Genre:   Adventure

Developer:    Dynamix

Publisher:   Sierra

Released:   1996

PC Requirements:   DOS 5.0, Windows 3.1/95, IBM/100% compatible 486 33Mhz, 8MB of RAM, 2x CD-ROM drive, SVGA, Mouse.

Walkthrough Walkthrough




by Jenny100


Quicklist of game characteristics  (requested by Gameboomers members)

  • First person point of view with mouse-controlled, snapshot-type movement

  • Unlimited saves, but too many saves in the same folder may cause crashes

  • It's possible to die in the game, but game will restore you to before your mistake

  • Other characters seen only during non-interactive cut scenes

  • 3 CD's, game can start from any CD

  • "Timed" puzzle at the end, which isn't really timed - timer advances according to your movements


Rama is an enormous cylindrical spacecraft which has entered Earth's solar system.  A small crew of astronauts has been sent from Earth to explore the mysterious spacecraft. Your character has been assigned to join the crew after the leader of the expedition, General Valeriy Borzov, mysteriously dies during a routine medical procedure. Leadership of the team has already been passed on to the head scientist, Dr. David Brown, but your assistance is needed in exploring Rama and trying to understand its purpose.

Rama is a puzzle-driven adventure and the story that develops during the game is on the sketchy side. You never do gain much insight into Rama's purpose. Nor do you learn any details of how or why Borzov died. Nor do you interact meaningfully with the other characters. Your main concern in the game is to solve puzzles - inventory puzzles, puzzles involving recognition and continuation of a sequence, puzzles involving addition and subtraction in other bases, and a few other types. Much of the first part of the game involves searching for disks in the environment, which you will use in door puzzles to gain entry into various buildings that are part of Rama. The second part of the game is also mainly based on exploring, collecting and using inventory, and manipulating controls in order to access new areas. It's the puzzles, not the story, that drive the game. If you are looking for a story, you'll have to read the book(s).

Rama the game is not based on Arthur C. Clarke's famous book, "Rendezvous with Rama." It is primarily based on "Rama II," the first of a trilogy of books about Rama that that Arthur C. Clarke co-authored with Gentry Lee. All the human characters found in the game are in "Rama II" and the story in the game is loosely based on the story in "Rama II." Playing the game doesn't really "spoil" the plot of the book, though people who have read and enjoyed the book may be a little disappointed by the simplified characters and limited plot of the game.

Rama the game comes on three CD's. Only the first two CD's are necessary to play. I didn't even look at CD3 until after completing the game. But CD3 includes a prologue and interviews. The actress playing the TV reporter, Francesca Sabatini, interviews the other characters in the game as if she really were Ms. Sabatini herself, conducting the interviews with the other members of the crew.

There are also interviews with Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee. These interviews are broken up into a question and answer form. You click on a question, and there is a video of either Arthur C. Clarke or Gentry Lee answering. Some "answers" show Arthur C. Clarke filming a sequence against a blue background. Later the sequence is shown as you see it in the game, with Arthur C. Clarke's image integrated into one of the cut scenes. During the game, you may see these cut scenes whenever you make a mistake and get yourself killed. My favorite interview topic was the one where Arthur C. Clarke demonstrated his computer's shutdown sound.


At the beginning of the game, you are greeted by the ship's medical officer, Nicole des Jardins, and soon discover that the other crew members have each left you a video mail introducing themselves. One thing that initially confused me was that more than one of the characters suggested in their vidmail that I contact them if I had any questions. Yet I was never able to find any method of sending messages to the other characters. I'd sometimes run into one of them out in the field, but could never initiate contact myself or ask a question. Whenever I happened to run into one of them, a cut scene would play and they'd either give me some piece of information or give me an inventory item.

So even though there are other characters in the game, you are essentially by yourself. You learn about what the other characters are doing through messages left for you on the main computer, messages in "data cubes," and other evidence of characters' activities that turns up during the course of the game. You never seem to be part of the crew at all. Also, every member of the crew seems to be exploring solo, unlike the book, where crew members explored in small groups because of the potential dangers of the Raman environment.

Your own character is undistinguished by either voice or gender. You must use your imagination to supply these things if you feel they are needed.

I suppose it isn't really fair to compare the characters in the game with the characters in the book. Perhaps it is of necessity that they are simplified and somewhat stereotyped for the game. But in a few cases, they are entirely different from the characters in the book.


The install is very small, and the game will access the CD frequently. I initially played the game in DOS mode, then attempted to play it in Windows 95. The Windows installation uses DirectX, but does not install it if you have a later version. The game was made to be used with DirectX 2. Perhaps this is why the Windows version was unstable on my test computer, which had DirectX 7a. I also tried playing the DOS install in a full screen DOS window on Win 98 and this seemed to work too. But I didn't play far into the game this way.


The game graphics were of reasonably good quality as regards clarity. They were probably very good quality back in 1996 when the game was released. Unfortunately the viewing area for the gameworld is restricted to a window that is a little over half the size of the screen. The rest of the screen is filled up by the "Rama eyes," a compass, and the inventory box.

It's unfortunate that the graphics didn't give a very good idea of what it would be like to be on Rama. The Rama books contain many passages about how breathtakingly large the ship is. Although the game certainly made the "buildings" in the second part of the game look tall, it didn't convey much of an idea of the enormous size of the Rama spacecraft itself. Full screen graphics would certainly have helped, but the gamemakers were probably limited by available disk space on the CD's and the size of the necessary files for a full screen game.

Acting, Music and Sound

Although the characters in the game were simplified versions of the ones in the book, the acting itself was generally above average for what is usually found in games. On the technical side, the FMV images of the characters were seamlessly inserted into the game environment.

The music was mostly "new age" style. In my opinion, the music in the intro was the best in the game. Generally the music was better on the first CD. Later on, on the second CD, the music tended to resemble elevator music in some locations. Elevator music might blend into the background, but it didn't exactly set the proper mood. At times, I'd certainly have appreciated the option to turn it off. Unfortunately there was no way to get rid of the music without getting rid of other sound as well.

Sound effects were adequate. They were there when you expected them to be and none of them sounded ridiculous.

Controls  (the boring section - included for those who want to know about these details)

Rama uses a mouse-controlled point-and-click interface. The main menu is accessible from an icon in the upper left corner of the screen and includes options to Load, Save, adjust volume and brightness, and Quit.

In the first part of the game, you have access to a "radar map" from which you can choose various sites in the area to which to travel. Some of these sites are permanent, and have buildings you'll need to visit. Others are transient and appear when there are "biots" or other crew members in the area. The word "biot" comes from "biological robot." I guess the biological part was inside because they looked like ordinary metal robots to me. When you click on a site on the radar map which contains a biot, you'll see the symbol which matches that type of biot moving across a small inset. From the inset, you can either click back out to the radar map, or click on the inset to enter that part of Rama that is indicated on the radar map.

When another member of the crew is in a transient area, clicking on that site will show a number in white text in the inset. You should always click on these insets with numbers because it's not often you'll have the opportunity to see other crew members. Even then, you'll only get a cut scene of them, rather than true interaction. They'll usually have an inventory item for you that you can get later on if you miss meeting them in the field. Any cut scenes that are necessary to progress the story will happen automatically, whether you're at the correct location or not. Your own number is 002. Other crew members have different numbers.

Sometimes moving around the gameworld could be trickier than it looked. Rama didn't have as many nodes as I would have liked. Very often I'd want to move in a certain direction and no arrow to click forward would appear. The nodes were not spaced at predictable intervals. I completely missed one important node at the beginning of the game because I'd assumed nodes were at a minimum distance apart.

Sometimes turning arrows will rotate you 90° and sometimes 180°. In the plaza areas on CD 2, turning arrows may rotate you 60°. The "compass" near the bottom of the screen tells you how many directions you can rotate at your current node. But getting into the habit of looking down at it may take time, since most other games don't use a similar system. As I played the game, I got more used to what to expect from the movement system. But it was confusing at first. And in some areas, like the three central plazas on the second CD, it remained a trial and error process to move around and find locations I'd previously visited.

Inventory  (another boring section, but not quite as bad)

Inventory is located in a window at the bottom right of the screen. Eight inventory items are viewable at a time. There are arrows you click on to scroll the inventory up or down. On the lower left side of the screen is a picture of three "Rama eyes." You click items from inventory on the "Rama eyes" to get a closeup of the object. While in closeup, you can rotate the object. Outside of the closeup view, when you hover your cursor over an object in inventory, it is identified by a short text description in a small box at the upper left of the screen.

You collect inventory in the usual way, by clicking on collectable items in the viewing area. Sometimes items are given to you by other characters. Some of the more unusual inventory items you collect include a wrist computer and a couple of small robots. The wrist computer is useful for a number of things. Whenever you find a data cube, you can put it in your wrist computer and it will play a video or show a text message. The information in the data cubes is archived in your wrist computer for later viewings while the data cube disappears. 

Unfortunately, most inventory items do not disappear from inventory when you're finished with them and you'll have quite a number of useless items by the end of the game. There is no way to dispose of them and the best you can do is move all the items you won't be needing anymore to one end of the inventory. Fortunately you are allowed to rearrange items in inventory, though it takes a little practice to know where to click.

