Rooms of Memory is a hidden object game for Facebook published by 6waves — the specific developer does not appear to be listed publicly. Despite following the tired “missing uncle” plot hook endemic to the genre, Rooms of Memory actually takes a notably different spin to its numerous rivals on the social network.
Like most hidden object games, Rooms of Memory is split into two main components: an isometric map screen and the hidden object scenes themselves. Unlike titles such as Gardens of Time and Hidden Chronicles, however, the player is not forced to build things in order to unlock additional content on the map screen — it simply serves as a “hub” from which the different hidden object scenes may be accessed. Quests are given as a means of advancing the ongoing plot, but the narrative content is not presented in a manner that gives it a particular feeling of importance to the player, which is a bit of a shame — though given the very poor quality of writing in many other games of this type, perhaps that is a blessing.
Once into the hidden object scenes, it becomes clear that Rooms of Memory isn’t a clone Gardens of Time/Hidden Chronicles. Firstly, the player does not receive a score for the level, so there is no need to rush around and quickly find objects in rapid succession for combo bonuses or practice the levels to learn the item locations. Secondly, the levels are time-limited. Thirdly, the objects aren’t in the same place every time, meaning the game is a genuine observation exercise rather than the memory test which most of its rivals become over time. And fourthly — perhaps most importantly — there are several different play modes for each level, which provide a great deal of variety.
The basic hidden object mode gives players a textual list of items and five minutes in which to find them. “Shadow” mode presents players with silhouettes of the objects they need to locate — though the objects may not be in the same orientation as the silhouette. “Night” mode plunges the room into darkness save for the spyglass through which the player looks. And “Ghost” mode covers the room in fog while halving the amount of time the player has to locate all the objects. In all of the modes, the objects have several different potential locations — some of which are hidden behind scenery items or outside windows, making them genuinely challenging to find — but rarely unfairly so. The only real flaw in the different game modes is that the “shadow” mode sometimes presents silhouettes that could be pretty much anything — when tasked with locating an object that is just a rectangle, what should you click on?
The game also takes a different approach to powerups. Rather than unlocking them as the player levels up, the player is provided with an initial inventory of them and may top them up either by finding extras in the levels, as quest rewards, or by purchasing using hard currency. Powerups don’t have a “cooldown,” either, meaning they can be repeatedly used so long as the player has some in stock. The exact functions of the items range from immediately locating one random item (though if it is in the dark or fog it is still obscured until the player’s spyglass is over it) to providing a temporary green-tinted “night vision” mode to use in dark rooms. It’s another example of Rooms of Memory providing a distinctive twist on a genre that has been all too willing to take the easy way out and simply clone rival titles in the past.
This fact alone makes Rooms of Memory well worth checking out. Its story is nothing special and is rather poorly told, but its audio-visual presentation is good, the monetization is unobtrusive, the social features are subtle but effective and, most notably, the gameplay is solid and doesn’t rely on clichéd game mechanics. In short, it’s proof positive that it is possible to make games in the same genre that aren’t simple, unimaginative clones — a lesson which some of the big developers and publishers in the industry really need to start learning, particularly in the wake of Zynga and EA’s current back-and-forth.
Proof that it’s possible to make a new game in an established genre without simply cloning a competitor’s product.