Save Room is, to be short, a puzzle game based entirely around the concept of Inventory Tetris, harking back to the grid-based, limited Resident Evil 4 inventory, and giving a heavy, specific nod to that series even down to some of the items it features.
In fact, Save Room‘s premise is so incredibly obvious as a puzzle game that I’m surprised that nobody has made it to this scale before. After all, puzzle games are all about reaching a solution despite restrictions, and there are few game mechanics as notoriously restrictive as having to squeeze items into a grid-based inventory system.
For the uninformed, Inventory Tetris is a nickname for when you have to move and rotate your items with only limited storage space, you pivot and move items to try and make the most out of every single square on the grid. While it had been around in various other genres (RPG, for one, was rife with it for years before) it became synonymous with the survival horror genre because it added to the tension of already having limited supply, and added a much better, visible restriction that – frankly – sucked more than the encumbrance or ‘I only have two hands’ alternatives.
The first Resident Evil simply had limited item slots, but Resident Evil 4 was a major pivoting point for the series (although I’m one of those who think it was a step too far) and featured items that were larger if… they were larger… and smaller if they were smaller – you needed to flip, rotate, or leave items in order to fit them in. Great, you’ve got a rocket launcher, but you could have stored hundreds of pistol rounds in the same space.
After all, having unlimited ammo, a dense stack of interchangeable weapons and potentially limitless healing items is never going to instil tension in the way that games like Resident Evil 4, Deus Ex or even Escape from Tarkov would like.
Save Room, as I inferred earlier, is incredibly simple in design, although later mechanics like eating or using items to heal up, as well as the ability to combine items (like combining herbs in Resident Evil) or load up your weapons with ammo, are cool nods to its inspirations and add depth that other developers might not have put in. It’s also very cool that you can inspect the items, even if it is largely a distraction.
It isn’t the smartest puzzle game in the room, but it is a great, stylised tribute to an incredibly memorable (maybe not for the right reasons) mechanic that dominated a game genre while it was at its height. It also cleverly merges the aesthetic of the earlier titles with the series-defining fourth entry.
Save Room launched earlier this year on Steam (Windows and Linux), but is now also available for Playstation, Xbox and Switch.