Sometimes you'll need to combine inventory items. Usually this is done by looking at one object in closeup, then clicking on the other item in inventory.

The small "Puck" robot you are given early in the game is a useful tool for identifying objects you see in the environment. Sometimes "Puck" makes remarks on his own, and may alert you to the presence of a hard-to-see inventory item that needs collecting. You can also click "Puck" on objects to see if he can identify them for you. If "Puck" turns red while you're hovering him over something, he'll have some comment to make about it.

Puzzles and other gameplay comments

The first puzzles you encounter have to do with collecting inventory. Much of the first part of the game is dependent on inventory collection. You won't get very far until you find the requisite tiles needed to open the doors. So the first part of the game is almost an Easter egg hunt, only you're hunting for tiles instead of eggs.

I'd heard that Rama was a difficult game because of all the math in it. But I found the math puzzles to be the easy part. I don't think there was even one of them that couldn't be done with pencil and paper (and sometimes counting on my fingers). True, you have to know the symbols (or colors) that are used to represent the hexadecimal (base 16) or octal (base 8) numbers. But this was no more difficult than any adventure game puzzle that involves using symbols that you have to copy and apply. You are told which symbols (or colors) stand for these numbers in the alien displays. And some of the "tests" you have to pass are as easy as matching a symbol (or color) to a number. There is addition and subtraction involved, but no multiplication (hence my use of my fingers). Of course if anyone is allergic to math and runs away screaming at the sight of it, they shouldn't bother with this game. There are quite a few math-based puzzles.

Far more difficult was finding all the tiles that were necessary to open the doors. I had to inspect each screen carefully to make sure there wasn't some small spot of color indicating a tile or some other item. The second part of the game had similar difficulties. The items I had to spot were often even smaller than the game tiles. Many areas weren't open for exploration until I had made some change elsewhere - a change which often required some inventory item that wasn't available until I'd opened up some other area. Sometimes "Puck" alerted me to the presence of an inventory item in a dark area that I'd have otherwise not seen. Often I wished he'd been a bit more vocal.

It's possible to die during the game, but usually it is avoidable. The crab biots you discover during the first part of the game are garbage collectors. If you get in front of them, they'll think you are garbage and will cut you to pieces for disposal. So don't get in front of them. If you access a site on the radar map and it has the crab biot symbol on it, back out of it. Or better yet, don't. Unless you get yourself killed, you won't see Arthur C. Clarke's cut scenes, where he advises you not to repeat the experience. After you are "killed," the game will offer to restore you to immediately before you got chopped up, even if you don't have a recent save. The "Retry" button in Rama serves the same function as the "Second Chance" button in the Nancy Drew games.

In the second part of the game, on CD2, you explore what is known as the "New York" area. It is called New York because of it's superficial resemblance to New York City, surrounded by water and with tall skyscrapers. Instead of having a radar map to take you to locations of interest, you have to walk there yourself. There are 3 main central plazas you need to move between, and the hallways that connect them are confusing. They aren't really a maze, but they can be as confusing as one because you can easily find yourself going around in circles.

Also confusing is navigating the plazas themselves. Some "nodes" have six directions you can look towards, some four, some two, and some only one. It's hard to tell whether you can move forwards in the direction you're facing or not until you sweep the area with your cursor. So unless you are very thorough, you may miss some nodes and the inventory items they contain. This was also a problem with the game area on CD1, but you have more to explore on CD2 and many areas have views that are similar enough to cause confusion. The compass at the bottom of the screen is of limited usefulness. It shows you the directions in which you can look, but not those in which you can move. It is better than nothing, and it shows you which direction is "North." But it wasn't as useful as it could have been.

There is a "timed" sequence at the end of the game. It isn't really timed. The "timer" advances when you move through the halls, taking into account how long it might take in real time. Time also advances when you consult the clock on your wrist computer, but much more slowly. You see the seconds tick by in real time. The timer did not seem to advance as long as I didn't move around or consult the wrist computer. Still, being constrained as to where you can move without using up your time is restrictive, especially considering how confusing those long tall hallways can be.

I was initially a bit disappointed in not being able to interact with the characters more, especially since the acting seemed decent. But it was still fun and challenging as a puzzle-oriented game and I enjoyed it. It would be interesting to see a game about Rama produced today, with more emphasis on exploring ALL of the Rama ship in a nodeless fully 3D environment, rather than being restricted to relatively small areas. But the sequel hinted at in the game never materialized and probably never will.

