Fractal Projects’ 2022 release Save Room offers a cozy afternoon of relaxed puzzle-solving, shining the spotlight on a now decades-old survival horror mechanic that you may have completely forgotten about, but almost definitely have fond memories of – Resident Evil 4’s inventory management system.
When Resident Evil 4 dropped in 2005, it raised the standards not only for horror games, but video games as a medium. Countless games have imitated its tense, action-packed over-the-shoulder gameplay over the years, but even almost 20 years later, Resident Evil 4 still holds the prestigious title of being one of the best games ever made. One of its most understated features, however, has to be the revamped item management system it introduced to the franchise. Micromanaging your weapons, ammo and healing items in a limited-slot attaché case presented another challenge beyond just the combat and gunfights – and yet, I always wondered how such a simple but genius concept never cropped up in the form of a short-and-sweet indie title. Thankfully, Fractal Projects’ 2022 release Save Room delivers the exact experience we were looking for.
Save Room presents the player with a simple task. On the left side of the screen is your attaché case, and on the right are the items you want to put into said attaché case. Through item rotation and thoughtful placement of your guns, ammo, and other items, you need to make all of your stock fit cozily into your inventory. There’s no time limit to worry about here either, which is what makes Save Room all the better as there’s ample time to carefully consider your next course of action. Combine that with the background music faithfully reproducing the calming strings and piano melodies of survival horror titles long gone, and Save Room is an excellent choice for both Resident Evil fans and people just looking for a straightforward puzzle experience.
Though, it’s safe to say that this puzzle romp will be appreciated to the fullest by fans of the survival horror giant it pays homage to. Save Room is faithful to Resident Evil 4 in every sense of the word – the layout, weapon and item design, font choice and even the inclusion of the iconic fish healing items from Resident Evil 4 can all be found here. Countless times during my playthrough, I found myself recognising an item or its design and fondly try to recall what its equivalent was called in the original – Resident Evil 4‘s Broken Butterfly magnum revolver being renamed the Fixed Butterfly in Save Room made me chuckle, and the developer’s adoration for the original game shines through loud and clear here.
For such a low price, there’s some serious bang for your buck here as well. There are 40 levels in total, and some serious headscratchers start cropping up as early as Level 10. Eventually, cleverly rotating your arsenal won’t cut it any more as you’ll be required to pay attention to your health bar in the top left corner (and yep, you guessed it, it comes in the form of the iconic Resident Evil heartbeat monitor) which means you’ll have to start actually using healing items, reloading your guns, and combining your herbs to be able to fit all of your wares in your inventory. Newcomers should perhaps consider researching the mechanics of Resident Evil 4‘s inventory system before playing, however; there’s no dedicated tutorial about what items combine with what, for example, and a first-time player might not initially realise that combining herbs magically creates space, understandably enough.
It’s hard to fault a game with such a simple, well-executed premise, which is a testament to the developer’s efforts. There are some UI adjustments that I think would’ve made the overall experience a bit more fluid. Scrolling up brings you to the options menu, requiring you to scroll back down to return to the inventory. In Resident Evil 4, scrolling up allowed you to endless cycle through your items, making it a lot easier and faster to quickly organise your stock, so it’s surprising that Save Room didn’t replicate this. Similarly, there’s some items from the original game that are amiss here that may have helped add an extra layer of complexity to the puzzles, such as Leon’s combat knife. But this is just nitpicking, as Save Room is already creative enough with the items it has.
Admittedly though, there isn’t a whole ton of replayability here, which makes sense given the nature of a puzzle title, but perhaps some form of time trial or even a randomiser mode would’ve added another few hours of entertainment for eager fans of inventory micromanagement. Especially considering speedrunning and randomiser mods are so popular and well-loved in the Resident Evil community to this day, post-game modes like this would’ve made Save Room more than just a 3 hour one-and-done title, and instead a puzzle game with potentially dozens of hours of replayability.
Save Room came along almost 20 years after Resident Evil 4‘s release to fill a very specific niche that, frankly, I’m amazed another indie hasn’t already done. Every weapon, item and even the overall interface was lovingly crafted to evoke nostalgia of the classic survival horror title, and the simple but engaging mechanics invite even non-Resident Evil fans to give it a whirl. When you finish all 40 levels, there’s not a whole ton left to draw you back to this title, but for such a small price, Save Room offers a wonderful way to waste a few hours and get the cogs turning with its carefully-designed puzzles. If only Save Room could answer the million-dollar question… why does Leon need so much fish in his inventory?!
- Faithfully recreates Resident Evil 4's inventory micromanagement system
- Excellent puzzle design that scales naturally as you approach the final level
- Mechanics and difficulty is well-paced and doesn't get too difficult, too fast
- The calming background music is a wonderful love letter to classic survival horror save room themes
- Lacking replayability; perhaps a time trial or randomiser mode would've helped
- Some UI differences hold it back from being as fluid as the game it pays homage to