Physical puzzles have been popular ever since the first caveman hid a berry under rock and baffled his friends and family. Where did it go? Ever since then puzzle boxes and hand held puzzles have gotten a little more complex. The newest additions to the genre are virtual games that you can play in your hand. This allows creators to make seemingly impossible objects come to life. Today I’m talking about two popular games that you can play on your smart phone or tablet; The Birdcage and The Room.
First 10 levels are free, $0.99 for every additional 5 levels, 25 levels total, usually has a 50% off deal to buy the full game with all levels
The Birdcage is a virtual game where you have to solve a series of puzzles to find the key to the birdcage. All of the puzzles are designed into the framework of the birdcage itself. You will collect objects and manipulate mechanisms to find secret compartments and solve puzzles. Once you get the key you will release the bird inside who thanks you by magically flying out with sparkles and an empowering soundtrack.
Things I love:
The first 10 levels are free to play giving you the opportunity to try it out before paying for the full version. They start from very easy and progressively get harder as you advance in the levels. It never gets super difficult and overall the puzzles are relatively easy. This makes the game more relaxing as you can methodical solve puzzles without too much frustration. Like playing a Sudoku or crossword puzzle, you’re still using your brain but in a calm fashion to help you unwind.
You can play in two modes: normal or AR. The AR is pretty awesome. You will set up the birdcage virtually in the middle of your room. You can adjust the position and height before getting started. Once setup is complete, you will walk around the cage and play the game as if it was actually in your home. It’s all through the screen of your phone or tablet of course but it’s pretty impressive. Unfortunately I’m lazy and mostly play in normal mode. In normal mode you simply control the camera with your fingers to move the birdcage around.
Things that can use improvement:
This is something that all virtual escape room and puzzle games suffer from but The Birdcage isn’t too bad. When a puzzle relies on you hitting an exact pixel in the screen or is so well hidden there’s no way a normal human could see it. You end having to click the screen a million times either because you know something is there but it’s not responding or you’re just completely lost and desperately looking for something to work. The Birdcage is actually pretty descent in this regard but it still happens occasionally. Overall The Birdcage is well lit and simple to manipulate.
The hints aren’t really hints and simply highlight exactly what you should be doing next. It’s a “physical” puzzle so it’s not like they could describe what to do in a riddle. Just be aware that clicking the hint button means you’ll see the solution.
$0.99 for full version, free to try
At this point The Room is now seven years old and can be downloaded as The Room Pocket for smart phones. The first level is free to try and then you will pay for the remainder of the game like most apps. You begin in a room with a large table that seems to have several hidden compartments, artifacts, and mechanisms. Once you find your first clue you progressively work through the puzzles into this ever growing enigma. The puzzles and amount of mechanisms hidden within seem endless.
Things I love:
If this thing was made into a real physical object, it would be the single greatest puzzle table of all time. Just when you think you are getting close to solving the whole thing another mechanism is triggered and a whole new section mechanically grows out of it. Almost everything seems like it could be made into a real table if there was any genius mechanics out there willing to try it.
This game is significantly harder than The Birdcage. The puzzles are fairly complex and you must find all the pieces to a puzzle before you can move on. This game is a lot closer to an escape room experience with the sequential nature of opening locks and doors and collecting items for the next puzzle.
There’s a fun eyepiece that you wear to find hidden symbols and messages. This is similar to using a black light to find invisible ink. Anytime you think you are stuck you can put on the eyepiece and there’s usually something that was hidden. This adds an extra layer to the experience but also means you have to remember the eyepiece when you get stuck.
Things that could use improvement:
When it comes to having to click everywhere on the screen, this game suffers a lot. It’s very dark and so finding hidden compartments and small scratches or indicators that something is movable can be challenging. It isn’t worse than most escape room games I’ve played so don’t be discouraged into thinking it’s flawed.
Because the puzzles are sequential it can be very challenging to figure out what is supposed to happen next. There’s a three part hint system that knows where you are based on your progress. The hints start off by telling you where to look and get more specific as you progress. There’s also a time limit so you can’t just look at all the hints at once. The hint system is actually a huge help but there’s so much to look at that it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out the next step.
There are some puzzles that require that you look through the eyepiece and change your perspective to create a symbol. The puzzles themselves aren’t bad but it takes away from what I said about how it could be a real physical puzzle. How would the table know that now I can see this specific symbol and open a drawer? I just want this table to exist in real life.
Overall both games are engaging and addictive. Once downloaded onto your device, neither game will require an internet connection to play. I felt like The Birdcage went by too fast only to realize I had been playing for a couple of hours. The Room gets more and more exciting as you progress and the table becomes more intricate. I think The Birdcage wins for being a very relaxing game that you can unwind with. It would also be great for kids and you can watch them run around in circles to solve the game in AR mode. The Room easily wins if you’re looking for a challenge. The theme is fantastic and it’s one of the best escape room type of games out there. Both games have sequels so the adventure doesn’t have to end once you excitedly blast through the first. Never leave a birdcage locked or a room unsolved!
-J.C. Mystery Detective