Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mark Hasley
Now that the holidays are over, and the busy scheduling and constant festivities are complete, a large part of the gaming world is forced to deal with the cold of January, the gloom of February, and the rains of March. Those three months can feel like the longest part of the year, and might well force a person to stay indoors for long periods of time. However, if that person is a gamer, he has an advantage in this situation. He needs only his trusty computer and a long, involved game, and before he knows it, those three months will pass and he can mow lawn again. So if you happen to be one of the people in this situation, I have a suggestion. All you need to do is purchase RHEM 2, load it, and start to play the game... and it could easily be Spring before you leave your computer.
The game has a great deal going for it, but it is based on the thinnest plot line that Iíve played in a long time. Itís a sequel to the original RHEM, but I didnít remember much about the original game and yet had no difficulty understanding this one. The player is, a la MYST, the proverbial unnamed 'friend' who is to go into the city of RHEM and find a blue disk, take a picture of it, and bring the picture back. Thatís it. Youíre not really told why you need to do this. You simply accept the job and proceed.
The game employs a first person, point and click interface. The controls are quite simple and only the mouse is used for gameplay. A simple click on a large valve handle at the bottom of the screen returns the player to an attractive, but uninspired, main board that allows him to choose Quit, Load, Save, Return, Play New, or Adjust. Very few adjustments are possible, and there are only ten slots for saved games. However ten saved games proved to be more than enough for me, although I did have to delete a few early saves as I went on. The process was simple and hassle-free. And most importantly, the game ran with near perfection on my Windows XP. The box states that the same game will operate on a Mac.
This game is primarily non-linear, but not completely. The player can wander all over a certain section of the game and may solve various problems in any order. However there are times when RHEM 2 demands that certain things be completed in a particular order before he can move on to the next step. There is an inventory system, but the game requires less than a dozen inventory items throughout, so handling the stuff you find is not a problem. If the reader is by now thinking "Iíve seen all this beforeÖ", heís right. Add the fact that the cursor is a hand shaped device that points up, down, left and right, and you can see that this is a real 'MYST clone'. And it plays exactly that way. It even uses a slide-show presentation rather than lots of cut scenes (there are a few) and 360 degree movements. Technically there is nothing new here.
As far as background music and voice acting, there's not much to talk about. There is virtually no music. There can't be, because the player must be constantly listening for sounds or noises. As Iíll explain later, itís always necessary to listen for sliding doors, opening windows and various other thuds, thumps and squeaks. All of this noise combines into a conglomeration of effective background noises, but itís definitely not music. The same kind of thing is true for the voice acting. There simply isnít any. Yes, at the very beginning and end of the game someone does open a door and speak briefly, but the part is far too brief to evaluate. And at one point in the game a second person speaks to the player, but that character seems to be speaking 'Rhemish' or some other strange language. The player wonít understand even a part of a word, but that will not matter at all.
Having read this far in this review, the reader is no doubt wondering whether there is anything in RHEM 2 that isnít just average. The answer is " Yes... Absolutely"! There are two elements that make this game special.
The graphics in the game are extremely interesting. The game begins with a tram ride to, and much later ends with a tram ride from, the subterranean city of Rhem. The city is built in a cave, so as a result the entire rest of the game is played inside and underground. Obviously this negates the possibility of sunlight or vegetation. The graphics, then, must be unique... and they are.
Rhem is a giant underground city, but it is not the 'soaring-caverns-and-vast-distances' kind of place that was built by the Díni. Here everything is solid and created from normal building materials, close-ceilinged and a bit claustrophobic. The buildings donít seem to soar. They simply fill up most of the space. They are also built of what my daughter calls 'regular stuff '. The player will see bricks, stone, wires, and in general a much more realistic approach to construction. More impressively, whereas I was expecting much of the gloom and damp impressions that seemed to accompany the underground scenes in MYST and Sentinel, instead there are many, varied, and extremely bright colors here. It is a visually impressive gaming area, and one that never becomes Ďcartoonishí because the graphic artists included the proper amount of realistic dirt, rust, and mold. So it looks like a nicely kept but long abandoned city.
