As I said in my article on the Myst series, its success spawned plenty of imitators. These games came to be known, somewhat derisively, as Myst clones – for the most part, these games came and went and were not particularly memorable, but ten years after Myst first came out, a game was released that managed to recapture the feel of the original Myst in a way that others had failed to. It was called RHEM – three sequels followed and a fourth is in the pipeline. I haven’t played the first game because it isn’t as readily available as the others but the following three made me feel like I was playing new Myst games.
Created by German game designer Knut Muller, the games are very thin on story but heavy on puzzles and atmosphere. In each game, you play an explorer who is tasked by two brothers with locating various objects inside the mysterious world of RHEM. The brothers, Kales and Zetais, are archaeologists who study the largely abandoned series of buildings and caves that make up RHEM. I say “largely” because you do occasionally come across inhabitants of RHEM. They show up unexpectedly, often dressed entirely in red and you can’t always be sure if they want to help you or impede your progress.
The gameplay and graphics are similar to Myst’s sequel Riven. This lends the games a kind of retro charm for people like me who grew up playing adventure games. But don’t get me wrong, these games are not for kids, and not because there’s any graphic content but because the puzzles require a combination of careful observation, intuition and savvy that comes with being an experienced gamer. Fortunately, if you get stuck on one puzzle you can always come back to it at a later time, a fact that separates adventure games from most other games – it’s not about advancing to the next level so much as it is about experiencing the game in a non-linear fashion.
The only real criticism I have of the RHEM series is that the game’s endings are never very satisfying – the series is unusual in that each game has only one ending. You can’t die and more importantly, you can’t lose, but those looking for a juicy reward for their efforts will be disappointed. There may, however, be more to these games than meets the eye. The last two games have featured doors that remain locked no matter what the player does. Each door includes a five-pointed lock.
Does this mean we might find out what’s behind them in RHEM 5? Hopefully, we’ll get an answer later this year.
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