Game: A Room Beyond
Developer: René Bühling
Publisher: René Bühling
Good thrillers tantalise you with the unknown. Just when you think you’ve pieced the puzzle together, they throw in a complete curveball that disrupts your comfort zone and denies closure. In this respect, A Room Beyond is guilty as charged. Waking up with no memory of recent events is a bit of a horror cliche, but the ritualistic candles and unnatural quiet will keep you in the dark, thirsting for answers.
Perhaps what’s most notable about A Room Beyond is its art style, a unique 3D blend of blurry pixel art that will either please or irritate your visual sensibilities. It definitely captures that dim, old-school atmosphere of beautifully unpolished games, but I found it a bit of a strain. The camera changes angles erratically too, so it’s disorienting. At the same time, it adds to the general unease. Imagine Lego meets Midsomer Murders, and that’s the vibe A Room Beyond nails. You control an ordinary looking chap with the mouse, exploring this eerie, smoky village in search of objects to interact with. Like most point-and-click games, picking up how to play is incredibly simple, shunting all the difficulty into obscure puzzles instead. Speaking with NPCs yields just enough clues, and for those fond of good quality writing, A Room Beyond certainly delivers. If you can, avoid walkthroughs. A Room Beyond is challenging but much more rewarding (and unsettling) without potential spoilers. I constantly found myself pondering over the title, too. A room beyond where, exactly? It’s a perfect setup for the plot—a dark fantasy thriller about a depraved murderer who uses fog to erase their crimes. Everything feels weird, and uncomfortable, a sensation that’s heightened by jarring instrumental ambience and isolated cricket symphonies.
Rather curiously, A Room Beyond is split into episodes. This approach is more common with television series, but leaving episode one (The Goldwasher and His Wife) on an unexpected cliffhanger is a brilliant design decision. I would have enjoyed more content in individual episodes, just to flesh out the narrative and build a more pronounced layer of tension before the climactic final few moments. However, as a brief Lovecraftian voyage, it succeeds at evoking fear, terror and a burning desire to unmask the identity of the Fog Wanderer—whoever they may be.
Interested players can purchase A Room Beyond through Steam for $8.99 USD. That will unlock all five episodes of the game. If you’re not quite sure about taking the plunge but still feel a mysterious gravitational pull, there’s also a free demo.