I wonder what the turning point was; the one which switched American motels from delightful little places for weary travellers looking for some shut-eye, to places of utter horror. Films made them crime and murder hotspots back in the ’50s and then of course there was Norman Bates in Psycho that turned it into something else. Horror in games has treasured them too; places where all things weird and scary happen. Now it’s the turn of Oxide Room 104, as it puts you in the shoes of a weary traveller who is trapped – they have to get out, quickly.
Oxide Room 104 starts with a cutscene of you – the hero – turning up in a hotel for the night, drinking some whiskey then waking up the next day in a filled bath; locked in a bathroom. Your job is to get out of the motel, working room by room. And believe me, that job is harder than you think. Strange dream-like sequences occur throughout the game, and the motel is infested with horrible teethy monsters who will kill you instantly. Even the rooms will kill you if you touch the wrong thing. And you will touch the wrong thing. But death isn’t the end and Oxide Room 104 changes all the time, helping keep it very original in its conception. You can also find documents that give you more hints on what is happening in this motel and who has been here before.
The gameplay takes place in the first person and it acts – at least on the surface – like a survival horror experience. You are basically dropped inside a selection of rooms and you have to find your way out, navigating each room to hopefully find escape. You can examine all the objects you happen across, and collect them for your Resident Evil-styled limited inventory. You can also combine certain items and then use them with environmental objects that you find. Some of the puzzles are fairly tricky to solve, but at no point did I ever suffer too badly as I worked through Oxide Room 104. What you will find hard to do though is to stay alive – if only as pretty much everything is out to kill you. And I’m not just talking about the monsters.
You will die in this, and honestly, it will be hard not to. In fact, in the very first room, I opened a drawer, fell backwards, hit my head and started bleeding. Because I had no bandages, I bled to death. On the flipside, you’ll also pick up a gun early on, but the monsters absorb the bullets and there is no melee. What this means is you are left to creep around, hoping you are not spotted. Ye that’s not possible all the time. But here is the interesting thing…
When you die in Oxide Room 104, you are presented with a cutscene that could be from your worst nightmare, all as you end up in the bath, dropped in from the beginning. But from there, you’ll discover that the world has changed. Items in the rooms have moved, certain puzzles will be easier, but there might be more enemies patrolling around. I found this format to be an intriguing and interesting twist on the usual horror format. It helps when retracing your steps in keeping the game fresh and engaging throughout.
There’s no doubt that Oxide Room 104 is a low-budget game and you can tell with certain aspects of the experience, but the developers are very successful in creating a brilliant atmosphere that feels catastrophic and terrifying as you peek around each corner. The visuals aren’t amazing but they do a good job of adding to the atmosphere, as it creates a world where you are scared to touch anything in case it kills you. The creatures and characters moving around the space are very creepy and you don’t want to go anywhere near them; something which is a big success in the horror stakes. However, the colour palette is a bit samey after a while, but again, that’s probably something to do with the budget.
Now I hate to be down on the voice acting, but it’s not the best in Oxide Room 104. In fact, the main part does a strange job of delivering lines and it feels like he possibly wasn’t aware of what the game would be doing as he recorded. A lot of the time there is a strange disconnect between the emotion of the line delivery and the action found on the screen. It really doesn’t work.
But overall Oxide Room 104 is a decent little survival horror; one that has some great ideas but falls short in others. The price feels a little too high for what is on offer here, but there is one thing for sure, it’ll certainly make you consider ever stepping foot inside a motel again.
Oxide Room 104 is on the Xbox Store