Crimson Room: Decade Review
Crimson Room: Decade Review
If you're a fan of classic room escapes, this game is for you
Posted: 07/05/16 | Category: Review | Developer: Dream Holdings and Takagism Inc. | Publisher: Degica, Dream Holdings | Platform: Windows, Mac

Genre: Room Escape
Release date: June 10, 2016

Back to the Past
 

The original Crimson Room was developed by Toshimitsu Takagi and released in 2004. It helped to popularize the ‘Room Escape’ genre and was widely downloaded in its day. It was a short, 2D point-and-click escape challenge with fairly primitive graphics.

In June of this year, the game was enhanced and re-released as Crimson Room: Decade. This new version renders the crimson room in flawless 3D. A new backstory has been layered on top of the escape quest and an immersive sound track with music and effects has been added. After completing Crimson Room: Decade, I watched a video showing gameplay from the 2004 version. While the new release is a quantum leap from the original in terms of technology, many essential elements are identical.

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(Not So) Total Recall
 

Crimson Room: Decade opens with a movie and text that frames the backstory and explains that Jean-Jacques Gordot has come to explore the salvaged wreck of “La Crimson,” a luxury liner that sank with his grandfather on-board in 1926. On his voyage, Francois Gordot had spent much of his time locked in a “crimson brainwashing room.” This backstory is supported throughout the game with a series of written pages by Francois describing his voyage and tribulations. Other artifacts in the room also tie back to the “La Crimson” ship theme.

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However, Jean-Jacques Gordot soon clarifies that he's an investigator from Paris, whose mission is to investigate the Crimson Room after 10 years and that he has the feeling that “he has been here before.” When presented with a 1925 calendar, he wonders what year it is. While I'm usually willing to suspend disbelief, this was such a non-sequitur that it jarred my senses. If the wreck of “La Crimson” has just been located, how could Jean-Jacques have been in the room 10 years ago? And what does a return after a decade have to do with searching the “La Crimson” for traces of his grandfather? Was Jean-Jacques there previously as a deep-sea diver? Is he experiencing some sort of genetic memory transfer? Or, has he gone into a fugue state since boarding the wreck? Enquiring minds want to know...
 
Your Great Escape
 
However, regardless of why you're here, you find yourself in the same environment as in the original game -- a red room with a bed, a chest of drawers and a locked blue door. Your only option is to begin scanning every nook and cranny looking for clues and items that can be used to escape. Objects can be picked up and rotated to examine all surfaces. They can be "Put" onto the top of the chest of drawers for future access. Some objects can be carried around with you. To actually "Use" an object, you must be carrying it and then click on the correct spot in the environment.
 
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Navigation is performed using the WASD keys to move forwards, backwards, and sideways. When combined with the mouse for turning, you're able to swoop about the room in all directions and can do so from a standing or crouching position. The game is fully 3D which means that you must navigate around furniture, crouch to look under the bed, and use a flashlight to peer into dark spaces. There are no voice-overs so objects are described with on-screen text and, occasionally, there are gentle hints on how something might be used.

Unlike its predecessor, the new crimson room has three iterations. At two points in your quest, the environment is (literally) turned on end which jumbles the room, redistributes all inventory items, and makes new surfaces available for exploration. This extends gameplay because the room is only about 100 square feet with two pieces of furniture. In this small space, there aren't a lot of places to hide artifacts and even fewer tasks to accomplish.

The (Not So) Big Short
 

Crimson Room: Decade follows the traditional formula for the "Room Escape" genre: You're in a room with limited options and the object is to exit. Within this escape framework, you must locate hidden artifacts and use them correctly. Like many of this ilk, it's a very short game. In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit that my own initial escape took about 5 hours. Most of my time was spent examining and reexamining every pixel of the room and accomplishing absolutely nothing. I was determined not to use a walkthrough and I knew exactly what I needed to do at both ‘stuck’ points. However, I failed to recognize two critical cause-and-effect relationships in the environment. I know what you, the reader, must be thinking. In a 10 by 10 space with minimal furnishings, how could anyone possibly be so unobservant? Evidently, it was not one of my finer days as a gamer!

When I finished the game, I erroneously clicked and skipped to the end of the final cut-scene. Sigh… Since Crimson Room: Decade auto-saves on exit, my only option was to start a new game. Armed with knowledge of all solutions, it took me less than 15 minutes from start to finish. On my second time through, a new challenge was presented and a numeric solution had changed. I'm not sure this qualifies as "re-playability," but it's an interesting twist. The celebration of your escape from the crimson room is a delightful cut-scene with animation and happy music. It did not, however, make a lot of sense to me and I remain unsure about the ultimate fate of Jean-Jacques.

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If you're a fan of classic room escapes, this game is for you. Personally, I play escape games on a regular basis with my tablet. They're generally free (with ads) or priced below $2 and are perfect when a short break is needed and I don’t want to start anything lengthy or complicated. I play for the mental diversion and not for the content. Within this context, Crimson Room: Decade is near-perfect but is priced a bit higher than I would expect. Thus, would-be escape artists may want to wait for this title to go on sale before taking the plunge. A gamer with keen observations skills is likely to finish it in an hour or less.

Grade: B-
 
Artfully crafted 3D environment
+ Immersive soundtrack means "you're there."
+ Perfect example of the genre
 
- Not a lot of game for our investment
- Story elements don't tie together
 Logo 
 
Trailer:
 

 

System Requirements
 
MINIMUM PC:
OS: Windows 8.1 32 bit
Processor: Intel Core i5 or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 or better
Hard Drive: 2 GB available space
 
MINIMUM MAC:
OS: Macintosh OSX (El-capitan)
Processor: Intel Core Duo 2.53GHz or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 9400M 256MB
Hard Drive: 2 GB available space
Specials from Digital Download
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