Those of you who have been waiting for the next great puzzle game to appear, wait no more. RHEM is without a doubt one of the most difficult and challenging games I have ever played. It is a world full of puzzles, and your intellectual noodle will be stretched extremely far while playing.
The game is also inexpensive. You can get a copy of it for just about $30, which makes it an excellent deal considering I guarantee you will be working at the puzzles for many, many hours if you have any hope of solving RHEM. It also ships on a hybrid CD that works in both PCs (with QuickTime 4 or greater) or Macs.
When the game starts out, you are riding in a single-person rail car, looking out at the eerily industrial world of RHEM. Your controls have been locked and you can do little but gaze at the impressive landscape. You pass a train wreck eventually, and come to a stop at the end of the line. So begins your exploration of RHEM.
The game is extremely non-linear. There are places where you have to solve a puzzle to gain access to new levels, but other than that the entire world of RHEM is open for your exploration. As you begin to travel, you learn that you have been sucked into a trap of sorts. A man appears on a balcony above you at one point, and explains that he hijacked your rail car because his crashed stranding him in RHEM for many months. He seems a bit crazy, but wishes you the best – right before he hops into your rail car and escapes. Now you are trapped in RHEM. A gate and a large chasm prevent you from simply walking down the rail tracks back home. Since the chasm is bridged and the gate opened when a new car arrives, apparently the only way out is to call another car somehow.
Of course there is no obvious way to do this. So you are forced to find your way thought RHEM, which is a world filled with ingenious puzzles. There is not too much of a storyline other than your need to eventually escape, though you do learn bits and pieces about RHEMs inhabitants over the years, some of which will ultimately lead to your exit from the realm. This is actually a good thing, because the type of person who buys this game is really in it for the puzzles, and like Myst and Riven, the puzzles are the star of the show.
The interface for the game is the same as in most puzzle titles. You are given a slide show view of the world. You click to move from one frame to the next. You can manipulate various objects like buttons, dials, pumps and the like by clicking on them. There are a few things you can pick up, but this is not an inventory puzzle type game, so for the most part all of the puzzles are going to be the type you manipulate from the slide you happen to be standing in.
The developers have done a great job of separating the various aspects of puzzle solving geographically across the world of RHEM. To quote GiN puzzle reviewer Greg Crowe, a puzzle consists of four elements: finding the puzzle, realizing that you are looking at a puzzle, researching the puzzle to figure out the rules about how it operates and finally, solving the puzzle. In RHEM, finding the puzzle is fairly obvious. But when researching the puzzle, you often have to go to a different location. You are probably going to want to take notes about what you find.
I’ll give an example of an early puzzle to show how RHEM does a good job of breaking up the puzzle-solving experience. To get to a new area of RHEM, you need to cross a floating bridge. The problem is that the bridge is very far below you. There is a diagram on the cliff wall that shows that when the water is high enough, the bridge will float up and you can walk across. Ah! I’ve found a puzzle you say. But there are no controls here. So it’s time to go searching.
You will need to figure out how to operate some doors in the game just to get to the right spot. Eventually you will find some well pumps. As you play with the pumps you will see that the pumps get to maximum pressure at a certain point when powered. Then you need to go to a balcony and look through a telescope to get another set of numbers for each pump. Armed with this info you can go into a well pump control room and set all the pumps to begin working. Then when you go back to the path with the floating bridge you will see that the water has raised and you can cross. And all this was done with no instruction from the game. The player has to figure the entire thing out themselves.
RHEM would be a good game for a puzzle party, with multiple people gathered around trying to tag team the various puzzles. Several friends and I were able to solve Myth in about six hours using this method.
If you are easily frustrated or don’t like puzzle games, then RHEM is not for you. But if you enjoy a huge challenge and the immense satisfaction that comes with solving an incredibly complex series of puzzles, then RHEM is perfect. I guarantee you will be sitting around for hours exploring the many nooks and crannies of this world, trying to learn and conquer its secrets.
I don’t normally do this, but I know a lot of people are going to write in and ask me how to solve different puzzles. If you are really stuck you are probably going to need a walkthrough. I found a pretty good one on the Web, so if you need it you can find it here. http://www.gameboomers.com/wtcheats/pcRr/Rhem.htm
RHEM is a highly enjoyable game for puzzle fanatics. You will find it extremely challenging, more so I think than either Myst or Riven. So put on your thinking caps and give RHEM a shot. It earns 4 + GiN Gems for delivering a solid puzzle experience.
By the time you read this, I will be long gone from RHEM, but your adventure has just begun.