Reviewed by: Dan Rapp|
|Author: ||In-house|| Price: ||Retail:$55 US, Street: $45 US|
|Category: ||Adventure|| Released: ||November 1996|
|Platform: ||DOS, also on Win95.|| Version: ||Release|
|Graphic modes: |
|Controls: ||Keyboard, mouse|
|Sound devices: |
Reviewer's Hardware: Cardex Genesis SV PCI Video, Media Vision Pro Audio Spectrum 16, & GUS Ace daughterboard.
|Computer||Memory||HD space||CD speed||Other reqs/options
||Win95: 12Mb Ram, P75 min.|
Set two hundred years in the future, the game begins with you heading to a
vast, mysterious spacecraft that has suddenly arrived in our solar system.
You are being sent as a replacement astronaut for another who has died under
mysterious circumstances. Upon arrival, you are briefed, given a few moments
to acclimate yourself; then requested to join the remainder of the crew in the
scientific exploration of Rama. You will have a few contacts early on with the
rest of the crew; but as the game progresses, you essentially will be playing
the game as a solitary explorer. Very little contact is written into the
plotline beyond the early stages.
Those acquainted with the novels will find much that is familiar in Rama; but
those who have not read the novels will not find this to be a detriment.
Essentially, the plot is straightforward. Rama has been sent for a very basic
purpose. This purpose, as will be noted later in the review, is so simple as
to lend a certain degree of logic to Rama that is lacking in most adventure
games. You will also have the running subplot of stopping the "bad guys" and
halting the destruction of Rama. That takes the form, of course, of our own
leaders deciding that Rama is a threat and must be bombed into oblivion. I'm
not really giving anything away here; since in the opening stages of the game,
you run across a nuclear bomb of human construction. It doesn't take much
deductive reasoning to determine it's purpose. Or yours.
The main screen will display what you are viewing. This screen will be
framed with all the usable options. The top left symbol will allow access to
"Game Options" (i.e. Save, Restore, Volume, Brightness, Credits, Quit). To
the right is a text box to display comments/descriptions of any object you
place the cursor over, etc. At the bottom left are the "Raman Eyes". You
click to "Pick Up" an item and place it under the eyes. You will now see an
enlarged view of the object in the view screen. This object can be rotated to
view from various angles. To the right of the eyes is your "Compass". This
will show the direction you are going; as well as all possible directions
available to you. To the right of the compass is the "Inventory" box. You may
place what seems to be an unlimited number of items in the inventory by simply
picking them up and clicking to drop them into the inventory. Rearranging
items is done by placing an item to the left of the location you want it in
and clicking to place. Lastly, to the far right on the lower part of the
screen are the "Scroll Arrows" for the inventory.
The arm computer is your link to the rest of the crew. The primary use is to
receive "vidmail" messages. You will also periodically either be given, or
find, data cubes of information that can be read by inserting them into the
computer. The third primary feature of the computer is to show you a local
area line drawing map of the region you presently are exploring.
Central Plains Radar Map:
Upon exiting a particular territory, you will be shown this map. It displays
all active sites in the central plains that are open for exploration at that
time. Traveling between sites is accomplished by picking an area on the radar
map and clicking on it to complete the journey. Most sites are available at
all times for travel. A few minor sites are randomly available for
exploration. My experience showed them to be essentially inconsequential.
This miniature figure will be familiar to fans of the literary series. Puck
is a small robot given to you to aid you in your quest. Mostly, you will have
to actively request his input; but occasionally he will offer up helpful hints
on things you might otherwise overlook. Not only that, they were fascinating
in the books; so it's great to finally have one for yourself.
I'd have to say that I developed a love/hate relationship with the Central
Plains of Rama. It is visually stunning, music is varied and well done, and
the puzzles are varied and challenging. Beyond this, one thing was done that,
in my opinion, did nothing to increase the enjoyment or challenge of the game.
That one thing was the use of mathematically-oriented access cards to gain
entrance virtually everywhere. It was overdone. The player will be asked to
solve equations in base-2, base-3, base-7 and base-8 to name a few. This
will be done in the form of 3 x 3 grids with symbolic access cards (you have
to first equate the symbols to the base system used), and in the form of
computer consoles with an increasingly difficult sequence of mathematical
problems to be solved prior to triggering access. They weren't necessarily
difficult; just incredibly tedious and time consuming after a point. It took
on the flavor of a gimmick to make the Central Plains longer and more
challenging; rather than using a more creative variety of puzzles.
