Genre: Science Fiction
Release date: 27 November 2010
Platform: PC, Mac
When a company releases the fourth game in a series there is a pretty good chance that the game has something going for it. Two questions naturally arise: “Why is the series so popular?” and “How does this game compare with the rest of the series?”
If you are not familiar with the Rhem games, then let me warn you. Rhem is a difficult game intended for advanced players only. And it is 100% puzzles. The graphics are good enough to get the point across, but nothing to admire. The plot is non-existent – you are stranded alone in a strange complex and must solve all the puzzles to escape. Rhem is all about the puzzles.
What kind of puzzles can keep a series going for four games? They are complex, but fair. They are layered – solving one yields a clue/item/access needed for the next. Yet for all their complexity the clues are there for every solution. I may have gotten stuck a couple of times, but I was never left with the feeling “Now how was I supposed to figure thatout?”
What types of puzzles will you find? They can be categorized as Combination Locks, Missing Items and Sliding Block Mazes. Now don't let the mention of Mazes turn you off. These are not your frustrating brick wall or hedge mazes. The Rhem complex is vast and rambling. Paths go everywhere and it is usually easy to see where you want to go. The challenge comes from the many things which block your way – doors, gates, rotating bridges, etc. And the controls are always out of reach. So the puzzle is not finding the path, but figuring out how to get through it.
Combination locks are not as easy as they sound. The lock may require numbers but the clue gives you letters. And the letters may have to be “filtered” before they can be converted into numbers. Many of the puzzles must go through three stages from initial clue to final puzzle.
These are puzzles which will make you stop and think.
OK, so Rhem is for puzzle junkies. But sequels have a way of slowing down and losing their original vision. How does Rhem 4 hold up against its predecessors?
Rhem 1 used an engine very similar to the original Myst. It was static slide show with the occasional animation overlay. Even the hand-shaped cursors looked the same. The backgrounds were obviously generated with an automated landscape generator. Rhem 2 and Rhem 3 tried to improve upon this with better textures, rippling water and fluttering leaves. But Rhem 4 goes back to its roots. There may be some new textures, but the special effects are gone.
With the graphics reverting back to the old school and the puzzle quality remaining consistent, Rhem 4 could easily be mistaken as an expansion pack to Rhem 1. This is a good thing.
Has Rhem 4 added any improvements to the series? I think so. First, Rhem 4 is much flatter than the earlier games. This makes it much easier to map. I could use regular quadrille paper with one move per square and there were only a few places which didn't line up. I don't consider mapping to be one of the challenges, so this improved the game for me.
Also, Knut has included a nice feature for people who have difficulty distinguishing colors. Just hold down the letter “c” on the keyboard and the name and RGB value of the color under the cursor will be displayed at the top of the screen.
Are there any down sides? The only complaint I have is that many of the clues are ambiguous. Say there is a sign on the wall which proclaims A=B. Does that mean that “A” is equal to “B”? Or does it mean that “A” must be made equal to “B”? So this became part of the challenge for me – not only finding the clues, but figuring out different ways of interpreting them.
Will you enjoy Rhem 4? Well, did you like Rhem 1, 2 and 3? :-) If you did, then you will enjoy Rhem 4 as a worthy successor. If you haven't played any of the Rhem series, then you need to ask yourself just how much you like puzzles. Do you find yourself disappointed with the simplicity of so many of today's puzzles? Do you wish you could play a game where you could trust the designer to be fair with his/her puzzles? Do you find yourself wishing for a good challenge for a change?
If you answered “Yes” to most of the above, then by all means get a pad of quadrille paper and grab your favorite Kuru Toga. You will be in for a 30-40 hour treat.
Final Score: "A-" – Knut did what he intended and nailed it to the wall.
System Requirements (Windows):