The whole place is draped with colored cables, wires and details. Of special note for me was the variety of light sources. Obviously, if RHEM 2 is underground there must be lots of electric lights around. Not only are there, indeed, many lights, but there are also several dozen different shapes, sizes, and even colors of lights. After awhile these became an important part of the enjoyment of the game because I spent moments just waiting to see what kind of streetlight would show up next. I know that to many people this is a pointless comment, but Iím always impressed when a game designer adds several kinds of clever and unnecessary details simply to let me appreciate the game a bit more. Whoever put RHEM 2 together did just that.
In honesty, Iím aware that thus far everything that I've said about RHEM 2 makes it seem only adequate plus a little more. However there is one area in which the game really excels. This is a wonderful puzzle game! It has the most varied, irritating, frustrating, obvious, clever, irksome, vile, interesting, and complex puzzles that Iíve ever dealt with. I might also add the words 'sneaky' and 'devious' to that list of adjectives. I had just completed ALIDA prior to starting RHEM 2, and I was convinced that Iíd seen everything. I was WRONG! RHEM 2 is really little more than a collection of unique puzzles, but if the gamer is a person who likes puzzles, RHEM 2 is the perfect way to spend his time.
There are several types of puzzles here, but most are of the 'pay-attention-and-get-the-clues' variety. There is also a rather amazing maze, which contains a bunch of doors that must be opened or closed at certain times. In other words, the maze changes while the player is in the middle of it! It could even be suggested that the game itself is a maze, since anyone who plays it will have to deal with all sorts of ladders, elevators, secret passages, and spinning walls. And all of these items are spread across several different levels. In addition, there are several kinds of combinations and codes to work out. And there are a few (very few) 'find-and-add-the-inventory-part' puzzles. But there are no timed puzzles, and the player cannot die. He simply wanders around mumbling words like "Why me?" and "Where is The Cameron Files?"
Anyone who is playing this game will learn very quickly that he must pay careful attention to everything (even the colors of things) and take copious notes. He will use virtually everything that he sees at some time. It is also important to note that solving several of the puzzles is the reason for the lack of a musical soundtrack. Not only must the gamer solve these puzzles, but he must also listen carefully for the sounds of doors opening and closing, machinery working, etc. Heíll have to listen because he must start all this machinery from positions where the machinery canít be viewed.
The most valuable element of all of these puzzles is that while I often felt frustrated, and once or twice felt rather stupid, I never felt ill-used or cheated. Once a puzzle was completed, it made absolute sense and it was clear that that I should have figured it out hours (in one puzzle, days) ago. Iíve played a few games where even after Iíve gone to a walkthrough and finished a puzzle, I never knew why I should have known the answer. Here I always understood what I should have seen earlier. Indeed I spent a great deal of time feeling foolish for having missed a certain clue three days ago, and I'm sure that anyone else who plays this game will too. But that is the real beauty of this or any other true puzzle game, that after finally figuring out an answer, the player knows he should have gotten it a lot earlier. RHEM 2 does exactly what it is supposed to do, while providing the added bonus of driving the player pleasantly crazy.
While I donít think I would like a steady stream of RHEMís in my personal game schedule ( I simply want a bit more grandeur in my scenery, and perhaps a smidgen more plot), this game provided exactly what I wanted at that time of the year when I needed it. It was pretty, interesting, fun, difficult, and filled some post-holiday blandness most entertainingly. If you are a gamer who loves puzzles, or simply a player who likes a logical and fair challenge, RHEM 2 is a nice way to spend a few winter weeks.
© January 2006 Mark Hasley
Developed (2005) by Knut Mueller and published by Got Game Entertainment in the Americas.
Rated: E for Everyone
Minimum System Requirements:
Hybrid Win / MAC CD ROM! (Hybrid means PC and MAC versions are on the same CD.)
PC: Pentium 500 MHz Processor; Windows 98 / 2000 / ME / XP; 64 MB RAM; 12X CD-ROM Drive; display 800 X 600, 16 Bit Capable Video Card; Sound Card; 100 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; QuickTime 6 for Windows; Mouse
MAC: PowerPC 300 MHz Processor; OS 9.0 / OSX 10.3; 64 MB RAM; 12X CD-ROM Drive; Display 800 X 600, 16 MB Video Card; Sound Card; 100 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; QuickTime 6; Mouse
Where To Buy This Game:
Knut Mueller In the Rest of the World
OR: see our Places To Buy Games for other sellers around the world
Walkthroughs or Hints: