Samsara Room is a simple yet hard to describe game. Developed and published by Rusty Lake, the makers of the acclaimed Cube Escape games and the broader Rusty Lake universe of games, this point-and-click adventure plays a bit like an escape room. Naturally, your goal is to...escape the room. A riveting premise, I know. Here's the thing; I can explain the premise and the gameplay, but the FEELING you get from this indie title is hard to put into words. It's a strange mix of innocuous pastel colors with a disquieting undercurrent of cosmic horror. In short, this game is right up my alley. This one is definitely going on the list of my best free games.
It's a strange mix of innocuous pastel colors with a disquieting undercurrent of cosmic horror.
Adding to its straightforward premise, Samsara Room couldn't be more minimalistic gameplay-wise. You just tap the screen. That's it. You use your finger to tap little arrows to scroll between the four walls, and then you tap the screen some more to interact with objects. Occasionally, you may be really challenged and need to slide your finger across the screen. I know this is a lot, but try to stay with me here.
The tapping and sliding aren't the point of Samsara, though! The point is the wonderfully creepy atmosphere and the clever puzzling. I won't go into any late-game stuff — you'll want to solve the puzzles on your own, after all — but let's set the scene here.
Upon starting the game, you just materialize into the room with no preamble. The room is quite lovely, actually. Tapping your way around the four walls of the room reveals pretty pastel green wallpaper with a pleasing pink floral pattern, a charming grandfather clock, a window, a phone, a mirror, and a dresser. Nothing to see here, right?
Although...am I sure that's my creepy shadow in the mirror? And isn't the window kind of weird? It looks more like a painting than a view of the landscape outside. And — oh! — when I tapped it, a corner of the window peeled off! What's BEHIND this fake window? Well, it might be considered another window or perhaps more like a portal to a mysterious interspatial dimension.
This portal is the crux of the puzzling in Samsara Room. It is set like an altar with four receptacles surrounding it and a small offering dish below. Your goal in each phase of the room is to puzzle your way to obtaining whatever four objects you need for the receptacles, plus your offering in question.
I'm happy to report that on the puzzle-front, Samsara does an impressive job of it. There's a nice variety of types of puzzles, too. You're trying to solve a larger interconnected logic puzzle using smaller puzzles in each phase of the room. You may have to re-arrange different-sized books to fit into a specific space while also dealing with gravity getting in your way. You may find yourself talking to a garbled voice on the other end of a phone who spits out nonsense that you then have to put into actual words. Be warned; the puzzles can get complex (I had to cheat and refer to a walkthrough a few times), but they are engaging and allow you to flex your critical thinking skills without having Myst flashbacks.
You're trying to solve a larger interconnected puzzle using smaller puzzles in each phase of the room.
The real fun, though, begins when you start making more and more offerings. Again, I won't go too much into this for fear of spoiling the good stuff, but Samsara Room does a great job creating a subtle horror atmosphere with the few tools it has at its disposal. I found myself being genuinely excited and curious about what was coming next, and I actually gasped out loud after I landed in one of the new phases in the room!
A quick word of advice; you may want or need to play some of Rusty Lake's other games, as Samsara Room is actually considered a prequel to other titles they've already done. If you reach the end of the game and all you think is, "Huh, well that was a fun, weird game," then you may be able to glean some extra meaning from the game's imagery if you've played the other games in the Rusty Lake universe.
Sit down and dedicate about an hour or two to playing this one through to the end
That being said, you don't really need the backstory that the other games may give you to still enjoy Samsara Room. The puzzles and atmosphere are more than enough to hold this title up on its own merits. Plus, it's a short game at only 1 - 1.5 hours long. This isn't really a game that's designed to be a daily pick-up-and-play sort of deal. Because it's so short and the game relies on its atmosphere so heavily, I would say it's better to sit down and dedicate about an hour or two to playing this one through to the end.
Did I mention that this game is free? Yup, believe it not, this is a free-to-play title! You can, however, pay 0.99 whole cents to unlock the premium version of the game to remove ads. I never even saw so I don't know why you would need to do this, but you can do it to support the developers. 99 cents seems like a very fair bargain to me for a pretty great game. Another plus is that it won't heat your phone and doesn't drain your battery too badly either, especially if you have a killer phone.
Considering its nonexistent price tag, this is a well-produced game with an interesting setting, good puzzles, and an awesome, low-key horror aspect that doesn't rely on overdone tropes to get that coveted creep-factor. If you're a fan of escape room games, puzzle games, point-and-click games, or horror games, you'll probably get a kick out of Samsara Room. My point is, you should give it a try!