Reading, Jan 2018
There are not many computer games I’ve played in the last eighteen years, but one of the few I have is Portal. If you’re also familiar with that, then you’ll recognise immediately the tongue-in-cheek dark humour of Testing Chamber. This game starts with the team being led into a white room to meet EROS, the artificial intelligence who will construct a bespoke escape room for them and definitely not decide to cheerfully murder them with neurotoxin.
This is a game driven by technology and story. The two meet in the character of EROS, who keeps up a running commentary for much of the game with witty dialogue that provided several of my favourite moments. The puzzles also use some interesting sensors and custom electronics, though these are also combined with plenty of very analogue puzzle ideas.
While a great deal of care has clearly been invested into the tech, in other respects the game looks low-budget – or perhaps, as if the game’s budget was very selectively applied, and visual polish wasn’t a top priority. In places it had a slightly ‘under construction’ appearance, and while that was entirely in keeping with the theme, my impression was that that was fortuitous more than it was painstakingly designed.
I noted with Deadlocked’s first game that the design included a novel game mechanic that can introduce an unpredictable element into a playthrough. Testing Chamber also has a clever surprise that plays with the standard escape room format in a way that I’m not about to spoil, but which was a superb and unexpected twist.
Testing Chamber is a more linear, directed design than Deadlocked’s first game, and one with a distinctive style of game. Only part of the puzzle content here used electronics, but even the most hands-on, physical parts of the game seemed to me to share a ‘techy’ style of thinking which I suspect will appeal to some players much more than others. Anyone with a fondness for Portal will likely enjoy this game a great deal, as will most players who consider themselves technical minded. It might appeal less to others, particularly if you prize visual polish in a game’s set or are turned off by anything that smacks of computers; but for me any rough edges were amply compensated for by the humorous scripting and clever ideas.