Review by Davo
How much do you enjoy puzzles in your adventure games? Do you really,
really love them? You had better if you're going to play Rhem
2, because your answer to that question is critical to your
enjoyment of this game. Rhem 2 is a first-person, Myst-like,
slideshow-style adventure game. Except it's not exactly an adventure
game. It's really one long string of puzzles that open up other
puzzles that grant access to yet more puzzles until you solve the
final puzzle and complete the game. There is quite a bit of exploration,
but the cavern you spend all your time exploring is just a huge
framework for the puzzles. There is no story. There is no action.
There is a miniscule amount of character interaction, and it's superfluous
at best. Depending on your inclinations, you'll view the game as
either mysteriously intriguing or grindingly tedious. At times,
I found myself solving puzzles, opening new areas and becoming completely
absorbed in the mysteries hidden within the caverns of Rhem 2.
At other times, however, I found myself stuck behind yet another
insufferably difficult puzzle with no idea how to solve it even
after hours of play.
I've never really completed a game like this before and, as you
can tell, it wasn't a completely positive experience for me. On
the other hand, I can't fault Rhem 2, taken on its own merits.
It's well-designed and crafted with care. Incredibly difficult puzzles
dominate the gameplay because that's exactly what the game designer
intended. If you like this style of game, you'll love Rhem 2.
It does what it does very well and, for the most part, doesn't
pretend to be something it isn't. If, however, your tastes lean
away from Myst-style slideshow games lacking any story or
meaningful character interaction, you'll want to stay far away from
"Riddle Me This"
I didn't play the first
Rhem, so I'm not really in a position to tell
you how this sequel compares to the original. A little research
reveals that Knut Müller programmed both Rhem and Rhem
2. Just the fact that Rhem 2 is a one-man show in terms
of design and programming is impressive in this age of mergers and
consolidations. Kudos also to Got Game for making games from small
developers commercially available. Enough already with the background
information. Is the game any good?
The puzzles are the attraction in Rhem 2, and they come
in a several varieties. Many are mechanical, such as the numerous
ones that require you to find hidden clues and parts that power
up wicked-looking machines or open locked areas. Some are mathematical,
requiring you to figure out which values to assign to algebraic
equations scrawled in dark corners of the cavern. Others are geographical,
forcing you to work your way through complicated mazes designed
The puzzles range in difficulty from easy to harder-than-you-thought-possible.
One of the easiest comes early in the game when you find a swipe
card and put it to immediate use. Piece of cake. One of the harder
ones (for me, anyway) requires you to calculate the ratio between
two seemingly unconnected sets of numbers to come up with a value
that solves the puzzle. If you're one of those people who buy books
of logic puzzles to occupy your free time, you're going to love
Rhem 2. For everyone else, well, it may be more than a little
You'll have to pay serious attention to your surroundings to get
anywhere. The developer has deviously and cleverly placed clues
all over the place in plain sight in a manner that prevents you
from noticing them unless you're carefully paying attention to everything
you see and hear. In addition, having a poor memory is a serious
detriment to completing this game. At the very least, you'll need
to take copious notes to remember where you saw something. Puzzles
solved in one area may provide critical clues to puzzles in some
far-flung corner of the caverns that you visited days ago. I finished
the game with 15 pages of notes detailing my struggles with the
Sometimes, paying attention to your surroundings and taking notes
isn't enough. This is when you have to get creative in the cleverest
ways. It's also when Rhem 2 is most fun. Toward the end of
the game, you'll have to pass through a maze with glass walls. Most
of the walls look identical. On top of that, you have to work your
way through a series of doors. The problem is that opening one door
closes another elsewhere in the maze. It's easy to get lost or confused.
There is a map on one wall, but it's only partially helpful because
it doesn't tell you how to get past the obstacles. After hours of
struggling with this maze and getting lost time and again, I hit
on an idea that worked beautifully. I made a copy of the map on
the wall in the maze. Then I grabbed a small humanoid Dungeons and
Dragons figurine from my son's collection. I placed the figurine
on the copy of the map I had made and faced it in the direction
I was moving in the game. As I wended my way through the maze, my
son moved the figurine across my paper map and matched my movements
and orientation in the game. Figuring this out was a moment of pure
bliss after struggling through this same area 40 or 50 times over
a couple of days.
Rhem 2 is at its worst, however, when it throws a puzzle
at you that defies any normal sense of logic. More than a few puzzles
triggered an unanticipated string of expletives from my gaping mouth
when I finally learned the solution. "How the hell would I
know that?" or "you have got to be kidding me" were
common reactions. I can't describe any of these puzzles without
revealing spoilers, but they were scattered throughout the game.
