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The Sealed Room

by Robert DeFord

Fantasy
2012

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Number of Reviews: 3
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Nothing much here, March 23, 2015
by Simon Christiansen (Denmark)
This review was previously published on a blog in connection with IFComp 2012

The Sealed Room is a very short game in which you have a conversation with a dragon and a unicorn. There is not much story, and no real puzzles.

(Spoiler - click to show)The Sealed Room describes itself as a “short-short story”, but it’s actually a short puzzle game consisting of a single, rather surreal, puzzle. The protagonist is the usual nameless adventure game hero with no personality, and “x me” gives what I can only assume is the Alan standard response to self-examination: “You notice nothing unusual about yourself.” You are out for a walk when you meet an old man, who transports you to a mysterious sealed room, for no particular reason.

The room contains a unicorn and a dragon, and the game mostly consists of talking to these two creatures, and convincing them to help you escape.

It’s never really explained why any of you are there, except as some kind of test devised by the old man. Now, there is nothing wrong with making a storyless puzzle game, but the actual puzzles in the game suffer from being severely overhinted: You are almost always told exactly what to do next, and the required actions would be pretty obvious even if you weren’t. When you procure a new item, the game might say something like “Maybe you should show it to the unicorn and the dragon?” and that will be what you need to do to proceed. At no point did I need to stop and think, which makes the whole game feel rather mechanical and pointless.

The game uses an ask/tell conversation system, but the dragon and unicorn will conveniently tell you every topic you can talk to them about, so I just lawnmowered through them all in the order they were listed. To be fair, the game does add some innovations to the standard conversation framework: You can ask the dragon and unicorn for advice or help, which adds an extra dimension to the conversation, but the game is too short to do anything particularly interesting with it.

After talking to the two creatures for a while, and performing a few obvious actions, a doorway opens, allowing you to leave the room. For some reason, the unicorn and the dragon show no interest in leaving, even though they were trapped there along with you. After leaving the room, you are congratulated for solving the puzzle, and get to choose between ending the game, or exploring the room a while longer. I tried to see if I could get the two creatures to leave with me, but they didn’t acknowledge that I had solved the puzzle at all.

If there had been some actual puzzling to do, this might have made for a decent puzzle game. As it is, there is just nothing there.