Oxide Room 104 Review – Motel Hell
Developed By Wildsphere
Published By WildSphere
Available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Series X/S, Nintendo Switch
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Oxide Room 104 is John Carpenter’s The Thing of flattery. A game so brazen in its lifting from other media (Saw, Escape Rooms, late 2000s AA games with a dark edge especially) that it forgets to gel it together properly. Developer WildSphere isn’t in the bad books for this, however. The bubbly melting pot of ideas manages to take its own entertainingly trashy form.
Oxide Room 104 sees us in the scuffed shoes of Matthew, a grimy dude with a history of poor choices biting at his heels. He’s sent into another blunderous situation by them when he stumbles upon the Oxide Motel. He ends up knocked unconscious, placed in a dirty bathtub, and forced to play a deadly escape room puzzle. Oh, and is chased by a freakish monstrosity. The dude might really need to rethink his life choices after this.
So Oxide Room 104 starts in the bathroom where Matthew awakens in a stupor. The search for a way out of this tiled trap is the first goal. The torture Matthew undergoes in realizing his escape is given an unintended meta quality, because we have to listen to him narrate everything. His stodgy Irish accent is filled with bewilderment that’s less like acting and more general confusion. Again, this isn’t much of a knock on the game. It’s absolutely integral to the scuzzy ramble of the story being told.
The bathroom showcases a fairly decent level of interactivity. Drawers are pulled open, knick-knacks remarked upon, notes studiously read, and items rigorously inspected. It’s then a case of compiling all you’ve learned and gained into a workable escape plan. This isn’t the highest brow of puzzling. Yet it offers enough nuggets of discovery along the way to keep the journey plodding along at a satisfying pace.
Within a short time, the bathroom puzzle is solved and I felt pretty smug about that. At least until Oxide Room 104 made sure I was going to be very careful about touching stuff in the future. Why did I try to touch a very large centipede that sat on the kitchen table in the next room? Because the game said I could. So really, it’s WildSphere’s fault Matthew ended up poisoned and seemingly dead mere minutes after his first small triumph.
Of course, Matthew wasn’t actually dead. He gets to have another crack at starting out on this puzzle gauntlet, but that comes with some grisly caveats. Let us just say that Matthew has to make a ‘little’ sacrifice for his failure. On the upside, the newfound knowledge helps to steer away from repeating dumb mistakes. Also, small changes to the environment sell the idea of time has passed rather than a complete reset. It’s a good way to push the specter of frustration back a bit. It makes for engaging motivation to play the game’s puzzle rooms as one-shot opportunities. A risky business where you second guess everything and think before you act.
Escaping this first motel room leads to the game’s next big reveal. There’s something out for blood in the open air. This monstrous threat acts as a convenient way of forcing you back inside once more. The situation is already fucked up in an edgy nu-metal cinema style. So making an intense ‘chase’ a weirdo slo-mo QTE section acts as damning evidence Oxide Room 104 has gone too far down the rabbit hole of late 2000s game ideas. Again though, I admire Oxide Room 104’s goofy ass for committing to the bit.
The game is arguably strongest in the opening hour or so. Mainly because it throws so much meticulously crafted nonsense at the player in terms of gameplay. Then pours on gallons of full-fat cheesy narrative to dunk it in. Oxide Room 104 is by no means a ‘so bad it’s good’ game because it’s quite good even if it’s a rough-looking, tonal mess most of the time. Once that novelty begins to fade, and the story starts sputtering to an almost apologetic finish, it becomes easier to see it as just a flawed, if interesting, escape room game with a ridiculous story and an endearing buffoon of a protagonist.
In fairness, by that point, Oxide Room 104 has largely wrapped up the majority of its story. So it does keep strongly entertaining and compelling for most of its playtime.
What I will say is WildSphere makes this a memorable experience, and that’s a victory in itself. I’ve liked other games more this year and had softer long-term memories of them. With Oxide Room 104, I’m still pootling about the house remarking on everyday objects in a faux Irish accent, even if it does disgrace my own heritage. It’s a game that must be experienced just so you too can revel in its utterly sincere attempt to create a story-led escape room game with the sensibilities of late 2000s games made by studios that don’t even exist anymore. In that way, it’s almost the perfect escape.
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