Gameplay is not exactly linear, but it's not entirely nonlinear,
either. It's nonlinear in the sense that you can walk around in
any of the available areas and solve the puzzles in pretty much
any order you like and linear in that there are some areas you just
can't reach until you solve certain puzzles. This, I guess, is the
best of both worlds.
The Fault Lies Not in My Stars but Within Myself, Dear Brutus
Much of my disdain for the harder puzzles in Rhem 2 comes
from my own dislike of this type of game, and this is the only area
where the game's promotional materials led me astray. The marketing
claims that Rhem 2 has a deep and immersive storyline. Let's
be clear about one thing: Rhem 2 has no story whatsoever.
I had a hard time maintaining interest in the game without a narrative
tying everything together and providing some motivation to continue
struggling with the puzzles. I felt the game frequently ground to
a halt when I was stuck behind an impossible, albeit clever, puzzle
that prevented any forward progress until solved. Honestly, I never
would have completed the game without the assistance of some excellent
walkthroughs put together by some much smarter people than I. It
may be that I'm too stupid to play this game. I can accept that.
Mensa isn't exactly breaking down my door to get me to join.
Lacking a story, you end up with nothing but a bunch of unexplained
mysteries that reveal themselves through a distant click or a locked
door that you suddenly find opened. That's fun for a while, but
after several hours with the game, I found the exercise somewhat
pointless. The hidden caverns with their mechanical, mathematical
and logic puzzles serve as the perfect setting for a story of murder,
betrayal, mysteryyou name it. There's a lot of unrealized
narrative potential in this game.
One other problem with the game is the ridiculous compass. North
is north and south is south. West, however, is east, and east is
west. So if your compass is pointing east, you're actually facing
west. Huh? Where did that come from? I don't really understand the
reasoning behind that particular design decision.
Making a Good Impression
Rhem 2 offers a very nice presentation. Even though Rhem
2's resolution is locked at 800×600×32, I thought the
graphics were quite good. They managed to convey a damp, dank, dark
cavern quite effectively. Even on the rare occasion when you're
moving through the caverns in non-slideshow fashion, as when you
take a train, the graphics maintain their quality.
Sound effects are also handled nicely. Rhem 2 is a great
game to play while wearing headphones so you can experience every
breeze, echo, drip and clank. There was always some creepy background
noise lurking in Rhem 2's caves. Once, I heard a whistling
wind that I swear carried the sound of someone humming. The only
weakness in the sound stems from the noises that indicate whether
you have successfully triggered a puzzle that affects some other
area of Rhem 2. On several occasions, I couldn't tell whether
the noise I heard was the success or failure ping. This resulted
in some wasted time as I trekked back across the caverns to figure
out whether I had triggered the puzzle successfully or not. It was
a minor irritant but annoying nonetheless. There is no music in
the game, but I never really noticed its absence, probably because
of the large quantity of ambient noise.
The interface is classic point-and-click. If you can interact with
something, your cursor turns into an open hand that grabs at the
object when you click on it. You have a small inventory that you
access by clicking on the bottom of the screen. Using an item is
as simple as pulling it from your inventory and trying it on the
The game has 10 save slots that number your saves in sequence and
tell you how long you've played but only for that individual save.
If you save over an old slot, it won't provide you with an aggregate
time. Again, not a big issue but a tad irritating. I like to know
how long I've played a game without having to write my times down
Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful
Is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder? It is if you're playing
Rhem 2. Rhem 2 is a game geared toward a very specific audience:
adventure gamers who love puzzles and don't need a story. I am not
part of that group. To me, the most appealing element of the adventure
game genre is, and always has been, story. Puzzles were always secondary
to my enjoyment of adventure games. Even though I didn't like Rhem
2 much of the time, it gets a Thumb Up for being exactly the
kind of game its creator intended it to be. It would be unfair of
me to penalize the game based on my own dislike of the genre. If
you're on the fence, you should download the demo and try the game
first. At the very least, you'll get your money's worth if you buy
this game. I played for more than 40 hours, and that was with a
walkthrough for a substantial portion of the game.
I will say one very positive thing about the world of Rhem in
closing: If Mr. Müller adds a decent story to Rhem 3, I'll
be back to explore the mysteries of this unique world.
Release Date: November 2005
Four Fat Chicks Links
500 MHz or faster
64 MB RAM
100 MB free hard disk space (minimal) or 800 MB (full installation)
12× CD-ROM drive
QuickTime 6 for Windows
PowerPC 300 MHz or faster
MacOS 9 or OSX 10.3
64 MB RAM
100 MB free hard disk space (minimal) or 800 MB (full installation)
12× CD-ROM drive
Where to Find It
Links provided for informational purposes only.
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by any party(ies).