That said, on to other aspects. Many adventure games, in my opinion, are
lacking in a certain logic. You walk around and find useful, valuable items
lying around in the strangest places. Keys are tossed on the ground in a
forest, weapons in tree stumps, secret plans under the desk, etc. It's more
of a giant Easter egg hunt. This is where the very concept of Rama shines
most of the time. I can say, without giving away the plot to those unfamiliar
with it, that the idea of tossing things about to be found is exactly the
point of the Ramans. The only time I really encountered this lack of logic
was very early in the game. I'm asked by a party member to bring down a
lighter from their locker. The problem is that it is locked. I wander around,
find a ladder and climb down. I walk around and find her key lying on a
nuclear weapon. Now why would it be left there? Also, why didn't she mention
she either lost it, left it, whatever? Not only that, I get this and other
keys, rummage through lockers and take everything not nailed down; yet I
never hear anyone ask what happened to their stuff. Thankfully, this was the
only point in the game that this was evident.
Once you have left the central plains, you thankfully will be past the access
card math tests. Entering "New York", the game from this point will take you
through a number of areas that are the lairs of the various biotech creatures
encountered previously. From this point forward, there are a wide variety of
puzzles to solve. You will find stuck handles that require loosening with a
substance from somewhere else, color pattern matching, number puzzles of new
varieties, a creature to interact with, hidden wall murals that you will need
to be very innovative to see, and so on. The effort expended to create a
game with the variety and ingenuity in this stage of the game is what I expect
from both Sierra and from something to which Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee
would lend their name.
I really must mention this. I had a few minor problems early in the game. I
spoke to Tech Support and they were courteous, responsive and knowledgeable.
I also received a troubleshooting text in the email, unsolicited, in very
short order. This was done without mentioning that I was doing a game
Game Mechanics: Installation, graphics, & sound
The DOS installation was no problem. Basically just run the install program
and follow a very simple set of instructions. It will also install on Win95.
In fact, Win95 is recommended by Sierra Tech Support as the preferable
operating environment for the game. Graphics were very well done. One of my
favorites included a scene in "London" that has no particular purpose; other
than pushing buttons and seeing a display of the solar system, construction of
Rama, etc. Throughout the game, I found the graphics to be crisp and
Sound was very good; both in quality and variety. The selections epitomize
the areas in which you explore; but is not overly intrusive. You may encounter
some problems with the sound breaking up with various setups.
The unknown! About two-thirds of the way through the Plains, my game began
to lock up whenever trying to save. I also began to receive "DOS Read"
errors, the sound would break up and the game would slow significantly. I
made the error of saving after receiving one of the "DOS Read" errors. After
erasing this save and backing up to a previous one, the lockups disappeared.
I then deleted some prior saves and the game began to behave much better. The
final cure seemed to occur when I reached New York. I switched the saves to a
new directory (a feature of the options menu) and all the problems
disappeared. I kept no more than two saves in that directory. My
recommendation is to have a "working directory" for the current save that you
are playing, and an "archive directory" to pull from if you need to backtrack
for any reason. Beyond that, I found no real problems with the game
A worthwhile addition to the game are the interviews on the third CD.
Francesca and Reggie, the two media hounds on the expedition, are shown
conducting interviews with the crew members prior to departure. It's good
background material for those new to the Rama scenario. Additional interviews
that are interesting to watch are the ones with Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry
Lee. The questions range beyond the game and provide some interesting
insights into the views of these two gentlemen.
I thoroughly enjoyed the game in the early stages and after arriving in "New
York". The latter stages of the Central Plains was like one long math test.
I'm good at it; but I don't want to spend that much time doing it for
entertainment, of all things. Beyond that, it plays well and is pleasant on
the eyes and ears. Game length is reasonable. You could get through it
relatively quickly if you solved all the puzzles on the first attempt. The
thing is, that's not going to happen. The game is very challenging.
|Appeal:||Adventure players as well as Rama literary fans.|
|Originality & Storyline:||Not a fair question for a game so heavily based on a novel.|
|Graphics & Video:||Rama brought to the screen. Clarke's visions were faithfully rendered and of high quality.|
|Audio:||Good, unobtrusive music.|
|Longevity:||Estimating 80+ hours.|
|Presentation:||Appealing and easy to use.|
|Packaging & Docs:||Manual is easy to read and logically organized.|
|Bugs & Problems:||DOS Read errors and lockups when saving. Cure seems to be to set up multiple directories.|
Copyright © Dan Rapp for the Games Domain Review, 1996. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission.