Room 404 is yet another creepy, asylum-style title that relies heavily on a character’s mental illness and instability to explain a lot of the unsettling, spooky storyline. Players take on the role of Alex as he searches for his wife in the hotel where his son, Cody, was murdered. Room 404 tries and succeeds to deliver on a true Horror experience; I was pleasantly surprised to find this title competing with much bigger studios on delivering a truly scary experience. This Indie adventure is from developer 3DTM, and it was released on June 21st, 2016.
A Son’s Death, a Crazy Wife, and a Spooky Adventure!
Any video game that begins with a plot involving a brutal murder, and someone’s subsequent descent into madness, immediately piques my attention as someone who loves the Horror genre and a good Adventure journey into scary places. Room 404 definitely offers a tremendous amount of Boo-tactic scares, but honestly it was the quality immersion here that had me on the edge of my seat. Part of this was the overwhelmingly dark, foreboding atmosphere, paired with a really impressive, exclusive soundtrack; also, the simplistic mechanics of the game left plenty of room for me to focus on the overall experience rather than just searching around for clues. In fact, short of flipping some levers, finding a few keys, and trying a whole lot of locked doors, Room 404 is a really linear, on-rails thriller that makes up for a minimal plot with lots of chilling, ghostly encounters.
The Trouble with Limited Settings
Room 404 has a very limited settings menu, which has a mixed effect on the game. On one hand, it definitely makes for a very dark, gloomy, unnerving atmosphere that is highly immersive; unfortunately, this also means that darker monitors (like mine) or people with vision impairment are at a huge disadvantage in terms of navigating the terrain. It’s a shame, because there’s actually a fairly high level of detail in the levels, but since the amount of interaction the player has with the environment is minimal, this is really only a mild inconvenience in terms of gameplay.
The sounds in Room 404 are extremely good, especially for an Indie title, and the music is certainly a driving force behind a lot of the more unsettling moments. The trouble is that the sound and music volume cannot be adjusted in the settings at all, much like you cannot raise or lower the brightness. Without having subtitles, it can be difficult to hear the brief conversations in the beginning of the story, or some of the more subtle audio cues later on.
Towards the end of the game, I definitely noticed a huge increase in framerate drops due to the higher demand of the graphics I encountered. The presence of smoke, flames, fog, and tons of tall grass made for an interesting setting, but I had to drop my Graphics settings down from Ultra to Medium to have minimal problems. I had a few issues with clipping and other graphical bugs earlier in the game, but Act 4 definitely seemed to be when things went downhill in that department, and fast.
I am a huge fan of this jump-scare, unnerving Horror niche of Adventure titles, so I was immediately interested in Room 404 on that basis alone. And while there is a lot left to be desired in the interface and setting options, Room 404 delivers on what it was promising: An evolving, changing landscape – to the point that I’m fairly certain each of my play-throughs differed slightly, something I absolutely enjoyed – and an excellent soundtrack to accompany a supernatural storyline. Honestly, the plot is pretty bare bones here; I wasn’t sure if the ghost I kept encountering was Alex’s son, Cody, or his wife, presumably after she committed suicide following their child’s murder, considering the apparition seemed feminine. In the end, it really didn’t matter, because uncovering the story was only a minor part in my motivation to play and defeat Room 404. I was looking for a good scare, and I certainly got it, even without all the fanfare or elaborate mechanics that would have been available in a more advanced, expensive alternative.
Unfortunately, due to a persistent and particularly nasty bug in the game, I was unable to complete Act 4 and the final chapter of Room 404. Considering that Steam offers Early Access, specifically for the purpose of ironing out a lot of these Beta-level bugs, I found this to be very disappointing for a title that was released in its “final” version. However, there have been numerous bug fixes since launch day, so I am hopeful that we can revisit Room 404 at a later date to see the conclusion of Alex’s quest to find his family.