arendt. This week she's talking about her own impatience, and how The Room: Old Sins understands it.

I have a really bad habit of playing puzzle games right before I go to bed. A sleepy mind is not the best tool with which to tackle obtuse scenarios, and yet I can't seem to help myself.

Time and again, I ply my fuzzy brain against conundrums, only to find myself stumped and feeling stupid. Thankfully, The Room: Old Sins is not putting up with my nonsense and is here to save me from myself.

The thing about adventure games - the kind where you roam around, shoving junk in your virtual pockets in the hopes it may eventually provide the solution to a puzzle - is that discovering the "where" of the puzzle is almost never as satisfying as discerning the "how" and the "what".

Fan service

If you're a fan of the genre, you've spent countless hours shlepping back and forth from location to location, rubbing random detritus on hot spots, waiting to find the trigger that indicates it's time to actually start using your brain.

Myst, Monkey Island, Syberia, and yep, The Room, too - they're all guilty of padding game time by making sure you complete your steps for the day.

The Room: Old Sins cleverly does away with the "where" by placing the entire game within the confines of a dollhouse and reducing the objects in your pockets to a mere handful.

You still have to figure out where to use the things you find, but your choices are limited, leaving you free to spend your brainwaves on defeating the ingenious puzzles that lie within. Or not, if you're like me and playing when you should be sleeping.

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Most adventure games have some kind of hint system, and I've abused the living hell out of them. In one way or another, they all want you to only use the clues you absolutely need, giving you just a wee nudge in the right direction so as to not spoil the mystery for yourself. Bless their hearts.

I've called tip lines, rubbed revealing marker all over a page of Invisiclues, and just straight-up read entire hint books through that red cellophane strip that unscrambled words out of a colourful mess. 

Look, I don't like feeling stupid and I'm impatient. These are not things that combine well when faced with a stumper of a puzzle.

Especially if it's a case of knowing what I need to know, just not how. Why yes, game, I'm aware the pearl needs to go in the oyster, I just don't know how to get the damn thing open and no matter how many times I click on it, it stays shut, so maybe just tell me what to do ok, thank you!

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The Room: Old Sins is not here for my nonsense. It is not going to do my work for me unless I really, actually, truly can't figure it out. The Room: Old Sins is like my mom watching me do my homework, and I adore it for its tough love.

Old Sins has hints, but they're on a timer. You need to throw yourself against the rocks of a puzzle for quite a while before the option to get a hint even shows up, and what you get is a very small push in the general zip code of your mental destination.

If you need more than that, you're going to have to wait for it, as the remaining clues to your current conundrum are doled out one by one over time. If you want to spoil the answer for yourself, you're going to have to work for it. 

And the odds are high that if you take the time to ponder what the clues are telling you, you'll figure it out for yourself long before you can open that last hint.

It's a brilliant way to help players who are truly stuck while not indulging those who are merely impatient or lazy. The puzzles of Old Sins are challenging, but not unfair, and will reveal their secrets if you give them enough time to marinate in your mind - so time is what you are given.

Time and tide

As you putter around the few locations you currently have access to, musing the handful of items in your inventory, you will, inevitably, stumble upon the answer you seek. The time-locked hint system forces you to ponder the tools at your disposal, because you can't do anything else.

You have to either revisit locations, examining each corner of the room for something you may have missed, or you can sit and twiddle your thumbs until the hints unlock.

Old Sins doesn't judge you for not being able to figure something out, but it's betting you can if you just give yourself enough time.

And you know what? It's right.


Reviewer photo
Susan Arendt 7 February 2018
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