VR gaming is getting a needed boost, just when we could use it most. First, Valve released the stunning Half-Life: Alyx. Now, there's The Room: A Dark Matter, too.
I've spent years playing The Room series, which is available on iOS, Android, Steam and consoles. These brilliant and creepy puzzle games combine everything I love about minimalist, touch-based mobile games. But they also remind me of real-life escape rooms where I used to enjoy getting lost before the coronavirus pandemic locked everything down.
The new VR-based version of The Room just arrived ($29.99/€29.99), and my first dive in has already been as good as I'd dreamed. It's playable on just about all existing VR headsets.
Half-Life Alyx: First look, screenshots and box artSee all photos
Set in 1908, the game's haunting puzzle mystery with Lovecraft overtones draws you into the story of a lost archaeologist who may have found a doorway into another dimension. I'll say no more. But what I love about The Room in VR is that... well, I actually feel like I'm in a room.
On the Oculus Quest, where I played a prerelease version of the game, a detailed world unfolded: I found myself in a detective's office where I could teleport to certain spots to look at clues and reach out my hands to solve puzzles. Like previous games in the series, you have to touch things to see what happens. This time, I can see my floating hands and use the Oculus Touch controllers to grab, point and put items in storage. The game is slow-paced and perfect for quiet contemplation. It's particularly nice to use the wireless Quest for and not worry about cables tangling your freedom of movement.
I love the feeling of solving puzzles in haunted spaces: You definitely should put on headphones. Fireproof Games, besides making a number of other Room games, has visited VR before (Omega Agent, a jetpack game that was an early standout back on the Samsung Gear VR). I visited the game in quiet night hours when everyone else was asleep, or in the afternoon between moments of work.
The Room: A Dark Matter works if you're standing. You can walk around a bit in real life, which maps into steps in VR. I had to be careful with seated mode: some puzzles need some arm space, and when I played it at my desk I ended up hitting the real wall (and my desk) a few times.
I've always wanted VR to be more like immersive theater and escape rooms. Now that I can't go to either anymore, experiences like the new VR version of The Room are a pretty good stand-in, even if it's a solitary experience. Between The Room and Half-Life Alyx, I know where I'll be over the next bunch of days.
The Room VR: A Dark Matter is available now on Oculus Quest, Rift, SteamVR, Windows Mixed Reality, and PlayStation VR.