time when many long time adventure gamers are complaining that adventure
games are getting too easy in an attempt to attract a new audience, the
RHEM games stubbornly refuse to compromise. They maintain a reputation for
challenging puzzles and the latest installment of the RHEM series may be
the most challenging to date. I certainly found this to be the case.
Story and Characters
The story in RHEM 3 is
essentially the same as in the previous two RHEM games. Your AFGNCAAP
(Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Culturally-Ambiguous Adventure Person)
character has returned to RHEM to help the brothers Kales and Zetais
explore RHEM's secrets. Why? Because he or she likes challenging puzzles I
suppose -- the same reason you're playing the game.
is minimal. RHEM 3 is puzzle-driven rather than story- or
character-driven. Kales and Zetais speak with you over a video monitor and
leave you written or recorded messages. You never speak to them directly
and never have two-way conversations. You do meet the Woman in Red from
RHEM 2 as well as an additional character towards the end of the game, but
once again they speak to you and you don't speak back.
Toughest RHEM yet.
That's what I kept thinking as I was playing. Of course my memories of
playing the first two games are getting old by now so I could be mistaken.
But I think the size of the gameworld in RHEM 3 may be even larger than in
RHEM 1, and the layout is more intricate than either previous RHEM game.
There are parts of the gameworld that are above ground, as in RHEM 1 and
parts that are below ground, as in RHEM 2. A good sense of direction is
practically a necessity and I often found myself wishing for a good map --
preferably one like I've seen in certain RPG's, where you can see where
you are on the map, what doors are open or unlocked, what has been
powered, how much is yet to be explored, etc.
When you first start
the game you'll be faced with a lot of non-functional power buttons. And
in order to access new areas you'll have to figure out how to restore
power. Opening doors or raising ladders to access new areas will result in
other areas becoming cut off. So you have to plan ahead, and often have to
take the long way around in order to view important clues or gain access
to new areas.
Clues are scattered throughout the game, and may be located at some
distance from the puzzle to which they apply. Puzzles often include color
clues -- such as the color of a pipe or cable matching that of a button or
other control. I didn't see any alternate clues, and it's unfortunate for
any colorblind players who will miss the color clues. There is also a
puzzle which depends on distinguishing sounds, though subtitles could help
with this one. There are a couple of timed puzzles which could be a
problem if you don't notice something happening that is on a timer. But
they are not dependent on how fast you can click so much as they are on
your powers of observation.
Unlike the previous RHEM games, there is an optional "superpuzzle" near
the end of the game which will allow you to see additional material on
your way out of RHEM. If you've been observant while playing the game, and
found all the extra clues, you're rewarded here by the ability to solve
this final puzzle.
The controls in RHEM 3
are point-and-click and essentially the same as in the previous RHEM
games. Your cursor appears as a small white hand and will change shape to
indicate where you can click to move forward or to interact with objects.
The icons on the main menu screen animate when you hover your cursor
over them. In case you don't understand the animation, a description of
what the icon does appears on a pad of paper at the bottom of the screen.
When you first start the game, the main menu gives you the choice of
New, Load, Quit, Info, and Options. There is very little in the way of
game options. You are allowed to adjust the type of transitions you want
-- fast, middle, slow, old style, or none. Info displays credits for the
game. Once you load a game or start a new game and return to the main
menu, what used to be called Info becomes Return (to the game).
The viewing window is
almost full screen, with a horizontal band at the bottom of the screen
which normally remains dark. There are four icons there, which become
visible if you move your cursor to the bottom of the screen. Clicking on
the icon of the box at the far left allows you to access the inventory
you've collected. The valvelike icon at the far right takes you to the
main menu screen, where you can save or load a game. The second icon from
the left allows you to view information that you've collected in the
library. There is a compass icon in the middle. Like a real compass, the
white part of the icon (which represents the compass needle) always points
North. So if you see the "needle" pointing to the right, you know you're
There is one additional
icon that appears at the bottom of the screen next to the valve icon on
the right. This icon only appears when you are using the books in the
library. Don't be like me and attempt to copy all the information in the
library using pencil and paper. It isn't necessary. Clicking the new icon
when it appears allows you to take a snapshot of the pages in the library
that you are currently viewing. I only wish I'd noticed the appearance of
the icon the first time I visited the library. But it was sort of dim when
it appeared, rather than being fully lit up. So because I didn't notice
it, I wasted a lot of time drawing lopsided and otherwise flawed pictures
of what I was seeing in the library books instead of quickly capturing the
images with a simple click.
There are a few
inventory items you can collect by clicking on them. But RHEM 3 is not
really an inventory based game and most inventory is gained as a reward
for solving puzzles rather than just picking up something you found laying
around. To use inventory, you first click the box at the lower left of the
screen. This takes you to the inventory screen where you can select the
inventory item you want to use by clicking on it, whereupon it will stick
to your cursor. You return to the game by clicking the "<" at the bottom
of the screen. From there you click the item wherever you want to use it.
A wrong use of an item creates a mildly dissonant noise and the item is
automatically returned to inventory.
