I woke up in a strange room. Sparse furniture lined it’s crisp red walls. The blue door wouldn’t budge and the window looked out far above the city street; no one below could possibly hear any shouts for help. I spent hours scouring for an exit. Bizarre curios hidden about its nooks and crannies such as rings, a mysterious box, and an extension chord, fit together like a puzzle and eventually led to a way out of the room.
Some may remember that scenario from “Crimson Room.” One of the games that pioneered the popularity of the room escape genre. I say “was” because I can’t find a decent playable version anywhere online. It has, more or less, disappeared. It’s a shame that people will no longer organically stumble upon it’s chilling mystery.
Crimson Room was simple. It worked much like games from the point-and-click adventure genre, but it confined the player to one room with four walls. Objects like the ones mentioned above were hidden nicely, but not impossible to find. One item
even required the player to open a new window and enter a url to find a passcode. It was like the flash game equivalent to beating the boss by switching to controller port two.
Japanese programmer, Toshimitsu Takagi, designed Crimson Room and he still owns the game’s domain, but it’s mostly empty. Likely because he released an anniversary version on Steam for $9.99 called “Crimson Room: Decade.” I can’t blame him. Why offer a relatively ancient flash game to people, for free, when he can sell a game that panders to the nostalgia of those who were lucky enough to play the original Crimson Room.
What made the flash version so special was how its use of simple colors and shapes created an eerie dream-like feel. The 3-D version coats all the in-game objects with grimy textures in an attempt to build the gritty, dingy atmosphere of the Crimson Room. The forced aesthetic of the remake fails to replicate the secret sauce of its predecessor.
Apparently there was a PSP version at some point too.
The other part that made the game so special was that the Crimson Room website wasn’t cluttered with banner ads, links, and other visual garbage. It was simple. A darkened screen around a box that contained all the action – escapism at its finest. I was there to escape the Crimson Room, nothing else. And after besting the room,
I moved on to another challenge … Finding a way out of the macabre “VIRIDIAN ROOM.”