I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about the difference between themeing, decor, and story/narrative. All three are not mutually exclusive, but are definitely distinctly different from one another. I just wanted to clarify the difference before my next review. I don’t think any one category will make or break a game, although I appreciate efforts to any of the three.
Decor is window dressing. It’s how a room looks. Some places try to make the room look closer to what the theme would dictate, while others might cheap out and put dollar-store props. I prefer the former, of course, but I don’t particularly hate the cheap props. It just so happens that places that haven’t put in much money into their decor also don’t really put much thought into the design of their games.
To me, themeing refers to the marriage of puzzles to a room’s theme/environment. If there’s a story/narrative to the room, themeing can also refer to puzzles adhering to that story as well. For example, if you were in a museum heist, physically dodging a grid of lasers make sense. If you put that same grid of lasers in a room about killing a vampire or unearthing an egyptian artifact, it doesn’t make sense. It’s not the end of the world of course, but it always raises the question – why did they bother doing that? Why not make the puzzles match the theme? Or if they really wanted that puzzle, why not make the theme match the puzzle instead? Or a third option would be just to make it a random puzzle room, and not just try to throw in as many props as possible
Story or narrative refers to the unfolding of a story as you play.