Wednesday, November 3, 2004

99 Rooms

From Berlin, 99 Rooms has some stunning photo montage work and an unusually good sound track.

At eNarrative one year, video curator George Fifield made an interesting observation. "If you're video footage isn't quite right, there's lots of things you can do. But bad sound is just bad sound: you can't fix it."

10 days online and over a quarter million visits

99ROOMS.COM has already earned the Schumann Combo a fan-base. And if you like the PS2 survival-horror Silent Hill, 99ROOMS is where you need to go right now. The Schumann-guys have taken 99 + a few photos of a derilict factory, photoshopped graffiti to the walls and then dumped everything into Flash, adding spooky and hauting mouse-over effects. The result is a bit artwork and a bit point-and-click adventure and indeed, the entries in the guestbook are divided between "woah, guys, spooky" and "woah, guys, great art". If you look closely, however, 99ROOMS is simply this: great marketing. You click through 99 screens, propelled forward by haunting sounds, creaking machinery and the sometimes quirky, sometimes gruesome figures, creatures and strangely organis shapes on the wall. Propelled, also, by your own curiosity and your desire to know: what's in Room 99?

There's nothing in Room 99, it's basically a long hall. But *behind* Room 99 - and behind the 99ROOMS - are the Schumann Combo, the makers of this piece of Flash that has just taken an hour-sized bite out of your day.

Beyond this, there's nothing much: the designs and mouseovers are pretty repetitive and there's no narrative motive that might add and ounce of deeper meaning, some story-quality to the progression. If you've enjoyed the 99ROOMS, take a look at The Hospital. The Hospital uses a similar technique, heavily photoshopped photographs of a cumbling ex-infirmary. But the progressiosn is less directed, the visitor is allowed to click freely within a ground-plan and enter and re-enter rooms at will. And the interior design is more diverse, different musing, terrifying or humorous in tone, on the themes suggested by different utility rooms. There's no tension in The Hospital, but then there's also no disappointment about an ending that does not terminate this tension. And the lack of story-structure leaves the visitor room to people with rooms with stories and histories of her own.