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RAMA (Summer of Arthur C. Clarke) - Page 2

GAMEPLAY (cont'd)

Rama
Exploration is the driving force of the game

My biggest complaint, though, is in the final stretch of the game, where you are forced to work under a time constraint. Games like this should never have time limits applied to them. It makes sense from a plot perspective, but it alters the gentle flow of the game at precisely the time where the puzzles and exploration are at their most difficult. If I hadn't been wise enough to save my game at the exact moment the timer starts, I'd never have been able to beat the game without starting over from the very beginning. (They should have just given you the time limit right when you had to solve the puzzle that ends it--they could have even shortened the time that way if the goal was to give players a burst of tension.)

Oh, and one other thing. As much as I love listening to Arthur C. Clarke talk to me, the long, unskippable cutscene that accompanies almost every game over is inexcusable. After one of these, a simple "GAME OVER" would have sufficed. The only thing more frustrating than dying because you stupidly walk into a pool of corrosive acid (when you didn't even know that clicking the forward arrow would make you step in it instead of just walking up to the edge where you could collect some, because you know you need it for a puzzle) is having to sit through the same five minute long cutscene you've seen a dozen times already.

[Gameplay: 7 - The puzzles are clever and just the right amount of difficult, but navigation and inventory management are chores, the death cutscene is ludicrously long and unskippable, and a late-game time limit is just straight-up unfair.]



PRESENTATION

Rama
There's an alternate universe out there where FMV is still the industry standard

For a game made over twenty years ago, the presentation is astonishing. Yes, the 3D graphics are primitive, and yes, it's not possible for full motion video to be anything but cheesetastic. However, the fascinating world of Rama is lovingly recreated with an eye for detail. The interior surface of Rama is beautiful, from the white band of the Cylindrical Sea to the distant spires of the unreachable South Pole. There are more structures and variety than in the novels, but this only serves to make it even more immersive and interesting. The biots and other fully rendered creatures of Rama look almost exactly how I pictured them in my mind (excepting the spider bots, unfortunately), and certain locales are just as faithful (for instance, the vertical hallway of the Avian chamber in New York fits the novel description precisely). The graphics, while above average for the time, aren't as breathtaking as they are in Myst, however, with some areas plagued by blurry rock formations and the occasional lack of detail.

As for the full motion video scenes, they are pretty good for what they are. Most of the actors are putting in decent performances, and it never feels as cheesy as the FMV stuff from Command & Conquer or Sewer Shark. It's also kept to a respectful minimum, never trying to do anything more ambitious than having a character or two talking or handing you stuff. The music is also pretty good at being atmospheric and almost alien, but it gets repetative and often plays too loudly over important dialogue. There are no options for subtitles or altering the respective volumes, in case you're wondering.

[Presentation: 9 - For 1996, the graphics are quite good and the FMV is done better than most, but some muddy textures and overbearing music keep it from being truly great.]



CONCLUSIONS

Rama
Blue Orange Orange Purple

I'm going to level with you. As I was downloading this game--even though I recognized that making a Myst-style game out of Rama is a really good concept--I was pretty sure RAMA would be a load of hot garbage. For one thing, I'd never heard of it, and I've been Googling information about Rama since back in the days before Google even existed (yes, I asked Jeeves). For another thing, I've never--ever--liked FMV, and the reasons for it dying off as a video game tool are obvious to anyone living in this century. I was also deeply disappointed to learn that it was based more on Rama II than the original Rendezvous with Rama. Maybe, then, the fact that I walked away from my playthrough of RAMA with a smile on my face is just a side effect of really low expectations.

Still, I can't argue with my score here. The puzzles are awesome, the gameplay is serviceable, the adaptation is surprisingly faithful, the FMV stuff didn't give me cerebral hemmorages, and the graphics--though primitive by modern standards--are pretty damn good at realizing Clarke's vision. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who hasn't at least read Rama II, but for anyone with even a passing interest in Rama, it's worth the effort to jerry-rig your computer to play an old game that doesn't deserve to be hiding away in obscurity. And hey, just a note for any game designers who happen to be reading: maybe make a new Rama game, eh? I'd still love to see a Rendezvous with Rama film, but RAMA has convinced me that maybe--just maybe--the books are better suited for video games.




FINAL TALLY
STORY: 9
GAMEPLAY: 7
PRESENTATION: 9
SOLO GAME SCORE: 10

TOTAL SCORE: 8.8

This is the kind of point-and-click adventure game they don't make anymore, and fans of the Rama saga should absolutely check it out.


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-e. magill 7/26/2018

THE UNAPOLOGETIC GEEK'S
SUMMER OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE:
  • Childhood's End
  • Childhood's End (TV)
  • The City and the Stars
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (film)
  • 2010: Odyssey Two
  • 2010: The Year We Make Contact (film)
  • 2061: Odyssey Three
  • 3001: The Final Odyssey
  • Rendezvous with Rama
  • The Rama Sequels
  • RAMA (VG)
  • The Fountains of Paradise
  • The Songs of Distant Earth
  • The Hammer of God

  • MORE LIKE THIS:
  • Beyond the Limits of the Possible: A Farewell to Sir Arthur C. Clarke
  • Solo Gamer Review: Friday the 13th: The Game (Slasher Summer)
  • Top 20 Greatest Sci-Fi Novels