Now, you know when you scroll through digital marketplaces like the Xbox Game Store and see the long line of horror games on offer. Ranging from the AAA to the indie and the ones which look as though no effort has gone into them. The amount of horror games and influx of cheaply made titles nowadays makes it difficult to find the hidden gems that are worth your time. When by chance I first saw the trailer for Oxide: Room 104, I had mixed thoughts, thinking it looked very indie yet something about it grabbed my attention. And luck would have it a review code came into my mailbox.

So, was Oxide: Room 104 worth the venture into the unknown?

What is Oxide: Room 104?

Oxide: Room 104 is a first-person survival horror game with rogue-lite elements, escape room-style gameplay, and multiple paths across an ever-changing world. The story centers on Matthew, a man who’s on the run and decides to take refuge in a seamlessly innocent-looking motel. However, upon arriving, Matthew is knocked out cold and locked up in one of the rooms of the motel by a strange, sinister figure. Waking up naked in a bathtub filled with cold water, Mathew soon realises he is in danger but is unsure why this is happening or who is behind his abduction.

After escaping the bathroom and rest of room 104, he soon realises nothing is right, as strange creatures roam the motel, shadowy figures haunt him wherever he goes and visions of a terrifying induvial cutting off his limbs one by one plague his venture through this nightmare.

What makes Oxide: Room 104 even more interesting is upon death, Matthew restarts his venture through the motel, starting again in room 104. But with each passing, the world around him changes, becoming more hostile, ever more dangerous, and changing the placement of key items and weapons, distorting any rhyme or reason.

Wouldn’t advise this place on Trip Adviser

As mentioned, Oxide: Room 104 looked very rough in the way many indies, or more so the very indie horror games do. But what grabbed my attention was the interesting concept and the brooding atmosphere that sent shivers down my spine.

From the first ten minutes of playing, I was certainly hooked, and I was invested to see how Mathew’s predicament would turn out. While the setup is not wholly original, I do admire the developers for making the most of the environment. Using the motel rooms as a giant puzzle and even escape rooms was really engaging, and that dread of not knowing what could be in the next room was utterly thrilling.

The story harbors a lot of secrecy, never revealing too much about what is happening or why. Matthew, we know is in trouble, and there are others working with him. So, you feel this could be a setup by those he has wronged. But as his venture into the unknown unfolds, we learn there is something much more sinister happening. There are files to read which give more context on the situation, and some personal information on Matthew and certain other characters we don’t meet in the game. But more importantly, some background on what the hell is going on. It’s all very reminiscent of good old survival horror games like Resident Evil. With the story and lore being broken up through documents and environmental storytelling.

While I did like the mystery, I did feel by the end, after reading tons of documents and even seeing all the endings, I didn’t learn the full picture. I could have missed some bits of information, but what is presented in cut scenes and quite a few documents don’t give much backing to the story. There are hints of an evil experiment going on, shadowy figures pulling the strings, and so forth. But nothing feels connected, or whole.

Certain horror games will have a connection between the dots, even something as vague as Bloodborne has a complete, and enriching story backing it up. I saw elements of Outlast (with the creepy doctor and twisted experiment), Amnesia, and even The Evil Within. But it didn’t all connect and even with the true ending, I felt a little confused and empty. It’s good to ask questions, but other times it’s not good to be out of the loop or not able to put together a complete picture of the story.

Although was this a problem? Not really, as in some, weird way, this completely surreal, fragmented style of storytelling fitted with the nature of the game world and gameplay. While it would have been nice to get a clearer picture, I still found myself enjoying the mystery, the intensity, and the more extreme moments too.

Oh yeah, there’s also some Saw/Hostile thrown in for good measure.

What’s behind door number 1?

The thing that really gripped my attention while playing Oxide: Room 104 was the idea of an ever-changing world each time you die. That, and the idea of the motel acting like one big mystery, where you navigate through, find key items, solve smaller puzzles in each of the motel rooms, and avoid death around each corner.

From the first room you escape from, each of the motel rooms has its own secrets to find and problems to resolve. Doing so will reward you with keys to other rooms, important items that can unearth vital equipment, or clues on how to solve an even more fiendish obstacle, blocking your path to freedom.

Venturing through the motel complex was quite unnerving, showing the developers have the skills to keep you on edge, especially when you venture into each room, not knowing what to expect. As Oxide relies on RNG, each room you go into will be somewhat different, in small ways or much larger ones. There will always be the same setup, whether it’s a room filled with mannequins, a makeshift casino, a room filled with toxic gas, and so on, but each time you die and visit that room, something will alter. Whether it’s how to solve the puzzle in that room, an enemy lurking in the shadows, or a new item that could be vital for your survival.

I genuinely loved the uncertainty and the concept that each room was its own self-contained puzzle that linked together to form what is quite a terrifying location overall. While some rooms were set up beautifully, there were a few times when the solution to the problem was very uninspired. While there were some neat setups and clever use of the deduction for some rooms, quite often the solution to each room would involve you collecting items or finding keys to a locked door. These somewhat killed the pacing and felt rather weak compared to some of the more confidently designed problems. But as said, Oxide relies heavily on RNG, and on some runs (my first was a classic example) you might find it a little uneventful, with many of the puzzles feeling unchallenging and the general tone lackluster.

But it is worth doing multiple run-throughs, as you will discover new rooms, new routes, and new problems to solve and there are multiple endings depending on how many times you die.

Each time you do die, the world resets, and key items, routes, and enemies will change. The world will get visibly more disturbing, which was a super nice touch aesthetically, and generally much more difficult to handle. So, it’s in your best interest to not die, which is easier said than done. But like any good rogue-lite, Oxide pushes you to keep going, to learn from your mistakes, and keeps things interesting with each mistake.

The story develops as you die (with some intensely gruesome moments which gave me Saw vibes), but also the world decays before you and soon enough, you’ll be locked into one of several endings. But knowledge is power, and with each run through the frightening motel, you’ll learn where key items are, general tactics for enemies, and most importantly, to stay away from plants (those will certainly kill you).  

Yet, there is some randomness to item placement in the multiple runs, which is good and bad. I like not knowing if a certain route would be open or not seeing an item I could, like the shovel for example. But some items will only appear when you pass through an area a certain number of times. So on a new run through the motel, I looked for the previously mentioned shovel as I learned where it should be used. Going to the area where it normally is, I found it wasn’t there. I left and after getting somewhat stuck in my progress I revisited the area again and another time before the shovel appeared. I noticed this with a couple of items and felt this was a glitch.

I would understand (and feel it be better) if these items were found in different places but having them appear after you visit the area a certain number of times felt a little cheap. But the general randomness and the ever-changing world are very interesting, as it keeps the journey fresh, engaging, and utterly terrifying.

This is certainly not Hotel Transylvania            

There are of course plenty of ghouls and other nasties to contend with, while you venture your way to freedom. Many of these nasties will do some serious damage, giving you either bleed or poison damage until you die. There is no health bar, only these inflictions, which is a neat idea, but some tension is removed with no health bar. However, if you get attacked multiple times in a row, then you will certainly die. Plus, there are plenty of death traps to watch out for, including gas-filled rooms, rooms filled with explosives, and the odd QTE escape sequence as you’re being chased by a big nasty.

The combat is quite light, with only firearms in the game. It has some serious recoil and handles like a shopping cart, but it gets the job done. My only concerns were with the lack of a melee alterative (it seems like other indie horror games just focus on firearms) to act as a last resort. And the fact that some rooms really make it impossible to avoid incoming enemies. I found myself in a couple of instances where a creature would appear out of the blue, leave me very little time to fend for myself, attack, and then get another attack in to finish me off. This could be due to the same jumps care/enemy spawn being used multiple times (where they charge out of a bathroom you’ve unlocked or appear out of thin air). This got tedious fast and with the stiff controls, and some rooms being very clunky to move around in, you will feel cheated in some way.


Oxide: Room 104 might not be a massive draw like Resident Evil or even some of the heavy hitters of the horror indie scene. But I found myself thoroughly engaged and entertained for a solid week as I ventured into the world of Oxide repeatedly. While the clunkiness is very much present in the controls and some aspects of the presentation, along with some gameplay lacking depth, I found the concept to be utterly compelling. I loved venturing through the ungodly motel, learning its routes, solving the many puzzles, and figuring out what the hell is going on. The horror was incredibly strong, and I had genuine chills running down my spine many times while playing.

While Oxide: Room 104 is very much an indie game, it’s a great achievement seeing as it was made by two people. They created and developed a very compelling concept, with an intense horror rogue-lite with elements of Resident Evil and Silent Hill, yet kept it their own, unique experience. I really enjoyed Oxide and I would say go check it out. I think the small development team did a great job and I really hope they can expand their talents on a bigger, more immense game next time.

++ Great concept with interesting gameplay dynamic
+ Some great lateral elements
+ Intense and chilling horror

- Clunky controls and some balancing issues
- RNG impacts how interesting some runs are
- Quite a few puzzles are simple, tedious key hunts  

An Xbox Series S review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.