The true challenge behind any free-to-play title is how much is that money grab going to cost a tried and true gamer. Can we skirt the inevitable in-app purchases for a lengthy period, or are we seduced into a first rate experience only to be immediately slapped with an almost mandatory purchase? Rooms of Memory builds its house on the freemium model, and if first impressions only mattered, I would stay in this luxurious manor for hours. But is there something rotten in Denmark that should keep you away from these beautiful grounds?

Rooms of Memory is, upon first blush, a perfect app for players who love to investigate every nook, cranny, and crevice of a situation. The storyline centers on the mysterious disappearance of Professor Bellows, an eccentric genius who left his property with a multitude of items to collect and inspect. As you travel to different sections of each room, you have five minutes to properly pick out several scattered items within the area. Accomplishing the goal nets experience points, gold coins, and other collectibles which may aid your search. Furiously tapping your device, expecting to grab all the items sounds like the easy way to win, but such haphazardly missed tap may lead to 5 second time penalties. Plus, if all you want to do is touch and tap away like there's no tomorrow, you're playing the wrong game.

In the following photo, I've earned three gold pieces after finding Bellows' gun on his unpolished, hardwood floor.

Although tapping on objects from room to room may appear tedious, the developers ensure that each inspection has its own distinct flavor. My favorite section thus far is Bellows' library, which features a piano as its main attraction. As I look for a Van Gogh painting, I'm treated to a subtle, introspective tune I'd probably hear on Downton Abbey. The bell icon on the lower right side will offer up hints if I'm completely lost on my mission, while the thermometer will give me hints on which sections to find the Van Gogh painting or the treasure map. Having what translates into cool boosts/power-ups, coupled with a beautiful score and a visually ornate drawing room immediately put me in a different world.

Unfortunately, Rooms of Memory's vise like hold on my attention waned after the freemium compromise kicked in. Players are given 80 points of energy for starters, and although certain points can be earned with certain discoveries, it's really hard to fully get immersed in the adventure when each mission costs at least 20 of one's points to play. One energy point takes three minutes to regenerate, so within several hours you'll be able to play the game with an entirely fresh batch. Of course, you can always pay for more energy or gems that will unlock different sections or, more importantly, keep you playing. It's a shame, since I loved all that alone time in the cellar.

In-app purchases are completely understandable, but enabling gamers to enjoy a title for a lengthy period of time before making that first buy generates good will on both sides. I have no idea if this concept escapes the developers behind Rooms of Memory, but if you really want to play this title for anything longer than 15 or 20 minutes, be prepared break out the bucks.

Rooms of Memory is a first rate mystery and puzzler that's filled with nuance and ingenuity. Unfortunately, the free to play mechanic severely handicapped any kind of pure love I had for the title, and maybe if I truly inherited Bellows' lavish mansion I'd buy every single in-app purchase available. But this is reality, and money is hard to come by, which means some rooms, thanks to freemium madness, will remain locked.


App Store Link: Rooms of Memory for iPad | By Chillingo Ltd. | Price: Free | Version: 1.0.1 | 80.5 MB | Rating: 4+

6.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating