Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery 2021 – Review
February 26th, 2021
Fully 3D levels that can and should be rotated to inspect them from another angle.
Variety of locations from the usual residential building to the ancient catacombs.
A detective story, with unexpected plot twists.
Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery is an enjoyable escape-the-room/point-and-click adventure with 15 levels and 5 sub-levels to complete. The story is told in chapters, and you play the role of a private detective trying to figure out what happened to the small hamlet where everyone has vanished.
The setup in “Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery” is simple and easy – you’re an unidentified PI who receives a letter from your father requesting assistance. When you arrive in a little village to investigate, you discover that it is utterly devoid of its inhabitants. Or even animals. There will be plants, but that is all you will receive. From now on, you’ll be trying to figure out why, how, and where everyone went missing. Weaving your way from site to location and tracking clues scattered throughout, you’ll uncover a nefarious conspiracy that will become a little out of control by the end.
In terms of rotational mechanics of Tiny Room Stories, it’s similar to “Get aCC e55,” while in the episodic story, it’s similar to “Meridian 157” or “Forever Lost.” It’s worth noting that those three games were created for mobile platforms, and it appears that this version of Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery is a mobile port, based on some of the navigational aspects. While it could feel tedious at times, it was never enough to detract from the overall gameplay, while allowing ‘room spinning’ in the sewer facility or the ancient maze could rapidly lead to a player getting lost. Some of the clunkier aspects were driving the tank and certain mini-games on the museum level, which could benefit from a little more polish, especially if they tie to secret achievements in Tiny Room Stories.
The puzzle design in Tiny Room Stories was overall fascinating, with 90% of them hitting the spot in terms of the appropriate sprinkling of clues and hints. The 10% that didn’t resonate were due to duplicate symbology (for example, at least two puzzles in the same level using the same shapes in similar keycode grids), unintuitive design (the final orientation of numbers in a code being tweaked by environmental adjustments that didn’t come through clearly, such as the positions of the dolls in the captain’s quarters not fully corresponding to the final numerical position of the code), or “noise” interfering with the “correct” (like the “S”-shaped artwork which mirrored other clue-instructions for pressing keys in a particular order, or Pac-man ghosts that never came up as a color-code solution). Other challenges appeared unsolvable and superfluous, such as specific employee workstations or lockers that didn’t come with opening instructions; these could be opportunities to include entertaining easter eggs later on. Another challenge inside the same level used the arrow next to the solution to point to which device to use it on; conditioned by the preceding arrows, it would be easy to put the code in backward. These are minor nitpicks. We brought a pen and paper to the game and had a great time attempting to figure out the solutions in Tiny Room Stories.
The plot of Tiny Room Stories and writing gave the team more room to fail, and we blamed the translation rather than the concepts. The names of the town and its residents hint that the game is set in the Western Hemisphere, yet certain speech does not localize well enough to suggest that the protagonist is a native of the area. It’s amusing that the team avoids brand names while including easter eggs for popular media such as character references, Spongebob iconography, video game references, and DVD cover graphics. The contrast between Spongebob and Generic Brand Soap highlighted the inequality.
The reason for the blockade, his father’s occupation, why gun ownership is out of character, and why his father’s house was turned over are all dribbled out piecemeal or never offered at all, while additional information is thrown at the conclusion in a poorly written and unsatisfying Manny the Explainer sequence in Tiny Room Stories game. A timeline was not provided to indicate how long ago the town was emptied, but the player finishes the game perfectly understanding how the mysterious MacGuffin works; as the mystery of the crystal’s creation, purpose, and function is one of the strongest narratives that drive in the game, keeping that obscured while instead indulging in more mystery-solving surrounding the whereabouts of the inhabitants or which world the protagonist is in is one of the strongest narratives drives in the game, keeping that obscured while instead indulging in. We felt the ending a little frustrating because the protagonist evolved from a private detective to an action hero, but one who failed to restore the town’s people or save his father, and this was shown as a choice on his part. Given that the novel acknowledges the absence of young children and happy families among the lost townpeople, the decision to end things the way they did is odd.