As a big horror game fan, I’m always on the lookout for something that is a little bit different. Too many opt for the same generic horror walking simulator framework that now makes me roll my eyes when I see them.
Oxide Room 104 mays appear to be a walking simulator at first glance, with it’s minimal combat, but something about it seemed different. Special, even.
After playing the game, I am pleased to say that it is something special that horror fans may want to put on their radar.
Many thanks to Wildspehere for the review code.
Staying in a motel can be a pretty unpleasant experience as the protagonist of Oxide Room 104, Matt, quickly finds out after getting smacked in the face right at the recepton desk. How rude.
As if that wasn’t enough to elicit a one star review on TripAdvisor, he wakes up naked in a bathtub inside the bathroom of room 104. After finding some clothes and having a quick pee (no, really), he soon realises that a key item he is looking for in in a rather disgusting location. Even after escaping his room, he finds out that evading his captors may be harder than expected since the motel reception is sealed off and there seems to be hideous monstrosities roaming around the place.
It’s up to Matt to explore the rooms of the Night Soul Motel to piece together what exactly is going on here and find a way to get the hell out.
A motel is a pretty unusual setting for a horror game, but it’s also perfectly suited to the genre. Everything is dark and grimy, and the straightforward layout makes it a breeze to navigate. He’ll be spending most of his time alone at the motel, so expect story exposition through the classic note system along with some rather overbearing and over-repeated narration rather than through cutscenes or NPC conversations.
WHAT’S UP, DOC?
As mentioned earlier, the game is more reminiscent of a walking simulator than that of a more action packed game, but don’t let that fool you: there’s plenty to do here. Following a nice tutorial in the titular room 104, you’re introduced to the core mechanics of the game. Rooms of the motel act like mini escape rooms where the goal is to find the key to the next room until you eventually find a way out. These puzzles range from something as simple as going in and finding the key in a drawer to situations that you’ll actually need to think about carefully before acting. There’s nothing too taxing, but each room offers something that feels different to the ones before meaning that you’ll unlikely get tired of them.
The game also has an element of randomisation resulting in items appearing in different places, or even having the chance to spawn enemies in a room. It sounds a bit more exciting than it actually is, as it usually just means you’ll have to look in a different drawer. Where it gets more interesting is with the changes that happen when you die. Rather than reloading a checkpoint, you’ll awaken again in the tub and can try again – but things have changed, somewhat. Everything seems more hideous and terrifying before, and even puzzles have altered slightly. It’s nice gimmick, even if the game is so easy enough that deaths will likely only happen by accident.
There’s an element of combat thrown in too, with the pistol being found near the start of the game. Bullets aren’t particularly rare, but enemies can take quite a few shots before they’ll kick the bucket. Enemies react to sound, so you may want to take care when starting a fight as gunfire will send them lunging your way. Get hit and you’ll start bleeding out, forcing you to bandage up your wounds before you pass out. Healing items are pretty frequent, but not enough to encourage carelessness. The best approach is to sneak around foes where possible and avoid conflict; it’s entirely possible to beat the game without using the gun at all, so combat is entirely optional.
And the whole gameplay loop is pretty fun overall. These series of mini-puzzles makes things far less overwhelming and removes any need for backtracking, which feels quite refreshing. When coupled with the great presentation, it makes for a fun horror experience. The sound design is great, the visuals are beautiful, yet horrifying, and the monster designs are terrifying – even if there isn’t much in the way of variety. There are also lots of small touches too that really help with the immersion: for example, you’ll start out with a very small inventory, but storage space will increase as you obtain more clothing. Such a tiny detail in the grand scheme of things, but something that resonated with me. There are also an assortment of QTEs in the game linked to many of the physical actions that help suck you into Matt’s world; normally, I’m not one for QTEs but they’re implemented really well here.
It’s a shame then that your time spent in the Night Soul Motel won’t last very long. My playthrough took me under a couple of hours to make it to the end, although there were many rooms that I didn’t explore. These other rooms offer alternate routes to your end goal and certainly give you an incentive to play again, but I still felt like Oxide ended far earlier than perhaps it should have done. There’s a big exposition dump right at the end (more so if you meet the requirements for the best ending) and then that’s about it. It happens at such a breakneck speed that it feels a tad unfulfilling when the credits roll. To make matters worse, the game unintentionally confuses you by using the same voice actor (in the English version) for the protagonist and the antagonist; it’s really noticeable that it’s the same person, since both have a rather thick Irish accent – it had me thinking that there was going to be some kind of connection between the two, but there just isn’t. It seems as if the voices are the same merely for budgetary reasons rather than narrative ones, but it spoils the story’s coherence somewhat.
Oxide Room 104 is a really unique horror title with a great setting and very immersive gameplay mechanics. The short running time results in the game ending far sooner than it probably should do, but it’s still something that horror fans should definitely check out.