Based on the popular series of sci-fi novels by Arthur C. Clarke, Rama's dazzling Myst-style adventure gameplay may earn it a place among the top PC titles of the year. The story begins as you join a team of astronauts exploring a gigantic spaceship that suddenly entered our solar system. Once onboard, you encounter a bewildering array of exotic alien species-some friendly, some not-and you're tasked with uncovering the ship's mysteries.
From a first-person perspective, you solve puzzles, collect items, interact with aliens, and delve into your surroundings as you attempt to unravel the enjoyably complex plot. Spectacular rendered graphics and seamlessly integrated video sequences put the finishing touches on this promising prospect.
Rama, by Sierra, is an exciting science fiction adventure game based upon the RAMA series by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee. The game was made with help from both Arthur C Clarke and Gentry Lee, and their contributions can be widely seen throughout.
The time is two hundred years in the future; the place is outer space on a huge cylindrical spaceship called RAMA. Twelve astronauts from various countries have traveled to RAMA to try and unravel the secrets within (or at the very least figure out why it has "parked" itself so close to earth). Unfortunately, soon after docking, the commander of the mission mysteriously dies. You have been sent as the replacement astronaut to join the crew in their explorations.
Moving through RAMA was a fairly easy task, using the standard point-and-click method. Movement through the spacecraft can be tracked with the handy-dandy monitor on your wrist. Items to be picked up are indicated by a "hand" symbol, then highlight when they can be used on other items.
RAMA is played from a first-person perspective, which I thought helped to enhance the feeling of being part of the "team." Once you have docked at RAMA, the other members of the team will contact you to say their hellos, and from there the mysteries will begin. Some members will give you the standard hello, while others will give you tasks, and still others will warn you that they do not trust other members of the team. The bottom line is this: watch your back and listen carefully to all that you hear. Throughout your explorations of this strange "land" (for that really is what it looks like), you will encounter many bizarre creatures and have to pass certain "tests" to gain entrance to the buildings scattered about. While all of this is fine and dandy, the underlying question is really: What are the Ramans up to? When, out of the blue, the Ramans change their trajectory path to intercept with Earth, the stakes have suddenly become higher, and your attempt to understand the Ramans' mission becomes more crucial.
I enjoyed playing RAMA, but this is definitely not a game that one can "whip through" in a day or two. I found two parts of this game that interrupted the smooth-flowing gameplay I had hoped for. The first was that you have to look for and find all of these little "doodads" that are lying around. (And believe me, if you miss one that wasn't obvious and you need it later, you're in big trouble and will probably spend the better part of an hour searching EVERYWHERE to find it.) The other part I found frustrating was that the math problems must be solved before you can communicate with the Raman creatures. I must admit, in retrospect, that the problems made sense and were not "horribly" hard, but I can only say this AFTER I took about two hours to brush up on my base 3, 7, and 16 number systems. Once I was secure with all of my basic math knowledge, I was able to really enjoy the RAMA experience.
The graphics of RAMA greatly enhance the playing experience. Unknown terrains take shape to outline this strange new world, and weird robot-like creatures spring to life with a clarity that makes them "real" in this situation. An entire world was created realistically using computer-generated objects and live acting. Much of the game's intrigue was portrayed using the video playback on your wrist computer. I thought that the video clips were well made and of uniform quality.
I loved the audio clips from RAMA. The music was well-placed and fit in well with the surrounding action. Due to the shortness of the music clips, if you spend too much time in one area -- say, trying to figure out one of the math problems -- it did become a bit tedious. The sound effects were numerous, well-recorded, and enhanced the actions they pertained to.
The CD booklet was interesting to read through, and had a bit more included than the "average" game. While the booklet explains game controls, options, movement and how to interact with RAMA, also included is a short note from the designer (Gentry Lee), a background on your mission, and a play-by-play of your first ten steps. I found all of this to be of great help when first starting the game.
Perhaps one of the most unique components of this game are the interviews. The interview with Arthur C. Clarke is one of utmost interest. Video answers in response to text questions that you select allow you to choose what you want to know about his life and to skip what you're not interested in (although I recommend listening to it all; he's a fascinating man!).
Unfortunately, for me, I did not realize that there were also interviews with the crew members from RAMA, in character. These interviews were conducted in "newscast" form with no chance to choose your own questions. However, the information was informative and interesting, and I would recommend that anyone just starting out the game look at them before continuing.
DOS: DOS 5.0 or greater, 486-DX66, 8 MB RAM, local bus video card, sound card with DAC, 3X CD-ROM drive, mouse
Windows 95: P75, 12 MB RAM, Local bus or PCI video, 3X CD-ROM drive, mouse
Reviewed on: P-120, Win 95, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, Diamond Stealth 64 video
Overall, I would have to say that RAMA is an interesting game that will keep you on your toes and rekindle that love of math that was forgotten in the back of your head. I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys figuring out "logical problems" and doesn't have a need for instant gratification. Although I had never heard of the RAMA series before, this game has peaked my interest to the point that I think I will go to the library and check out the books. If they are as good as the game, I should have many hours of happy reading.