What’s really going on here?
The Guest is a “Room Escape” style puzzle game blended with an exploration walking simulator, and it is a gloomy, atmospheric gem. This sub-genre of the Adventure category gained a lot of popularity in recent years, especially in the phone app format, and the creative minds over at the Team Gotham developer studio have really outdone themselves in making a truly immersive, intriguing title.
The players take the role of Dr. Evgueni Leonov of Volgograd, Russia, who has awakened in a dingy hotel room in Boston, Massachusetts, on a day when he’s scheduled to talk on psychology. But why is he here? Why are there pills on the nightstand and papers scattered around? How does he flee from this simple room–and does he want to? It’s a suspenseful beginning to an adventure that is unsettling and unnerving at times, with an underlining story that kept me interested to the very end. Themes about sanity and delusions confront the good Doctor immediately, but soon it becomes evident here is a much more complex situation than meets the eye. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but I will say that each little piece of the plot I uncovered was entertaining enough to keep me guessing.
A Journey in a Tiny Space
I’ve always thought it must be a Herculean task to design one large room–or even a series of adjacent smaller rooms–in a way that leaves the player feeling as though they’ve completed a journey. Instead of adventuring within an entire building, village, or other exterior location, the developers must pack a lot of surprises, secrets, and discoveries into a very small exploration space.
The Guest is a prime example of how this can be done without making the environment feel cluttered or contrived; it’s a beautiful blend of an authentic amount of interactive objects and components in a space that leaves it believable. I could absolutely picture a hotel like this, albeit one with slightly less unusual items, but no less content per square foot. The fact that they included mundane, “fluff” objects that serve no purpose in the storyline progression but add to the complexity of the scene just heightened this effect, and it is wonderfully done in this title. Besides, a ‘Fight Club’ movie reference on a bar of soap is clever and amusing, and just one little tie-in you can discover while hoarding everything possible.
The primary challenges within The Guest are puzzles in a wide range of formats and difficulties. It can be as simple as a Point-&-Click style series of using Item A in Space B, or as complex as an elaborate series of symbols with a legend that must be unlocked elsewhere, with words to decipher. There is one puzzle that is 100% audio dependent, and another that is 100% color reliant, so it would have been nice if some sort of key or Closed Captioned option could have been included for players who might have difficulty progressing beyond these challenges, or just a disclaimer on the store page.
Otherwise, The Guest’s assortment of puzzles is incredibly varied and entirely satisfying upon completion; I have seen few developers manage to combine mechanics for maneuvering objects into position manually with designs that must line-up, in a way that is just frustrating enough to be worth outright celebrating once it locks into place. The challenges occasionally skirted the line between obnoxious and just difficult, without ever exceeding the threshold into the realm of destructive for the experience.
In fact, the interface is one of the best elements of The Guest. I love having the ability to manipulate objects and turn them around, looking for additional clues on the back, and combining them in my inventory in ways that range from practical and obvious to quirky and inspired. It’s easy to move through the menus, but I do recommend keeping a pencil and a scratch piece of paper (or a cell phone camera, if you prefer!) nearby for taking notes; I had to refer back to both a few times while working through one puzzle or another, since I couldn’t keep an item up while fiddling with another object.
The Guest is absolutely a must-play title for anyone who enjoys the “Room Escape” format of video games. It’s been my experience that few examples of this style manage to combine a good story with the immersive quality many players are seeking, and having both elements in one place is truly refreshing. I found myself hoping for a sequel, because I am invested in what happens to our main character, and I’m eager to learn more about this new, Sci-Fi world he finds himself within.
Even if you’ve never played this niche of Adventure titles, but you love complex and satisfying puzzles, this is definitely a journey worth taking. The nostalgic charm of a story set in the 1980s lends to the appeal, and the graphics and audio blend wonderfully to make a rich world for you to explore, even if its literal size is a fraction of most virtual landscapes. The Guest proves that good things can definitely come in small packages, and there is a surprising amount of content here for players to uncover.