There are nineteen save
slots. You can delete saves and use the save slot for a different save,
but you can't name your saves. Any save you make will be listed with a
save number and your current gaming time. Saving a game is relatively
simple. You first click the valvelike icon at the lower right, which takes
you to the main menu screen. From there you click the Save icon. On the
next screen you click one of the green arrow shapes to the right of a save
slot to save your game in that slot. You can delete a save (and free up a
save slot) from that screen by clicking the red arrow to the left of the
save. To get back to the game, you click the "<" at the bottom of the
screen to get to the main menu, and then the Return icon at the upper
Graphics and Sound
The graphics in RHEM 3 are similar to those in RHEM 2. They are a fixed
800x600 resolution. There are some improvements in RHEM 3 in the addition
of animations such as birds flying, subtle water movement, and leaves
blowing in the wind. This is the first RHEM game that has non-human living
creatures in it, though they are limited to trees, a few other plants,
birds, and a few insects.
Sounds are somewhat improved from the previous RHEM games, with more
variety in background sound. The sounds of the machinery and the moans and
squeaks of the engines are more distinct and other sounds, like the sound
of the wind or the dripping sounds of water in a flooded cave area add to
the ambiance of the world of RHEM. One thing that struck me as being
different from the earlier RHEM games is that RHEM 3 actually seemed
spooky and ominous. I think this is mainly due to the nature of the
background sounds and the sound of the engines throbbing being lower
pitched than in the previous games.
There is one potential problem with the background sounds that was
brought to my attention by a post in the Adventuregamers forum. There are
places in the game where there is a periodic high-pitched background sound
that can become annoying. I don't know if it is meant as a sort of "music"
or if it's some noise in the environment (possibly from machinery creaking
or metal parts scraping together). It isn't quite as bad as fingernails on
a blackboard, but depending on how sensitive your ears are to high pitched
frequencies, it could get irritating after a while. Fortunately it isn't
heard in every location.
The installation of the game was a little unusual in that it seems to
be in two parts. Running the rhem3_setup.exe (which runs automatically if
you have autorun enabled) will allow you to install, but it is a very
small install. Apparently you're only installing the installer at this
point. The real install doesn't happen until you click the RHEM shortcut
on your desktop. At that point it seems to do a disc check and then starts
copying lots and lots of files to your hard drive. The second install
takes considerably longer than the first. But once installed, the game
doesn't seem to require the CD to be in the drive during play.
The Mac install is a standard Mac install. You drag a folder from the
CD into your Mac's Applications folder. If desired, you can drag the
START_RHEM3.ocx icon that is inside the RHEM folder to your dock, where it
will make a pretty little square green icon with a red design inside it
which will act as a shortcut to start the game.
After installing the game, a 9 page pdf manual will appear in the game
folder. Before installing, this file isn't visible on the CD with a PC,
though it is with a Mac.
System Requirements (from www.rhem-game.com)
600 MHz Pentium or faster
128 MB free RAM
700 MB free harddisk space
CD-ROM, 800 x 600 display,
QuickTime 7.2 or newer
400 MHz or faster (G3, G4, G5,
RHEM 3 runs NOT with installed
Mac OS X 10.2.8 or newer
64 MB free RAM
700 MB free harddisk space
CD-ROM, 800 x 600 display,
QuickTime 7.2 or newer
Mysteriously, the specs listed on the GotGame website are for a 500 MHz
PC and 500 MHz Mac. Still more mysteriously, the specs listed on the pdf
manual that comes on the game CD list 800 MHz, and don't say if they're
for PC or Mac.
Specs listed on the pdf manual
800 MHz processor
600 MB hard drive space
256 MB RAM
24X CDROM drive
32 MB video card
What I played it on:
Windows XP Home SP1
1 GB system RAM
ATI Radeon X800SE
SBLive 5.1 (Dell version)
QuickTime 6.3 (Yup. You don't
need version 7.2 after all)
I tried the game briefly on an old Mac iBook (OS X 10.4.11, 1.33 GHz,
512 MB RAM, ATI card with 32 MB video RAM, 10 GB free hard drive space).
Although I haven't finished replaying the game on this laptop at the time
of this review, I have not run into any problems. And I was very pleased
to find an adventure game that would play on this little laptop, which was
certainly not designed for gaming.
I did not notice any glitches while playing the game. Everything seemed
to work as it should. I had a little trouble with recognizing the sound
clues that were used in one of the puzzles, but that could easily have
been just me rather than the wrong sound clues playing.
If you've played and enjoyed either of the previous RHEM games, you
know what to expect and you won't be disappointed. If you've never played
a RHEM game, be warned that RHEM 3 ain't for sissies or for the easily
discouraged. It is a challenging game meant for those who enjoy a mental
workout. The puzzles will challenge your sense of direction as well as
your powers of observation. Considering the lack of similar games being
made, RHEM 3's relatively old-fashioned 800x600 graphics can be forgiven.
And it gets extra points for being compatible with Macintosh as well as
The RHEM games have always been about the puzzles -- about being
trapped in a giant 3D mazeworld and slowly working through the clues and
finding your way out. So my grade is also primarily based on the quality
of the puzzles, which rate an A.
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