Reah: Face the Unknown

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Developer:   LK Avalon

Publisher:   Project2 Interactive

Released:   1998

PC Requirements:   Pentium 90, Windows 95, 16Mb RAM, 200Mb hard disk space, 4xCD-ROM, DirectX compatible SVGA, keyboard, mouse.




by Becky

You are a reporter. You are ambitious, persistent, and you want to be famous. And there is a mystery to solve that you cannot put to rest -- why has the government built a huge base on the obscure planet of Reah?

It seems that your luck may improve and that you will soon have an answer. You may even be about to break a news story so astonishing that your fellow reporters will drool with envy. The government flies you to a strange monument. A monument, they say, that is a door to an alternate reality. Will you solve the mystery? And do you truly understand the risks that you are about to take?

The dream-like worlds of Reah have an Arabian Nights quality to them. You are swept into an ancient city, rich with elaborate architectural detail. You encounter ruins, underground passages, a parched desert, and a lush oasis. You scale the steps of another multi-tiered city to find fountains surrounded by bizarre organic shapes. The detritus of everyday life clutters the cities. It is easy to imagine the missing inhabitants as they walk to market, weave cloth, plant a garden, or watch the ripples in a courtyard pool.

One unusual thing about Reah is that when you start out, not only do you not know where you are or what you are doing, but you cannot read or understand the language. The disorientation this causes even exceeds that of "Myst", in which you are alone and confused, but at least you can grasp the spoken and written clues.

As you play in this alien-yet-oddly-familiar world, your explorations are interrupted from time to time by the planet's inhabitants. You are also visited by the image of a shrouded, faintly glowing person who claims to be an alchemist. The alchemist serves as your guide/tormenter/helper. The quality of the acting is about average for a computer game. Don't expect lip synch -- the video sequences were originally shot in Polish. The reporter whose role you are playing occasionally comments on the surroundings -- this can be somewhat jarring, but by the end I did think that it had actually added to the experience.

I played the DVD version of Reah, in which the graphics were optimized for the DVD format. At the time this game was published (1998), I thought it had the sharpest graphics I had seen in a game that allowed 360-degree panning. Three years later, it still looks good, though the quality of the graphics has been surpassed (by "Myst III:Exile", for instance).

This game is entirely mouse-driven. There is an inventory with a small number of items to collect. The inventory feature is easy to use. Inventory items light up when you reach the right spot to use them. You might think this would make the game too easy, but believe me, this is NOT an easy game. In fact, I was truly grateful that the developers took mercy on me in this small way, because they certainly weren't merciful when it came to the puzzles.

Reah is definitely a happy hangout for puzzle lovers. I had a good time with most of the puzzles. Several involve the interpretation of symbols; this type happens to be a favorite of mine. Most of the puzzles are logical, but some require very acute observation/analysis of the environment. A couple involve trial and error (I hate trial and error). There are no slider puzzles. There are two places in the game that are somewhat maze-like, but are not true mazes.

The negatives: there are only 16 save game slots -- not nearly enough for a game of this length.

Also, the panning system could use some improvement. When you pan, the cursor doesn't change to show when you can move forward. To compensate for this, you have to pan in brief intervals, always checking to see if you happen to have found a directional arrow.

The game was very stable when I first played it three years ago. When I replayed it for the purposes of this review, however, it crashed six times. Perhaps Reah doesn't like my new DVD drive? Or perhaps it doesn't like the thirty other adventure games I've loaded on my hard drive in the intervening years?

The most controversial part of this game is the final world -- a creepy tower full of winding corridors and locked doors. Here the (mostly oblique) hints that the game has thrown your way become slightly more substantial, and you start to figure out the mystery. Before All Is Revealed, however, there are two particularly difficult puzzles -- one game in which the player has to make more than 100 moves and another that requires superhuman visual recognition and sequencing abilities. Here, the puzzle designers pull out all the stops in an attempt to challenge the player.

Unfortunately, Reah's ending is precipitous and thus, disappointing. You are left with the feeling that you really should have had a more entertaining reward for all the hard work on the end game puzzles. Still, I liked the solution of the mystery -- too bad it wasn't revealed with a little more fanfare.

Reah comes very close to being a great game. Take the beauty and imaginative genius of the gameworld, add a more complex plot, remove (or simplify) a few of the puzzles, come up with a better ending and voila -- you just might have the perfect Myst-style game.

Reah's developer is the force behind the much-awaited "Schizm". I'm allowing myself to hope that this time, with "Schizm", the designers have achieved that perfect combination of adventure gaming elements.

Final Grade :  3.5 BAAGS out of 5

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