RHEM and I go way back. Well, back to
2002. I reviewed the first game, having purchased it directly from Mr.
Müller, well before it got a commercial release. I had heard it was like
Riven, which was all I needed to take a gamble. This is what I said
at the time:
"If you like big open worlds where you can poke
buttons and pull levers, in which you will need to take notes and draw
diagrams, where objectives and where to go next are not immediately
apparent, and where puzzles abound, you should enjoy your time marooned in
I went back to RHEM when the second game was
released, and thought it was even better. My conclusion then?
“It's all about the puzzling, and it's damn fine.
It doesn't lead you by the nose and gives you lots to think about.
Breakthroughs often lead to other insights and on you go. I did need help,
and slapped myself sometimes for being so dense. Other times I simply
applauded a very good puzzle. Almost everything is intuitive, there to be
teased out if you take the time to ponder.
It's a holistic piece of gaming goodness....”
I never got around to visiting the third time. I
think real life got in the way. So I was looking forward, more than little
intrigued, to this fourth instalment.
The game apparently picks up where RHEM 3
left off. You are back in RHEM and a message from Zetais says he has sent
you off with the black crystal, which (I understand) you discovered in the
last game. It's supposedly a key to an unknown part of RHEM, and there is
allegedly a transport system that links to the outside world. To activate
it, however, you need all nine fragments of the key to the system.
Can you guess what you will be doing?
If you have played any of the other games, getting
around will be familiar. If you haven’t, the mechanics are a simple point
and click slide show. A small array of icons and cursers indicate
directions and interactions. Move the curser to the bottom part of the
screen and four game play icons emerge. One is the inventory. A book icon
contains documents and you can capture images of certain maps and drawings
as you play and these are stored in the book. The other two icons are a
compass, which I assure you will be very useful, and the menu, from which
you save and tweak a few options.
It has, by comparison with many modern games, a
rudimentary graphic style. But to suggest it is simple or lacks detail
would be doing it a disservice. It is what it is.
There are 18 save game slots, which is way more than
enough, and the game auto-saves on exit.
While having played the other games will provide a
knowledge of the world that will add to the depth of the experience, you
really don’t need to have played any of them to appreciate RHEM 4.
The story is more of a thread that links the games and provides a
rationale for the whole thing. Fundamentally, this game is not about the
story. It’s about exploration, observation and grey matter. Yours to be
precise. Or occasionally MaGtRo’s if things get really tough. Which they
This is not a game for wimps, or for those that like
witty repartee. Dialogue trees don’t exist, which doesn’t matter as there
is no one to use them on, and chatty characters don’t send you on odd
little errands. Pick up a pencil, get a very large pad, pull up whatever
it is that gets the brain cells working, and settle down to unravel the
Push things, open things and then close them. Make
sure you do that, really. Watch what happens. Listen. Think about what you
can see, and apply it to what you can’t. This is a world, and it fits
together. Doing things in one place may well affect things somewhere else.
Opening a door may allow you to go forward, but it may block another path.
You can’t assume there is only one effect for each action, and there are
times when you will definitely need a plan as to how to conquer such
environments. The train is a good example.
There are some auditory puzzles, and colour is
important in others. Small changes can be critical in some. There is some
repetition, including the doors at the start and then the
nine-doors-hallway. Once you know how they work, it's not hard, but I had
had enough of them by the time I finished.
Partly that was because I kept having to backtrack
and explore parts I had accessed before. Some of that was by design – I
didn’t yet know enough to move on – some of it was my failure to pay
enough attention to a particular place or clue seen previously. That might
well have been because I didn’t recognise it as a clue at the time. Some
later information eventually clicked on the light, and back I had to go.
Speaking of listening, there is music in RHEM 4.
Mr. Müller once said “music is for movies”, and while you could
debate that point, the lack of music in the two games I played did not
detract one bit. It added to the silent, somewhat eerie nature of the
world. Here, I thought it added a little something without intruding; it
isn’t a soundtrack though, just some more golden fragments.
For me, part of attraction in the world of RHEM is
the extent to which you have to build possible solutions. There will be
many times when you simply don’t know enough to solve the puzzle, not
because of brain drain (although there is that) but because you haven’t
been to the right places yet to access the information. You need to be
patient. This isn’t a puzzle at a time, although there are some of those.
You need to suck everything in and then start putting it together.
I did think that compared to the first two games,
some puzzles were too “stuck on”. This is partly a result of the story
thread, but some still didn’t feel right. The nature of some of them
didn’t help - their components were not consistent with an overall organic
Which doesn’t mean they weren’t good. Far from it. I
appreciated some more than others, but I don’t recall any that I thought
stunk, and there were a lot. One that came close was the portrait puzzle,
a little too bitsy and contrived, However even that one had a layered
design that moved it beyond a one dimensional run-of-the-mill challenge.
Whatever you might think of individual puzzles, you can’t help but admire
I experienced one glitch when a sound puzzle
involving a record player didn’t produce the required tone. I emailed Mr.
Müller and, based on past experience, I will get a response. He will
investigate the issue and, if it is indeed a problem, he will fix it. His
after and in-game service is admirable; most other products pale by
comparison. I will keep you posted.
In conclusion, RHEM 4 played to my strengths
and my personal tastes, so it was inevitable I was going to enjoy it. It
took me a long time, and I didn’t mind a bit. It wasn’t quite heaven on a
stick, but it came close.
I played on:
OS: Win XP
AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz
Gx card: ATI
Radeon HD 3850 512Mb
RHEM 4: The Golden Fragments
can be purchased on disk through the
developer's website or via download at
The Adventure Shop.
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