Full of mysteries.
We enjoy all sorts of things in video games that we never would in real life; working, getting chased through the woods by a masked assailant, rummaging through a nuclear wasteland, fighting through hordes of the undead just to see another day, etc. In Crimson Room: Decade, it’s waking up in a room with no prior memory as to how you got there and discovering there’s no easy way out.
The game is the sequel based 10 yeas after the original point-and-click Flash game by TAKAGISM, which has acquired over 800 million views. You play as Inspector Jean-Jacques Gordot, that much is clear from the beginning. Unfortunately, it’s really all that’s obvious upon starting a new game, since the introduction is a strange montage of vintage clips set to a cabaret tune and includes a long backstory that is off the screen before you can finish reading.
You do have the option to go back and rewatch it, but I chose to just jump right in-game, assuming that I really didn’t need that much information on the character’s backstory anyway to play an escape game.
Players are able to freely move around the cramped crimson room using traditional WSAD keys, and they can crouch by holding shift. A few things are immediately evident when you awaken in the room.
1.) You’re on a boat. The creak and moans of old wood and the sway of the light bulb dangling from the ceiling confirm that.
2.) The only point of entry is a blue steel door, which is unsurprisingly locked.
3.) There is a strange window behind the curtains, so dirty from the outside that there’s no way of seeing where it leads.
4.) There’s a square carved into the wall that may or may not be a secret door of some sort. I hoped it was.
5.) Someone really likes to drink because there are a helluva lot of wine bottles on the floor.
And that’s about it. You’re trapped in the room, and now it’s your job to investigate your surroundings and utilize every possible resource to escape. The first thing most players will do is either draw back the curtains, fiddle with the calendar on the wall or lift up the musty pillow on the bed to discover a waterproof pencil conveniently tucked underneath.
There isn’t much left to the physical gameplay, which will disappoint those who are looking for an adventure-style escape. Instead, Crimson Room: Decade is much more grounded in logic and focused on puzzles.
Throughout the game, you will discover notes that reveal the fate of the room’s previous occupant, who happens to be the main character’s grandfather. The Crimson Room was used in the 20s to brainwash people, which seems interesting enough, though it turns out that the notes documenting your grandfather’s time on the boat before it sank aren’t even necessary to complete the game. This felt pointless to me, since throwing someone in an empty room and telling them to get out isn’t a premise that is particularly original on its own. In order to make it enticing, a deeper mystery is required, and I would have liked there to be a grander scheme of the game.
The controls themselves are somewhat odd. While WSAD is simple enough, there were times when an object I should have been able to use right away wasn’t able to be handled until later. I understand the point of achievements and progression, but if a note falls from beneath a calendar on the wall (one of the first things you see in the room), then I should be able to pick it up. That wasn’t the case in this game.
The game is very similar to the original and really just requires time and patience. Although it does elicit that survival instinct we all have in us, it felt tedious after a while when the tiniest details needed to be located in order to move on. It was a challenge that did not present any motivation nor reward, so ultimately it fell flat.
To me, Crimson Room: Decade will appeal to three types of people: fans of the original game, puzzle-lovers and those who just want to casually game. I enjoyed my experience with it but ultimately didn’t find myself astounded or eager to try it again. All in all, Crimson Room: Decade is a solid concept that would benefit greatly from a bigger story and greater character involvement.
Still on the fence? Check out a gameplay of Crimson Room: Decade for yourself below.