Rooms Preview: Sliding Under The Fun Fence

If the puzzles of the Professor Layton games and the moody, noir setting of 2005's Hotel Dusk could somehow mate and produce offspring, Rooms would be it.

In this moody puzzle game, players take the role of a mysterious person invited to a mysterious birthday party in a mysterious building. Sensing a theme here?

What Is It?
Rooms is a puzzle game where players navigate each room of a hotel by completing a sliding panel puzzle. The player's character can only occupy one panel at a time and can only move between panels that are connected by ladders, teleporting phone boxes or doors. Each sliding panel puzzle has one gold-lined door within it that you're trying to move your character to.

What We Saw
I played three intermediate-level puzzles.

How Far Along Is It?
Crazy early days. The game isn't due out on Wii or DS until some unspecified point in 2010 and the developer is still making gameplay related decisions about what should be in the game.

What Needs Improvement?
Move Tracker: At present, the game doesn't seem to know or care how many moves it takes you to slide all the panels where they need to be. It's something the developer might consider adding – and I really hope they do, or else the game will be missing out on a basic layer of skill tracking that games like Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box appeal to.

It's SO Small: Currently, the puzzle plane on the lower screen has a thick border around it and the individual panels of puzzles are barely bigger than a thumb print. This makes it really hard to see your brown-clad character in the sepia toned rooms and robs Rooms of some of its noir charm by limiting what you can see.

What Should Stay The Same?
Challenging: I didn't get stuck in any of the three sliding puzzles, but I definitely got confused or turned around a few times. To me, this proves the concept of the game as something I want to take with me on public transit.

The Puzzles Scale Up: The intermediate puzzles were only on a 3x2 grid or a 3x3 grid – but harder levels can scale up to 8x8 girds which will probably take an awful lot of time to sort out.

Platform-Specific Features: The Wii version will have a 2 player versus mode where you race each other to complete the puzzle (I assume in shortest amount of time as opposed to least number of moves). Meanwhile, the DS version will let you create your own levels to upload using Wifi for other players to try.

Final Thoughts
I really liked what I saw of Rooms. If it keeps developing along the lines its been using, it'll shape up into a proper lovechild of Professor Layton and Hotel Dusk.