Minimum specs

The specs listed on the  game box are

For the DOS install

DOS 5 or higher

486/66+ (66 MHz or greater)


Local bus video

Sound card with DAC

3X CD drive

For the Windows install

Pentium 75+ (75 MHz or greater)


Local bus or PCI video

Sound card with DAC

3X CD drive

For those who don't know, DAC stands for digital to anolog conversion and all sound cards except very ancient ones have DAC.

Tested computer

Win 95b (DOS mode)

Pentium II 230 MHz


Diamond Fire GL 1000 Pro 3DČ 4MB PCI video card

Creative AWE 64 Gold sound card

8X CD drive and 32X CD drive (both tested)

I also did some brief testing on three other similar speed computers to test for a problem with static in the sound.

Bugs and Potential Problems

  • In DOS mode

All the computers I tested on had at least occasional problems with static in the sound of the videos. Sound effects and game music were fine and had no static. It was only during the videos that I'd often get regularly repeating static bursts. The static was worse on the two computers with Win 98 and considerably less frequent on the computers with Win 95b. None of the computers was completely free of it. The sound cards on the computers were all Soundblasters - two AWE 64 Gold's, one AWE 32, and an SB16. It didn't seem to make a difference whether I played in Windows or DOS, the static bursts were still an occasional problem. On the PII 233 that was my main test computer, the static seemed mainly restricted to cut scenes toward the ends of the CD's.

When I reached the second CD, I had problems with the game crashing when I tried to save. This seemed worse in certain locations, such as in the middle of the plazas, but it happened at other times as well. My brother suspected that the problem was associated with the game trying to read music files off the game CD. After copying the contents of the sound folder on CD2 to a folder on the hard drive, he figured out how to make the game read music files off the hard drive by editing the Resource.cfg file in the Ramados folder. After that, no more crashes. So my brother's theory seems to have been correct. We couldn't figure out how to make the game load entirely off the hard drive. Since we were using DOS mode, a CD emulation program wasn't an option.

From checking around the Net, I discovered a "fix" for crashing that involves moving most of the saves to a different folder. I find it strange that such different solutions could produce the same result, but whatever works. I like my brother's solution because it helped reduce lag time.

  •  In Windows 95b

After completing the game in DOS mode, I attempted to replay it using the Windows install. The Windows installer doesn't use Dos4gw.exe. It does use DirectX, so you don't have to set up your sound card for sound in DOS as you do in the DOS version. I was hopeful that the game would play more smoothly in Windows, without any distortion of the sound. Instead it proved to be too unstable to play.

It started off well enough, but crashed with an out-of-memory error as soon as I attempted to enter the area just before the radar map. My brother thought all the cut scenes and vidmails I'd viewed at the beginning of the game might have used up the memory. So I rebooted and tried again. It repeatedly crashed in the same place. I decided to try the trick of copying the sound folder to the hard drive and editing the Resource.win file in the Rama folder so the game would look for the sound files on the hard drive instead of on the CD. That seemed to correct the problem.

But then I had a problem with the radar map. The computer had a slowdown while the map was displayed and the sound was terribly distorted. Also, I was not able to access all of the places that were supposed to be available on the map. I soldiered on for a while, accessing the places I was able to access. But an illegal operation error that immediately dumped me to the desktop was the last straw. I finished my second playing of the game in DOS mode. Fortunately the saved games were transferrable between the Windows and the DOS version.

The game had a readme with some troubleshooting tips, none of which applied. The suggestion to move saved games to another folder was useless, as I had only one saved game at the time of all these crashes. I don't know if the problem is something to do with my particular computer's configuration or something to do with the game wanting DirectX 2 instead of DirectX 7a, but I'd suggest playing the DOS version if possible. I did try playing the DOS version in a full screen DOS window within Windows, and it seemed to run OK from there. But I didn't play through the whole game that way.

Inferno's XP site has instructions for installing Rama on Windows XP. Interestingly, she uses the DOS installer for the game rather than the Windows installer. The game seems to work OK using emulated DOS and the big problem on newer computers seems to be with the sound card compatibility. VDMSound fixes that in Windows XP. Someone on the adventure newsgroup reported playing Rama using a Geforce 4 TI 4400 video card, so there doesn't seem to be a problem playing it with newer video cards.


Rama is an interesting puzzle-type adventure game. But if you want a gripping story that will hold your interest every step of the way, read the book(s) instead. Don't bother with it if you are "allergic" to math. It may have a few technical problems, some of which may be correctable by copying audio files to the hard drive and editing the Resource file in the game folder. For playing on newer systems with XP, consult Inferno's XP website for a setup walkthrough.

Overall grade:  B  (graded as a puzzle-type adventure, not a story-adventure)


design copyright © 2003 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index