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Throwback Thursday: Rama

Throwback Thursday: Rama

Throwback Thursday: Rama


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Note: Review was originally published November 29, 1996

Rama is the first computer adventure game that actually made me an unhappy person. For about ten days.

The game is based on books by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee, and I bought the game because I’m such a huge fan of the books. Psych!

The game starts out promisingly, with your arrival by shuttle at the huge alien rotating cylinder known as Rama. You get introduced to the crew (decent acting) and start exploring. So far, so good.

However, very quickly I began to realize that this game was primarily about math. This was not a horrible technical problem, because math doesn’t scare me, but it’s not a very warm and fuzzy basis for a game. Virtually every puzzle deals in some way with math, mostly in alternative base systems.

And if I thought the puzzles were chilly, how about the game logic? I know I was supposed to figure things out from multiple alien viewpoints, but all Rama did was make me feel sad and stupid. I began resenting the time I was spending stumbling around and getting lost.

Let’s talk view screen. Rama is yet another game to commit the cardinal sin of not using the monitor real estate effectively. When will game designers realize that we’d rather pop up utilities when we need them than have the playing area reduced to the proverbial postage stamp? I’m hoping after all the carping about this problem in Dark Side of the Moon that this particular game problem will be eliminated from new games.

Let’s talk inventory. Rama has the single worst inventory system I’ve ever seen in a game. You can only look at a few items at a time, and you can never get rid of an obsolete item. Therefore, what little time you’re not spending in this game haplessly translating numbers, or hopelessly lost in the avian and octospider lairs, will be spent scrolling endlessly up and down through dead items in this stupid inventory. Whoever responsible for this component of the game should be hunted down and forced to sit through the musical version of Lost Horizon.

Let’s talk graphics. Unbelievably, the graphics in Rama don’t even begin to suggest the scope and grandeur of the ship. Worse, they don’t even competently suggest its structure or geography.

Let’s talk ending! Rama has an ending that makes the conclusion of Shivers seem uniquely fulfilling. It’s a tedious timed decoding sequence followed by an ultra-lame, wrap-absolutely-nothing-up cinematic, and, finally, a tedious lecture by Dr. Clarke.

I would have quit this game except I was afraid that would have made me feel even stupider! I finally resorted to a walkthrough, no, two walkthroughs, which I hate to do, and sat at my computer absolutely dumbfounded as step after obtuse step of twisted alien logic was revealed. Over and over I found myself saying, “I must be stupid because I would have sat here for a year and it wouldn’t have occurred to me to do that!

I guess, in the end, Rama does have one terrific virtue: if addiction to computer games ever becomes a bad social problem in our country, we’ll be able to use cheaply reproduced copies of Rama to cure it.

Final Grade: D

If you liked Rama:
Watch: Silent Running
Read: A Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
Play: The Arrival

System Requirements (PC):

486 DX/66
2X CD-ROM drive
SVGA graphics
DOS 5.0 or Windows 95
Supports most major sound cards

Ray Ivey

Ray Ivey

A gaming freakazoid, Ray enjoys games on all platforms. Also loves board games, mind games, and all puzzles. Co-wrote the Entertainment Tonight trivia game and designed puzzles for two Law & Order PC games. Also a movie freak, bookworm, and travel bug. Thinks games of all kinds are a highly underappreciated force for social good, not to mention mental and psychological health.   Ray's favorite adventures include the "Broken Sword" and "Journeyman Project" franchises, "The Dark Eye," "The Feeble Files," "Sanitarium," "Limbo," "Machinarium," "Riven," "The Neverhood," and "Azrael's Tear." His favorite non-adventures include the "Thief," "Uncharted," and "Ratchet & Clank" franchises, all of the Bioware RPGs, Skyrim, and Final Fantasy XII.   Ray writes about the movies for the Bryan/College Station Daily Eagle, which is the old-fashioned thing called a "newspaper." He's been on eight game shows. He's taught in seven countries and has visited twenty-one. His favorite classic movie star is Barbara Stanwyck and his favorite novel is "The Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving.

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