Escape from the 35 rooms with DOOORS

DOOORS is iOS game from Japanese developer 58works.  Although originally released in December, in March the game has been consistently showing up near the top of the free app charts. The game appears to have climbed the chart based on word-of-mouth, since its received almost no attention from the mainstream press and contains no built-in virality.

DOOORS is what is known as a room escape game, a subgenre of adventure gaming which is very popular in Japan. Players find themselves locked in a variety of different rooms and must discover how to use the objects in the environment to unlock the door and proceed to the next level. There is almost no text in the game, so all solutions must be determined through the player’s own ingenuity, experimentation and, occasionally, the help of strange, vague icons on the walls.

The puzzles found in DOOORS range from the insultingly simple (tap on the door to open it) to the ingenious (turn out the lights using a lightswitch that is hidden behind a rock which may only be moved by tilting your phone in order to find a luminous pattern on the walls that tells you a combination to enter) via the infuriatingly obtuse (pick up a tiny object which looks exactly like part of a nearby plant in order to pick the lock on the door). Many App Store reviewers have taken it upon themselves to spoil the game by posting a full walkthrough as their “review,” but this appears to be a long-standing tradition among room escape and similar puzzle adventures even on the Web.

DOOORS’ presentation is simple but effective. Its visuals are mostly static, with some objects sliding around according to how much the player is tilting their phone. Some levels feature attractive particle fire and smoke effects, usually used to temporarily obscure parts of the pertinent information the player requires to solve the room’s puzzle. Sounds are kept to a minimum, with simple audible cues telling the player when tapping on the door is futile, when they’ve found a switch of some description and when they’ve successfully completed the level. There is no music or speech in the game — it is a very minimalistic experience.

It’s the gameplay that has likely seen DOOORS enjoy such widespread appeal, however. The game’s 35 levels gradually increase in complexity until what initially seems like an extremely simple challenge becomes a frustratingly addictive exercise in searching the screen for useful items and then figuring out how to use them. There’s certainly several hours of entertainment provided here for free. With the only nod to monetization being a relatively unobtrusive banner ad at the bottom of the screen beneath the play area, it’s questionable whether or not 58works will make much money off this title. The game does cross-promotes with 58works’ other titles, but they’re also free apps and one of them is only available in Japanese.

DOOORS is available for iPhone now on the App Store. At the time of writing, it is ranked at No. 3 in Top Free Apps and Top Free Games having peaked at No. 2 just behind the ever-present Draw Something earlier in the month. Follow its progress through the App Store charts with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.