Archived Pages from 20th Century!!

GDR Masthead



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
Multiplayer: None.

Graphic modes:
Controls: Keyboard, mouse
Sound devices:
ComputerMemoryHD spaceCD speedOther reqs/options
Minimum486-668M41Mx3 Win95: 12Mb Ram, P75 min.
Reviewed onP13316Mx8
Reviewer's Hardware: Cardex Genesis SV PCI Video, Media Vision Pro Audio Spectrum 16, & GUS Ace daughterboard.


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.

Game Interface

Main Screen:

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.

Arm Computer:

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.

Customer Support

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 review.

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 responsive.

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 mechanics.


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.

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