Burn coal because a piece of paper told you to.
It’s a Monday morning and you’re ready to start your new job at Business Incorporated International as a coal hauler! A dream come true, no doubt, and you arrive to be met with a piece of paper that tells you to pick up coal from a conveyor belt and throw it into the furnace. That’s it. For a game, The Coal Room really does just look like you’ll be doing menial work.
Of course, there’s more to it than that, as the paper you are provided with also informs you that the only way you’ll be able to clock out is with an employee ID card. The previous coal hauler had one and probably left it in the room somewhere, so you’d best make sure you find it. Not only that, be that employee also left a bunch of there stuff around as well, but you can do whatever you want with that. Time to get to work!
The Coal Room is a (very) short narrative puzzle game in which you carry out your menial tasks whilst also learning about the person who you replaced. As this is almost entirely story focused, I won’t go too much into the plot. I will say that the puzzle elements are very simple once you’ve worked out what you can do though. The simple controls meant that I was grabbing coal and slinging it in the furnace almost immediately, but that grew tiresome quite quickly. So then I started throwing other random objects in the furnace, which also became a little dull. It was only once I paid attention to some of the details in the room that I realised there were other secrets hidden here.
The story is very simple, and not terribly inventive, but it was a nice enough tale of a worker who wanted so much more out of life than they had achieved thus far. Nothing is directly shown through cutscenes, but if you read the notes you see taped to various places you should get the gist with no trouble. Once you’ve found the ID card and clocked out, you’ll be rated on your employee performance. Remember, you still have a job to maintain!
The Coal Room looks pretty enough, with everything being very clear and easy to pick out, which is important seeing as reading notes presents the story. The visuals are very simple, using a blocky style that is quite familiar when it comes to free Unity games, but it’s perfectly adequate. Sound is almost non-existent save for one or two sound effects and one simple music track. Again, the minimalist approach works here. Controls are a touch unresponsive, with mouse clicks not always giving the desired result the first time. Movement also feels a little off as your character seems to take an extra step or two once you release the appropriate button. It’s hardly game breaking though as there’s little need to make quick movements.
The whole thing can be finished in a matter of minutes once you know what to do, as there isn’t any complexity. Getting the different endings — which amount to little more than a different piece of paper with text on it — can add a little more time to the experience if that sort of thing interests you. It’s a pleasant enough time for a quick, free game though, especially for the developer’s first game, as far as I can tell. It’s worth a look for the amount of time investment required!
You can find The Coal Room on itch.io.